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[Xmca-l] What a scientist thinks about our area of research

Here is something from Quora: look at number 7. A bow from the hard

What are some things that are widely known by physicists but not by
[image: Lynnie Saade] <https://www.quora.com/profile/Lynnie-Saade>
Lynnie Saade <https://www.quora.com/profile/Lynnie-Saade>, Astronomy Grad
Student, Has B.S. in Astrophysics
Written Wed
 · Upvoted by Ed Caruthers <https://www.quora.com/profile/Ed-Caruthers>, PhD
and post-doc work in Physics at UT Austin. Published papers in electronic
properties of metals,… and Frederic Rachford
<https://www.quora.com/profile/Frederic-Rachford>, Ph.D. physics, works at
the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory.

   1. Everything is locally flat if you zoom in close enough. So you can
   reduce tons of physical systems to a bunch of spring and wave equations.
   (Flat forces = quadratic potentials = harmonic oscillators)
   2. The Principle of Least Action is actually a mathematical concept, not
   just a vague notion of “things follow the path of least resistance.” And
   you can predict the behavior of a LOT of stuff with it, even quantum
   fields! (LaGrangians are awesome!)
   3. Symmetries do not just make problems easier, they are ESSENTIAL for
   life as we know it. That’s where all those conservation laws we take for
   granted come from! (Check out Noether’s theorem!)
   4. If you can’t actually use it to calculate a physical quantity, your
   theory is not physics. (Hint for all those “"I disproved Einstein with my
   new theory of everything!” people.)
   5. All of our scientific understanding is merely an approximation to
   Reality. The trick is knowing when your approximations are useful, and when
   they don’t help you at all.
   6. Sometimes the simplest, least intricate things are actually the most
   powerful. See: black holes.
   7. The sciences that are less mathematical are that way not because
   their subjects are simpler, but because their subjects are so complicated
   they are not as amenable to the tools of math. See: biology, sociology, etc.
   8. All those mind blowing analogies science popularizers use for
   explaining physics to laymen barely resemble the real thing. You cannot
   teleport through walls with quantum tunneling, entanglement is not spooky
   action at a distance, and black holes are not infinitely dense portals to
   other Universes. Sorry…
   9. Things like interstellar travel are not mere engineering problems.
   The speed of light is not anything like the sound barrier.
   10. No matter how skilled you get at physics, you will always feel dumb
   because you will get surrounded by people even BETTER at physics than you.

Carol A Macdonald Ph.D (Edin)
Cultural Historical Activity Theory
Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
alternative email address: tmacdoca@unisa.ac.za