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“All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” – Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford was a physicist. (You could tell, couldn’t you?) Yet he hits on one essential truth with this quote: the more rigorous and replicable experiments in a field of science are, the more reliable the results. With physics, mathematics provides the rigor, and if an experiment is not replicable, there better be a really good reason — some reason that when factored in makes the result replicable. Stamp collecting is Rutherfords’s shorthand for ordering and collecting, which is about all you can do absent mathematics and rigorous analysis.
Rocket science is hard, but it is not hard because it is complex. It is hard because it is exact. On the other hand, soft sciences tend towards hand-waving. Results depend on the meaning of “is.” We see this most frequently in climate science where elaborate mathematical models are built to predict future results and prove about as reliable as a stopped digital clock. One which does not display time at all. When sciences get sufficiently obscure, things are fuzzy enough that you can justify a number of conclusions, sometimes contradictory. Then the results represent reality a lot less than they represent the desires of the paymasters sponsoring the research. It is truly stamp collecting.Published in