Help Public Schools, Protect the Honor of Physics

By Sean Carroll | June 18, 2006 1:06 pm

In the noble tradition of using the power of blogs for good, Janet at Adventures in Ethics and Science has organized an effort at ScienceBlogs to raise money for school teachers who want to get their students excited about science. It’s an unimpeachably good cause, no matter where your political sympathies might lie.

Donors Choose So all the ScienceBloggers are kicking in, with only one problem: they are dominated over there by the squishy sciences, leaving physicists in the dust. So we here at Cosmic Variance, in the spirit of disciplinary solidarity, are suggesting that you visit Chad at Uncertain Principles and drop a few dollars onto his donor list. Let’s see if we can’t teach those life-science types a thing or two about altruistic selection. (There are even contests you can win, so any Objectivists motivated entirely by enlightened self-interest are also encouraged to participate.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Internet, Science and Society
  • Moshe

    I dislike the expression LOL, but this time it happens to be true. Do you expect you have lots of Objectivists on board?

  • Sean

    I’m the world’s biggest optimist.

  • Sean

    p.s. I gave $20. Who’s up for it?

  • Dr. Free-Ride

    Creating divisions between scientific disciplines and their practitioners is totally ethical if it results in more money for the kids. (Also, in case it matters, I *used* to be a physical chemist, so kicking a few bucks to my challenge may still be preferable to helpin’ them biologists!)

    Thanks for the link, Sean!

  • Joe

    I followed your example. Also, its worth noting that if you’re not in the US, you have to pick a state anyway. DonorChoose seems only to be setup for US donors. I put in my Oxford address + a US state and everything appears to have worked.

  • Cynthia

    Sean…. To be brutally honest, I am detecting an undeniable trace of snobbishness in your description of other sciences outside of physics: the description of other sciences as “squishy.” Doubtlessly, your characterization of other sciences parallels a characterization held by one of your renowned predecessors: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” 😉

  • Joe

    Well physics does sit at the top of the science pyramid 😉 I think the idea is that physics is fundamental and everything else is just emergent phenomena, and as such are described less rigorously.

  • Sean

    Not to be a killjoy, but the idea is that it was a joke. Smile, people!

  • Supernova

    I love this use of blogs for good. Phil over at BadAstronomy recently ran a very successful fundraiser to fly two fifth-graders from Indiana to Florida to watch the launch of the rocket that was carrying their science experiments. It seems natural, when you have an audience of like-minded (at least on some matters!) people, to mobilize them occasionally in support of a common goal. The CV folks may want to try something like this themselves! Asking people to support one or a few well-chosen causes might prove even more effective than letting them choose among many possibilities, as with DonorsChoose. But in any case, I applaud the effort and thank Sean for posting the link. I matched him with $20. Who else is in?

  • Joe


    I know, I meant the idea of the science pyramid.

  • PZ Myers

    When demarcating disciplines, “squishy” refers specifically to the soft-bodied phyla. The distinction is between the squishies and the crunchies, the arthropods.

    Physics isn’t even on the scale. It’s a bunch of mathematical abstractions that we find useful in the analysis of squishies and crunchies. In other words, BIOLOGY RULES. Eat our slimy detritus, physics nerds!

  • Sean

    You’re right, I should have said “squishy and crunchy sciences.” I’ll be more careful next time.

  • PK

    Not true, PZ Myers: Squishies are bosons and crunchies are fermions. Together they rule the universe.

  • Say Lee

    Maybe this display of oneupmanship and self-professed primacy over the other disciplines, science or otherwise, while evincing the competitive spirit, is one reason why interest in physcis among the undecided college students is on the wane.

    It seems to me folks over at are doing a better job in drawing the undecided to the fold.

  • Mark

    It’s called humor.

  • Paul Rubenstein

    Hi, I’m new to this blog… I followed a link from Daily Kos. I run an afterschool program in NYC teaching high school kids how to make electric guitars and amplifiers ( Next school year we’ll be adding an in-school component that will be tied to the science curriculum, particularly physics classes. The focus will be on electronics (analog audio circuits) and acoustics. We’re talking guitar strings, not string theory here– but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? The non-profit group I work for is called Working Playground ( and if you’re aware of any grants that might be applicable, please let us know. We’re working on expanding the program to bring it to more schools. Thank you.

  • Pingback: DonorsChoose Challenge | Cosmic Variance()


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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