Saturday, January 26, 2013

Physics and Stamp Collecting*

Why have the social sciences achieved more than physics? Perhaps you think I said that wrong, but it's all about subject matter. Physics is very good at analyzing certain simple and semi-isolated systems, but social systems aren't like that.

If you believe as I do that physics is the only truly fundamental science, then you realize that chemistry, biology and the rest are really just applied physics. In principle, anthropology is just the study of the interactions of medium-sized agglomerations of quarks and leptons (MSAQL). In practice, physics is all but totally useless in saying anything about how such systems evolve.

Whether you accept Phil Anderson's "more is different" as fundamental or not, you need to realize than in practice further ideas are needed to analyze the behavior of the MSAQL. Oddly enough, it turns out that one of the most useful such ideas, natural selection, has optimized the brains of certain such MSAQLs for just such tasks.

It also seems that that optimization, coincidentally, was useful in figuring out physics.

*Rutherford - There are only two kinds of science, physics and stamp collecting.

UPDATE: A collection of images of Rutherford stamps