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#1 2015-03-24 17:09:47

Real Member
From: Riemann Sphere
Registered: 2011-01-29
Posts: 24,574

How correct is that Feynman statement?

Feynman wrote:

It will take you some time to understand what should happen in different circumstances. You will have to solve the equations. Each time you solve the equations, you will learn something about the character of the solutions. To keep these solutions in mind, it will be useful also to study their meaning in terms of field lines and of other concepts. This is the way you will really “understand” the equations. That is the difference between mathematics and physics. Mathematicians, or people who have very mathematical minds, are often led astray when “studying” physics because they lose sight of the physics. They say: “Look, these differential equations—the Maxwell equations—are all there is to electrodynamics; it is admitted by the physicists that there is nothing which is not contained in the equations. The equations are complicated, but after all they are only mathematical equations and if I understand them mathematically inside out, I will understand the physics inside out.” Only it doesn’t work that way. Mathematicians who study physics with that point of view—and there have been many of them—usually make little contribution to physics and, in fact, little to mathematics. They fail because the actual physical situations in the real world are so complicated that it is necessary to have a much broader understanding of the equations.

'And fun? If maths is fun, then getting a tooth extraction is fun. A viral infection is fun. Rabies shots are fun.'
'God exists because Mathematics is consistent, and the devil exists because we cannot prove it'
I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested.


#2 2015-03-24 17:36:09

From: Bumpkinland
Registered: 2009-04-12
Posts: 107,736

Re: How correct is that Feynman statement?

Einstein wrote:

After Minkowski translated my theory in the form of mathematics I could no longer understand my own theory.

The relationship between math and physics is tenuous at best. Feynman was actually a pretty good EM guy and one of its principles was actually first expounded by him. You should read DZ's comments about the turn mathematics took with the arrival of Cauchy, the turn it took in the 20th century.

In mathematics, you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
If it ain't broke, fix it until it is.
Always satisfy the Prime Directive of getting the right answer above all else.


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