Los secretos de la física

PRINCETON – Cada febrero comienzo mi curso de Introducción a la Electricidad y Magnetismo en la Universidad de Princeton diciendo a mis alumnos que el programa que vamos a ver durante el semestre es la base de la civilización moderna.

¿Quién podría objetar un argumento así de inocente? Sin los descubrimientos de los físicos del siglo XIX y sus sucesores, apenas podríamos imaginar el mundo de hoy; sin red de energía eléctrica, sin televisiones, sin satélites y sin iPads.

Los físicos están orgullosos, y con razón, de las muchas maneras en que sus logros han beneficiado a la humanidad. Sin embargo, fabricar un foco o un teléfono no significa que las personas entienden sus principios básicos (Thomas Edison y Alexander Bell sin duda no los entendían.) Por desgracia,  muchos de mis colegas –en particular los que escriben libros de texto- presentan la física como una basílica imponente y sin fisuras e ignoran las lagunas en nuestra mescolanza de modelos imperfectos. De hecho, lo que se presenta como una catedral reluciente a menudo se parece más a un barrio de casuchas.

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