Wandering physicists

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

This is funny, and does capture the tendency of physicists (not just old ones) to wander into other fields.

But the cartoon avoids the hard question (perhaps best addressed by historians of science) as to the actual value brought to other fields by physicists.

See, for example, Physicists can do stuff, Prometheus in the basement, and On Crick and Watson.

… Crick, 35, had already had a career in physics interrupted by the war and despaired of making his great contribution to science. Watson was a callow 23, fresh from Indiana.

It was clear to me that I was faced with a novelty: enormous ambition and aggressiveness, … I am sure that, had I had more contact with, for instance, theoretical physicists, my astonishment would have been less great. In any event, there they were, speculating, pondering, angling for information. …

Thanks for digging around down there — what did you find, again? Great! I’ve got more horsepower, so I’ll just connect the dots for you now… :-) From Wikipedia on Crick:

Crick had to adjust from the “elegance and deep simplicity” of physics to the “elaborate chemical mechanisms that natural selection had evolved over billions of years.” He described this transition as, “almost as if one had to be born again.” According to Crick, the experience of learning physics had taught him something important—hubris—and the conviction that since physics was already a success, great advances should also be possible in other sciences such as biology. Crick felt that this attitude encouraged him to be more daring than typical biologists who tended to concern themselves with the daunting problems of biology and not the past successes of physics.

Mastery of so difficult a subject granted the right to invade others.

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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