The succession of articles, books, courses, and lectures on the “physics of———,” where the blank is filled buy a popular, nonphysics topics—music, archery, basketball, or dance, for instance, with the intent to show that physics is somehow relevant, has now reached epidemic proportions. I only recently, by accident, became aware of the extent of the problem during a search of the World Wide Web. The findings were disturbing.

Essentially every sport and “near sport” has been covered. In the physics of sports category, I found more than 30 sports, including knife-throwing, water polo, dogsledding, fly-casting, bowling, swimming, judo, kayaking, wrestling, paintball, bungee jumping, and rock climbing. The only missing sports I could think of were badminton and the caber toss.

In the physics of arts category, I found the expected music, dance, and visual arts well covered: Topics included yodeling, tap dancing, break dancing, and harpsichord playing.

Some interesting finds in the “other” category were the physics of beer, falling down, muck-spreading (fertilizer dispersal), toothpaste, Santa Claus, love, death, dirt, Hell, and immortality.

I admit that I, too, was briefly seduced by this genre when I found an article on the physics of skateboarding—my teenage son being an avid skateboarder. I was encouraged that the article would give us something to talk about for a change and that he would be impressed with the valuable insight I could provide. That he exhibited no interest whatsoever brings me to my main point. I don’t believe anybody really cares about this kind of “physics of” stuff, including most practicing physicists. Moreover, it may even be harmful to the practicing athlete or artist. I am particularly worried about the knife-throwers. And suppose Michael Jordan had gotten the idea that he had to obey the laws of physics after reading the physics of basketball.

It is fortunate for physics that Erwin Schrödinger chose to develop wave mechanics on his ski holiday, rather than write about the physics of skiing. (He would later write about the physics of cats, but only in a very limited sense.)

The “physics of whatever” madness began in the late 1960s, when students demanded “relevance” and professors practically fell over backward to show that they and their courses were relevant. Physics was, and is, poorly suited to that challenge. Other sciences—chemistry, for example—have fared somewhat better in the relevance market, but sometimes those professors just don’t get it either. My university offers a course entitled “Chemistry in Everyday Life,” but if they really wanted a popular and relevant course, they would offer “The Chemistry of Controlled Substances.”

I believe it’s time to stop the madness and get back to doing useful physics. If you want a hobby, try golf, badminton, caber tossing, or some other activity. But please—don’t write about it.