• Question: How did you get in to physics

    Asked by Donal to Michel on 4 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Michel Destrade

      Michel Destrade answered on 4 Nov 2016:

      Hey Donal, thanks for a great question!

      In primary and secondary school, my best subjects were maths and literature (you call it English, but I was in France, so it was called Francais!). I didn’t like physics that much, until one day when I was 15, and we solved the problem of a trajectory of a football going over a wall of defenders for a free kick. Turned out we had to solve a quadratic. I was suddenly amazed that maths could be used to solve real world problems like this! Until then I had thought it was just a collection of techniques and formulas. So I got really into physics from then on, especially mechanics.

      In France however, you can’t study physics without having to do labs and experiments as well as theory, and I’m really bad at that aspect. The experiments never work when I’m in charge! That really bothered me for a while. In Ireland you’re much luckier in my opinion because if you’re like me, you can choose to study applied maths, which is physics without experiments. Then in university you can study applied maths, mathematical physics, theoretical physics, etc. When I heard of that, I moved countries!

      So there you have it. I still get a kick out of physics 30 years later! And I think having being good at literature was a good thing too. It does help me in my scientific work, where I have to write articles no only for scientific journals but also for newspapers or for applications for funding or promotion. These are made of equations a little bit, but mostly of long sentences that have to read well.

      Hope you like physics or applied maths or English too!