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I Do Laws need to be simple?

  1. Jan 3, 2017 #1
    So it seems there is predilection in physics to go after simple and elegant models of physical reality. That is, parsimonious models are preferred. Sometimes this means that there is a trade off between mathematical elegance and intuition.

    For example, if theory A and theory B both perfectly describe a certain phenomenon but A is complex but fits intuition and B is mathematically simple( relies on less assumptions) and elegant but requires breaking intuition, which one is preferred? Are there guidelines for this?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2017 #2

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

  4. Jan 3, 2017 #3

    Dale

    Staff: Mentor

    Why make a choice at all? Use both as needed. Use A when you need an intuitive understanding and use B when you need a mathematical result.
     
  5. Jan 3, 2017 #4

    sophiecentaur

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    We use the simplest one that produces results that agree 'enough' with measurement for the particular purpose. But no one believes in an Ultimate Straight Line Truth model. (At least, I don't)
     
  6. Jan 4, 2017 #5

    Drakkith

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    Can anyone provide an example of two equally valid, but different theories?
     
  7. Jan 4, 2017 #6

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    While not equally valid in all cases, Newton's Gravitation and Einstein's General Relativity are both used in science and engineering depending on the system being studied. Both agree under non-extreme conditions to great accuracy.



    The space program was based on Newton vs the GPS positioning satellites being based on General Relativity.
     
  8. Jan 4, 2017 #7

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

  9. Jan 4, 2017 #8

    sophiecentaur

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    Newton is quite valid under most circs. SR and GR are valid under more extreme circs. 'Equally Valid' is another matter.
     
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