Sunday, May 17, 2015



PHYSICS:  GENERAL SURVEY.  Physics, which may be defined broadly as the study of nature, was long called natural philosophy (from the Greek physikos); its exact scope is not fixed nor easily delimited.  From decade to decade in modern times, the principal effort in physics has changed as, on the one hand, fields of scientific knowledge were reduced to practice, whereupon they were regarded as branches of engineering or applied physics; and, on the other hand, new fields were opened by fresh experimental or theoretical discoveries.  Physics may be called a point of view about the natural world and a method of attack on its problems, a method based upon certain general principles and disciplined by the close interplay between experiment and theory.  With a kind of confidence that the understanding of nature may be reduced to a few comprehensive principles, physicists seek for those central ideas by which great areas of common experience may be brought into order and coherence.  To achieve their purpose, they proceed by use of mathematical and logical tools, and by experimentation.

                        ----  sometime back in the good old days.

I see the “close interplay between experiment and theory” as being an instance of the Hegelian dialectic.  I also see a correspondence between theory and several other things such as doctrine, economics, policy, ....  With experiment corresponding to operations, engineering, practice, ....   The terms “top down” and “bottom up” were used in the Washington DC area.  Top down is policy/management driven and bottom up is operations/technology driven.  In the operations research/management science community, the term “middle out” was also used.  Physics is a balanced approach.   It may be more “both ends to the middle” rather than middle out but it is “balanced.”

The new part this time is the realization that the physicist who “seeks the central ideas” is seeking the OR/MS type’s starting place.

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