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causes:hiding_behind_abstraction

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causes:hiding_behind_abstraction [2017/11/01 12:33] jakobadmin [Mind Projection Fallacy] |
causes:hiding_behind_abstraction [2017/12/16 06:01] (current) jakobadmin [Further Reading] |
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====== Hiding Behind Abstractions and Terminology ====== | ====== Hiding Behind Abstractions and Terminology ====== | ||

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+ | <blockquote>Characteristically, modern physicists do not try to visualize the objects they discuss.<cite>from "Field Theory" by F. | ||

+ | Dyson </cite></blockquote> | ||

<blockquote>As mathematical formalisms become more and more beautiful, it is increasingly easy to be trapped by the formalism and to become a ‘slave’ to the formalism. We used to be ‘slaves’ to Newton’s laws when we regarded everything as a collection of particles. After the discovery of quantum theory,4 we become ‘slaves’ to quantum field theory. At the moment, we want to use quantum field theory to explain everything and our education does not encourage us to look beyond quantum field theory. However, to make revolutionary advances in physics, we cannot allow our imagination to be trapped by the formalism. We cannot allow the formalism to define the boundary of our imagination. The mathematical formalism is simply a tool or a language that allows us to describe and communicate our imagination. Sometimes, when you have a new idea or a new thought, you might find that you cannot say anything. Whatever you say is wrong because the proper mathematics or the proper language with which to describe the new idea or the new thought have yet to be invented. Indeed, really new physical ideas usually require a new mathematical formalism with which to describe them. This reminds me of a story about a tribe. The tribe only has four words for counting: one, two, three, and many-many. Imagine that a tribe member has an idea about two apples plus two apples and three apples plus three apples. He will have a hard time explaining his theory to other tribe members. This should be your feeling when you have a truly new idea. Although this book is entitled Quantum field theory of many-body systems, I hope that after reading the book the reader will see that quantum field theory is not everything. Nature’s richness is not bounded by quantum field theory | <blockquote>As mathematical formalisms become more and more beautiful, it is increasingly easy to be trapped by the formalism and to become a ‘slave’ to the formalism. We used to be ‘slaves’ to Newton’s laws when we regarded everything as a collection of particles. After the discovery of quantum theory,4 we become ‘slaves’ to quantum field theory. At the moment, we want to use quantum field theory to explain everything and our education does not encourage us to look beyond quantum field theory. However, to make revolutionary advances in physics, we cannot allow our imagination to be trapped by the formalism. We cannot allow the formalism to define the boundary of our imagination. The mathematical formalism is simply a tool or a language that allows us to describe and communicate our imagination. Sometimes, when you have a new idea or a new thought, you might find that you cannot say anything. Whatever you say is wrong because the proper mathematics or the proper language with which to describe the new idea or the new thought have yet to be invented. Indeed, really new physical ideas usually require a new mathematical formalism with which to describe them. This reminds me of a story about a tribe. The tribe only has four words for counting: one, two, three, and many-many. Imagine that a tribe member has an idea about two apples plus two apples and three apples plus three apples. He will have a hard time explaining his theory to other tribe members. This should be your feeling when you have a truly new idea. Although this book is entitled Quantum field theory of many-body systems, I hope that after reading the book the reader will see that quantum field theory is not everything. Nature’s richness is not bounded by quantum field theory | ||

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<cite>Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell by A. Zee | <cite>Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell by A. Zee | ||

</cite></blockquote> | </cite></blockquote> | ||

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+ | |||

+ | <blockquote>It has been my experience, by the way, that such simple derivations are much more useful for scientific thinking than more formal ones; so it’s unfortunate that textbooks (and academic papers) are almost always dominated by the latter. **I am always pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to talk science one-on-one with someone than it is read their papers.** That’s because in a one-on-one conversation a scientist will talk to you in the language that s/he uses to think about the problem, whereas when writing a paper everyone gets paranoid that they’ll say something incorrect and be called out for it. But as my undergraduate advisor used to say, “what’s a factor of \pi between friends?”<cite>[[https://gravityandlevity.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/spare-me-the-math/|Brian Skinner]]</cite></blockquote> | ||

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+ | <blockquote>On the other hand, a prominent blogger once offered the advice that it’s dangerous to blog without tenure. There is a caricatured image of grad students as working 200% of the time. While this is clearly not true in practice, it still doesn’t look great when you hit a ‘rough patch’ in your research but you still manages to make regular blog posts. Further, no matter how many insightful posts you write, you’re always a single bone-headed statement away from offending someone senior with a lot of power over your future. (So when the grown-ups are having blogo-wars with one another, Junior would be wise enough to stay out of it.) [I will note, however, that I’ve heard a few people say that blogging has *helped* their early careers.] | ||

+ | |||

+ | I haven’t complete closed the door to future blogging. Maybe somewhere down the line I’d be interested in joining a group blog of young scientists, but this very-hypothetical situation wouldn’t happen in the near future and would only occur after a long talk with my adviser. | ||

+ | |||

+ | <cite>[[https://fliptomato.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/brief-thoughts-on-blogging/|Flip Tanedo]]</cite> | ||

+ | </blockquote> | ||

===== The Problem with Most Textbooks and Papers ===== | ===== The Problem with Most Textbooks and Papers ===== | ||

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===== Further Reading ===== | ===== Further Reading ===== | ||

+ | * [[http://www.dan.sperber.fr/wp-content/uploads/guru-effect.pdf|The Guru Effect]] by Dan Sperber: "Obscurity of expression is considered a flaw. Not so, however, in the speech or writing of intellectual gurus. All too often, what readers do is judge profound what they have failed to grasp." | ||

* [[http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/articles/cmystery.pdf|Clearing up Mysteries — The Original Goal]] by E. T. Jaynes | * [[http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/articles/cmystery.pdf|Clearing up Mysteries — The Original Goal]] by E. T. Jaynes | ||

* https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/72244/why-dont-more-academics-write-textbooks | * https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/72244/why-dont-more-academics-write-textbooks | ||

- | * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_projection_fallacy | + | * https://mathoverflow.net/questions/38639/thinking-and-explaining |

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