In an April 1996 online conversation a thoughtful friend (CD) wrote:
... It has amazed me how many of these writers --- who don't apparently know each other --- resort to the world of physics, which I don't understand, to explain these phenomena: physical theories of quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, and chaos theory. Perhaps we have some physicists among us who would be willing to help out with the strategic planning effort, or join us in some Forecasting in the Db. ...
I replied iconoclastically:
I was once a physicist (actually, I was a half-astrophysicist; see ^zhurnal 14 May 2000) and obviously would be happy to volunteer to translate techno-dweeb metaphors and otherwise assist in any way I can ... but personally, I think that a lot of the physics-related language one sees is just a convenient way to:
1. appear smart if you can't come up with any relevant allusions to literature or history (^_^); and
2. try to jog people into thinking in different ways about a situation, perhaps a bit more quantitatively or experimentally oriented than we usually do.
Most of the organizational and human issues that we've been discussing aren't amenable to hard-science-style solutions ... but S&T stuff can, occasionally, shed light via loose analogies (as can quotes from Shakespeare and Gibbon). Reading around in math and physics and biology and so forth sometimes helps put things in perspective (on a cosmological scale, our problems are rather minor), and there are probably relevant parts of evolution-by-natural-selection that can apply to some issues we face. See, for instance, Richard Dawkins's book The Selfish Gene, Paul Colinvaux's Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare, and the Daniel Dennett tome Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Check out those sorts of books, plus some Scientific American figure captions, and you too can throw "impedance mismatch" and "ultraviolet catastrophe" into your writings, win friends, influence people, and get big advances from publishers! (^_^)
(slightly edited from the original; see DoctoralEnvy ^zhurnal 3 January 2000)
Wednesday, April 11, 2001 at 05:50:47 (EDT) = Datetag20010411