Here Come the Physicists…

I read “Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age” by Duncan Watts. He has section called “Here Come the Physicists…” where he discusses the role of physicists in the early breakthrough in the science of networks. I loved this quote and I had to post it. This guy really understands physicists.

“Physicists, it turns out, are almost perfectly suited to invading other people’s disciplines, being not only extremely clever but also generally much less fussy than most about the problems they choose to study. Physicists tend to see themselves as lords of the academic jungle, loftily regarding their own methods as above the ken of anybody else and jealously guarding their own terrain. But their alter egos are closer to scavengers, happy to borrow ideas and techniques from anyone if they seem like they might be useful, and delighted to stomp all over someone else’s problem. As irritating as this attitude can be to everybody else, the arrival of physicists into a previously non-physics area of research often presages a period of great discovery and excitement.”

Pretty hard to argue with any of that: extremely clever, lords of the academic jungle, delighted to stomp all over someone else’s problem.

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2 Responses to “Here Come the Physicists…”

  1. I should check that out, thanks for mentioning it. Yeah, the characterization of physicists sounds pretty accurate to me. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with them. After spending six and a half years of graduate school within the ranks, I have a taste for free-ranging, iconoclastic, analytical conversations with agile minds. But then the irritating thing is that physicists can be so damn sure of their opinions, too. How do I know this? The enemy is me.

    Keep up the book reviews and cultural commentary–good stuff that I don’t come across in other places!

  2. I actually forgot to mention that it was a good book, even when he isn’t discussing physicists.

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