It is not unusual to deal with large numbers in Physics. The Earth is about 150 million km from the Sun and the Universe is at least 13 billion years old, for instance. But the association of Physics with large numbers even crosses the border to other domains such as the economy. Physics is undeniably important to the UK economy. A recent report published by the Institute of Physics states that there could be as many as 3.9 million jobs related (directly and indirectly) to Physics-based business. In total, these businesses contribute about £220 bn to the UK economy. Yet only about £2.6 bn goes into R&D spend. This means that Physics can output about 8.5 times more than what goes into it. This is a tremendous level of efficiency, by any standard.
Not only is Physics able to generate significant output for the economy, it also permeates several sectors as far as its impact is concerned. Whether it is manufacturing, engineering, telecommunications or defence activities, to name a few, Physics establishes its importance in different ways. A priori, Physics is viewed as a very academic subject. Although there is no denying this, it is also true that Physics is not restricted to the textbooks. As the above figures indicate, Physics affects our everyday lives in real terms. The number of jobs dependent on it, the kind of jobs related to it, the contribution to the economy, these are all factors which have a direct influence on the society.
It is therefore imperative for teachers and parents to stress the importance of Physics. We have to realise that Physics lives, first and foremost, outside of the classroom. Whatever is in the books is but a condensate of what goes on around us.
Even if the state of the economy is in a bad shape, Physics can help in the recovery. Physics-based sectors export about £100 bn worth of goods and services. More than 3.9 million jobs in total can be created to help tackle unemployment level. Physics in itself can contribute to about 8.5% to the economic output of the UK. However encouraging these figures might be, physicists on their own cannot handle the economic recovery on their own. They need support both from the government and the private sector. There needs to be a policy in place which ensures that investment in physics is kept sustainable. Private companies should give the opportunity to UK-based physicists to put their knowledge into practice rather than outsourcing these opportunities to other countries.
Physics is vital to the welfare of the society. The sooner we realise this, the more we’ll appreciate the necessity to invest in more physics-based opportunities and jobs. The first step, however, towards the recovery is taken right from the classroom. We have the responsibility to encourage students to take up Physics, and Science in general, at school.