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Utopia theory
Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2003 @ 22:00:33 GMT by vlad

Science Two interesting articles from PhysicsWeb and Nature:
"...Physics is muscling its way into social science. Not content with explaining the behaviour of atoms and electrons, semiconductors, sand and space-time, physicists are now setting out to understand the behaviour of people..."

"A team of US physicists has struck a blow for common sense by showing that an effect cannot precede its cause, and information can't really travel faster than the speed of light"



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"Utopia theory" | Login/Create an Account | 5 comments | Search Discussion
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The future of Physics - Mendel Sachs (Score: 1)
by vlad on Sunday, October 26, 2003 @ 22:45:26 GMT
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Thanks to Rob for this link: Mendel Sachs

"...Are the quantum and relativity theories compatible with each other, in terms of their respective fundamental assertions? My answer is: No! A close examination of the irreducible premises of each of these theories reveals that they are indeed incompatible. A long treatise, or possibly a Ph.D. thesis in the Philosophy of Physics, could be written on this subject. I have discussed it in my book, Einstein Versus Bohr (Open Court Publ. Co., 1988), but there is much more to say on this subject than I have said in my book..."

Re: Utopia theory (Score: 1)
by mlmitton on Monday, October 27, 2003 @ 18:13:22 GMT
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Physics actually infiltrated one social science a long time ago. Paul Samuleson, basically recognized by all as the most important economist of the 20th century, brought the mathematical techniques used in physics into economics. You won't get this from undergrad economics, but graduate school in economics feels more like applied math than it does social science. Dynamic optimaztion, set theory, you name it--economists use those techniques to rigorously describe their models.

But I actually think this has been a mistake for two reasons. First, I don't think that the mathematics used in econ has added much to the field. Yes, we can say that everything is much more rigorous, but if the rigor doesn't add anything to the intution, what have really achieved? In other words, it almost never happens that the mathematics ends up revealing something that we couldn't reason to with words. It might be rigorous, but nothing has changed besides the rigor.

Second, the mathematics brings on a huge amount of baggage that economists need to learn, and the "good" economists are very often the ones who are good at mathematics. But I don't think that the unsolved problems in economics are going to be solved by a better mathematicians. They're going to be solved by creative thinkers, and creative thinking that isn't tied to the ability to prove theorems. (Indeed, I would argue that the only interesting field in economics these days is behavioral economics, a field that is largely devoid of high level mathematics, in large part because it recognizes that "Newtonian Math" doesn't describe people very well). Maybe the mathematics of chaos theory would help economists (People have been trying, so far unsuccessfully), but is it going to tell us anything about people that we couldn't already reason out for ourselves?


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