John J. Hopfield writes, near the end of a recent essay about how sciences can flourish and then split into sub-disciplines:

What is physics? To me—growing up with a father and mother both of whom were physicists—physics was not subject matter. The atom, the troposphere, a piece of glass, the washing machine, my bicycle, the phonograph, a magnet—these were all incidentally the subject matter. The central idea was that the world is understandable, that you should be able to take anything apart, understand the relationships between its constituents, do experiments, and on that basis be able to develop a quantitative understanding of its behavior. Physics was a point of view that the world around us is, with effort, ingenuity, and adequate resources, understandable in a predictive and reasonably quantitative fashion. Being a physicist is a dedication to a quest for this kind of understanding.

(from "The Back Page: Reflections on the APS and the Evolution of Physics", APS News, Aug/Sep 2007, Vol. 16, No. 8; cf. No Concepts At All (22 Feb 2001), HalClement (5 Nov 2003), EssentialKnowledge (20 Jun 2005), ApprovedMethods (12 Nov 2005), HelpfulHomilies (2 Sep 2007), ...)

TopicScience - 2007-09-16

(correlates: Subway Agreement, NothingnessShowsThrough, TwoFaces, ...)

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