When I graduated from high school, there was one complaint I thought I would never have to hear from my classmates again: “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” I am sure everyone has heard it, and maybe they have said it themselves during some particularly obtuse lecture or another. Surely UNC is a place where we can all pick a major and then only study exactly what we are going to use in our future careers — nothing more, nothing less.
If that were the case, the most popular major at UNC would probably be Paperwork and Cubicle Studies.
Unfortunately, it is usually science and math classes (especially introductory physics) which receive a bad rap for being impractical wastes of time we will never need. Frankly, on a superficial level, I agree. I think it is safe to say not a single one of us will ever need to make sure a catapult is the correct height in order to hit a target a certain distance away, or we will ever have to calculate the centripetal acceleration of a fighter jet. If you ever do, congratulations on landing a job with MythBusters.
But, those things are not what makes science interesting. Similarly, no one becomes a historian because they love to memorize dates.
I could give all kinds of examples of how a little bit of physics knowledge is useful if you are fixing things around the house, but the real power of science and math education consists of the abstract reasoning skills you pick up along the way. Being able to visualize things which are not sitting in front of you and making predictions using pure deductive reasoning is an incredibly powerful tool. Given a set of numbers that describe the way things are now, you can predict the future by making use of a few laws of physics.