by PhilipJ on 3 April 2006
I’ve started reading Bob Laughlin’s A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down, which is Laughlin’s philosophy on how the laws of nature come about. Once I’ve finished reading the book I’ll try and offer a little more insight (because, you know, a masters student with a weblog is definitely a worthy critic of a nobel laureate theorist!), but I’ll leave you with this rather accurate—particularly when I’m the one working in the biology lab—dichotomy between the physical and biological sciences, and how trying it is from time to time working in a biophysics lab:
My geneticist colleague David Botstein often begins lectures by explaining that the essence of biology is living with uncertainty. He especially emphasizes this to audiences of physicists, because he knows they have a hard time with this concept and will misinterpret much of what he says unless alerted to the issue ahead of time. He has never revealed to me how he thinks about such audiences, but I happen to know that most biologists consider the physicists’ obsession with certainty and correctness to be exasperatingly childish and evidence of their limited mental capacity. Physicists, in contrast, consider tolerance of uncertainty to be an excuse for second-rate experimentation and a potential source of false claims.