Reader Background Poll Reflections

A few weeks back I posted a poll, asking you guys what sort of physics background you have. The idea was to follow up on a poll I did back in 2015, to see how this blog’s audience has changed.

One thing that immediately leaped out of the data was how many of you are physicists. As of writing this, 66% of readers say they either have a PhD in physics or a related field, or are currently in grad school. This includes 7% specifically from my sub-field, “amplitudeology” (though this number may be higher than usual since we just had our yearly conference, and more amplitudeologists were reminded my blog exists).

I didn’t use the same categories in 2015, so the numbers can’t be easily compared. In 2015 only 2.5% of readers described themselves as amplitudeologists. Adding these up with the physics PhDs and grad students gives 59%, which goes up to 64.5% if I include the mathematicians (who this year might have put either “PhD in a related field” or “Other Academic”). So overall the percentages are pretty similar, though now it looks like more of my readers are grad students.

Despite the small difference, I am a bit worried: it looks like I’m losing non-physicist readers. I could flatter myself and think that I inspired those non-physicists to go to grad school, but more realistically I should admit that fewer of my posts have been interesting to a non-physics audience. In 2015 I worked at the Perimeter Institute, and helped out with their public lectures. Now I’m at the Niels Bohr Institute, and I get fewer opportunities to hear questions from non-physicists. I get fewer ideas for interesting questions to answer.

I want to keep this blog’s language accessible and its audience general. I appreciate that physicists like this blog and view it as a resource, but I don’t want it to turn into a blog for physicists only. I’d like to encourage the non-physicists in the audience: ask questions! Don’t worry if it sounds naive, or if the question seems easy: if you’re confused, likely others are too.

5 thoughts on “Reader Background Poll Reflections

  1. Dan

    Ok, when I first started following I had a bachelors by am now signed up for a Masters, with only 4 decades in between. Can we attribute that to this blog? Tricky – I’m doing astrophysics, and I’m still scared of the simplest integration problems – but yes, your enthusiasm for your topic has helped me!

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  2. Ray Elberson

    I’m a non physicist, a non science major, but very interested. Some times I understand less than 5% and sometimes a wee bit more. But learning a little is better than not learning at all.

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  3. cDave

    I ticked “Grad student” as I did 4 year Masters program (no Bachelor’s degree) 15 years ago. My research topic was cellular automata, not particle physics.

    After graduating I went into IT. So I’m not a physicist by any reasonable definition, just an interested civilian.

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  4. John Duffield

    I’m an autodidact. I didn’t complete your survey I’m afraid. But if you’re losing readers, maybe it’s because you’re losing touch with physics, and getting “lost in math”. Sorry.

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  5. cedric

    I have an academic background in a field other than physics and I find your blog very well done and informative. You avoid sterile controversy and stay factual. Attracting more non-physicists without falling into polemics or pop-science is not easy. Good luck and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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