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I really don't understand the hierarchical chain (especially between Mathematicians and Physicists)

  1. Nov 2, 2014 #1
    Even-though mathematicians regard themselves at the pinnacle or the http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=2330021&p=-1&# [Broken] of all sciences they too are interested in partaking research areas in physics, e.g. topological quantum field theory, lie groups in quantum systems, ..., etc when you could actually have a theoretical physicists (presumably learnt pure maths or self taught himself pure maths) doing that research itself other than a pure mathematician. I too think that mathematics is great, and is essential for all sciences, and partly the reason why I want to take theoretical physics as my second degree along side of engineering because its the only few sciences that are quite heavy in mathematics. (Sci/Eng double degree).

    Also this goes for physicists indirectly frowning upon engineers (aka the ultimatum of all applied sciences) whilst we had three of the nobel prizes in 2014 being electronic engineers... I feel like materials, electrical, and electronic engineering is very abundant in research.

    I guess Materials Engineers and Electrical/http://boards.4chan.org/sci/thread/6842727/sci-what-is-the-one-ring-of-the-stem-subjects-by# [Broken] would probably have a better chance of winning the noble prize for physics for the next 3 to 5 years. (Because research in those areas are saturated, e.g. quantum wells, graphine/graphite, semiconductors, ...,etc).

    Unless if someone out of the blues solved superstring theory... Well I guess condensed matter field is only left for pure physicists to research for now...

    I love all sciences, but I really could not apprehend the elusive "hierarchical chain."
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    What heirarchial chain are you talking about.? Are you trying to pick a major in order to minimize the number of people "indirectly frowning upon" you?
  4. Nov 2, 2014 #3
    Mathematics is the Queen of all sciences. The justificatin of physics beeing better than mathematics is due to its aplications in the boring old reel world. There are nearly no aplications for say complex analysis or the study of primes.Nothing beats mathematical beauty. Physics is more popular than mathematics because every body can see it.
  5. Nov 2, 2014 #4
    No applications of complex analysis and prime numbers?? You seem rather uninformed. Prime numbers are used in RSA, crypto which you use accessing email, web, online banking, etc. and electrical engineers use complex analysis all the time one example is in control systems.
  6. Nov 2, 2014 #5
    Why not play just play World of Warcraft, instead, if there are no applications? It would be more fun. There's no point in devoting your entire, over-worked life to something pointless, no matter how fun or beautiful it may be. Classical math is beautiful. Research-level math these days is mostly boring and ugly or at least, it is, to the extent that people explain it and think of it in a boring and ugly way. You may say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I'm no stranger to mathematical beauty, and I really fail to see it in 90%+ of the research that I've seen people doing. SOME of it is beautiful, but for me, it just goes on and on and on and on and never really gets anywhere, so I didn't see the point of continuing with it. There are lots of applications of complex analysis and prime numbers, by the way. Prime numbers are actually the very first thing that comes to mind when you think of cryptography, and complex analysis is up there on the list of math for physicists to know.

    Physics can also be made ugly and boring by people who are bad at explaining it, so you probably just don't the right way to think of it that makes it interesting. The real world is far from boring. And ironically, math is much more beautiful when it has closer ties to the real world. The divorce from applications and physical intuition is a large part of what makes a good portion of modern mathematics so ugly and lifeless (though part of it is a lack of emphasis on geometric and other forms of intuition which don't necessarily relate to applications). Not all of it depends on physics and other sciences for its motivation, but enough of it does, and on a deep enough level, that it's destructive to artificially force the subject to be independent of the applications from which a good deal of it was inspired.

    I have a PhD in pure math, and after finishing it, I fail to see why anyone would want to do it for a living in the current academic climate (I can see why they would want to teach, although it's not my cup of tea, personally). So much hard work to prove theorems that only 5 people in the world care about. Nothing could be less fulfilling and less meaningful than that, beautiful or not. Once you've seen 10, 000 beautiful proofs, how much more does the 10,001st really add?

    There is no hierarchy. Someone smarter than most mathematicians may choose to be an engineer because that's what he's interested in. Math is "harder", so maybe there's a higher barrier to entry, but other fields may be more difficult than math in their own way. Another problem is all this emphasis on who is the smartest and which subject is the most difficult is really perverse because then people are motivated to MAKE it difficult, just to prove how smart they are, which is the most counter-productive thing imaginable.

    It's fair to hold the opinion that math is your favorite, but if you don't want people to see you as the stereotypical arrogant mathematician, you have to get off your high horse and admit that it's just a personal opinion. And yes, that means, mathematics is not the queen in any objective sense.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
  7. Nov 2, 2014 #6
    Math technically isn't a science.

    No applications to complex analysis, I guess Control Theory doesn't exist then.
  8. Nov 2, 2014 #7


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    Education Advisor

    You likely "could not apprehend the elusive 'hierarchical chain,' " because there isn't one.

    You may have heard the phrase "In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting." I've heard it attributed to both Bohr and Kelvin, and unfortunately I think it unfortunately translates somehow into permission to look down on the other sciences because - how could stamp collecting be much of an intellectual pursuit?

    The point of it, I suspect, had nothing really to do with looking down on the other sciences though. This is largely speculation on my part, but I suspect that point, whomever it was made by, was more to underscore the fact that the complex systems that are seen in the other branches of science, are all ultimately explained by physical interactions.

    In the end, I wouldn't waste much time on this kind of thing. If you spend any amount of time in science, you're bound to encounter people who truly believe that their work is the only work that matters. Or that they are somehow on top of an invisible pyramid. Usually, in my experience, such people are being out-performed by other who really don't spend any time worrying about how important they are in relation to others, rather, they focus on identifying and solving problems that are important to them.
  9. Nov 3, 2014 #8
    I used to stress about such puerile things, but once I realized that all I need to make me happy is an interesting problem which allows me to learn more about how the world works, I became much less stressed.

    I'm in biophysics now, which I think is considered to be a lowly form of physics, if it's even physics, and I couldn't care less about what other people think.
  10. Nov 7, 2014 #9
    Seeminlgy you didn't read the post properly, I didn't state that mathematics had no aplications sure it does(achitecture, finanz to name a few). But in comparison to chemistry and biology and physcis it does not have many at all.

    I think it is rather naive to think say that say beeing a tax man has a point. The statement may be true but only in the frame of our culture else it has no point at all because our, thus beeing a taxman (for example) only has a point in a pointless frame.This is the death of good scientist like Newton...only looking at the academic reputaion and current climate and how much you can make a living of it (hmm). If you still want to go into detail about this I would refere you to Munchhausen trilemma.


    I hadn't thought of cryptography, thanks.
  11. Nov 7, 2014 #10
    You don't know what you're talking about.
  12. Nov 7, 2014 #11
  13. Nov 7, 2014 #12


    Staff: Mentor

    Seems like this thread has run its course.
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