I don’t remember much about my first undergraduate class in classical mechanics. But I remember the unusual way the professor once defined physics: as “the study of the universe and everything in it.” Is there anything that wouldn’t be covered by that definition? The Napoleonic Wars, the composition of Jane Eyre, and the Trump administration’s attack on the US Postal Service are all things that have happened in the universe. Their study, apparently, would count as physics.

In my professor’s defense, he was being slightly tongue-in-cheek. He was offering the definition as part of his argument against the still too common idea that certain segments of the population—you know which ones—just aren’t interested in physics, so it’s no big deal if they’re not well represented among physicists and physics students. But if physics is the study of everything there is, it seems awfully unlikely that entire demographic groups could fail to find anything that interests them in it—unless, of course, they are actively encouraged not to.

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