Arbtirary thoughts on nearly everything from a modernist poet, structural mathematician and functional programmer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I was thinking in the shower about a comment my physics professor made regarding funding for scientific research. "If the government doesn't fund it, who will?" I'll leave an argument for how stupid this question is for someone else to make, because I just don't care, but it got me thinking. We humans are so (read; sooooo) incapable of believing that things can work any way besides the way they do. We have really no imagination.

This set me thinking (since it was a physics professor) about quantum theory, and 20th century physics in general. I have no trouble accepting wave-particle duality, quantization, super-positioning, entanglement, the Uncertainty Principle, or all of the other fun names we have for physics concepts. I can accept them and understand them without the slightest twisting of my brain, because I can say with absolute conviction that a donut makes the same shape as a coffee cup; I can say with absolute conviction that 2*3=1; that 4*4 = 6; And I can say with a straight face that 4 or 5 dimensional space is "easy", and is just a special case of d-dimensional space. Imaginary numbers are as real as negative numbers are as real counting numbers (real in the intuitive sense, not the well-defined). I won't bet that a coin which has landed heads 1000 will land heads or tails on the next flip, unless I'm betting less money than you are.

I can turn a hollow sphere inside out. I can split a solid sphere into two spheres the same size and density of the first. And I have no super powers.

All of these different facts and systems that I've mentioned have different rules, follow different patterns, have different truths. Also, I'm expected to understand all of this before I leave college. So why would it not be the same with physics? Why could it not be the same with funding? Or art? Or the future? Why could it not be true that God follows rules which don't make sense to us?

We humans have such poor, poor imaginations. "Capacity for abstract thought," no! Where is the abstract thought?

There are times when I still think I should have been a physicist. It's so mind-numbingly intuitive; the math is easy, even at the quantum level. Oo! Group theory! I need to know that to get into graduate school; as well as ring theory and field theory, analysis, topology, and anything else you physicists have tried to play with. One of these days physicist will start using category theory to start kludging all these half-baked ideas of theirs together into a "coherent" whole, and that's when the rest of the world will know they're just making it up as they go along.

At lest mathematicians know their making it up; and are expected to.

Maybe I should still be a physicist; Maybe physics need someone who thinks they're all a bunch of idiots.

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