“Engineers think that equations approximate the real world.
Physicists think that the real world approximates equations.
Mathematicians are unable to make the connection.” –– Anonymous
Outside of the small fraternity that practices STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), everyone thinks we are harmonious purveyors of the advancement of mankind. As noted by the brave soul who made the above observation (anonymously), our worldviews have, well … differences.
Engineers are a pragmatic bunch, give us a theory and a mathematical relationship that explains how the world operates, the limitations on both that theory and the math, and we are happy to use it to a technological end. Why does it exactly work? Well after the design objectives have been achieved, let’s crack open a beer, contemplate the quirks, and why the theory has not been exactly pinned down.
As an example, there has been a bit of roundabout discussion in aerodynamics on the exact explanation of the force responsible for keeping a plane aloft. Since I implicitly promise no math when I opine on Ricochet, I refer you to the smackdown between Newton’s and Bernoulli’s take on the nature of that force (“Luke, feel the force”) that is the wind beneath your wings.
That force that has been keeping you and yours aloft since December of 1903. Confusion has its roots because we like to give as simple an explanation for a phenomenon using allegorical examples, but those models tend to break down due to the other emblematic features when we use a simplifying “model.”
Scientists strive for precision and eventually get so bogged down with some seriously esoteric math that it takes another scientist to argue if the real world is conforming to their equational beauty. Such exploration of extreme mathematical beauties goes on to suggest things like “multiple universes.” The math works, but remains totally unprovable, thus to the rest of us it is totally just a form of mental eccentricity. Whether any near-term practically can be derived from such ruminations is typically irrelevant, as long as there is a recognizable group hug in the form of a Nobel Prize before they leave this mortal coil. The true motivational goal of a real scientist….
As for the mathematicians, they are so outside either of these arguments they have their own Laments, for example, that pure math is so beautiful in its own right that it should have no need to be the instrument of helping to solve trivial facts and formulas.
Given these behavioral predilections of our subtribes, it is no wonder the rest of society keeps us at arm’s length.
Note: No Diminutive, faint looking serpents were intentionally insulted in this post.Published in