Mathematicians' contributions to physics

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In summary, many physicists are unaware of the "real" problems in physics. These problems include lack of new physical insight combined with a lag in experimental data. Mathematicians have often come in later and made the physics richer and more coherent.
  • #71
Vanadium 50 said:
I would not go there.

I have had and continue to have a successful career in physics. Almost 1700 papers, almost a quarter-million cites, and an h-index over 200.

Do some of the theories I use have inconsistencies. Yup. Even QED has a Landau pole. Do I care? Nope.
Do some of the empirical laws I use have unphysical regions? Yup. Do I care? Nope. Don't use them there.
Are some of the calculation tools I use less than rigorous? Yup. Do I care? Nope.

I realize that this gets some mathematicians' goat, Not my problem. If I can measure x and compare it to theory, I'm good.

Could I stop measuring things and wait for the mathematical rigor to catch up? I could - but that would stop progress. So I don't.

Physicists use mathematics. Doesn't make them mathematicians.
Can be read as today’s physics manifesto.
 
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  • #72
Vanadium 50 said:
Do some of the theories I use have inconsistencies. Yup. Even QED has a Landau pole. Do I care? Nope.
Do some of the empirical laws I use have unphysical regions? Yup. Do I care? Nope. Don't use them there.
Are some of the calculation tools I use less than rigorous? Yup. Do I care? Nope.

I realize that this gets some mathematicians' goat, Not my problem. If I can measure x and compare it to theory, I'm good.

Could I stop measuring things and wait for the mathematical rigor to catch up? I could - but that would stop progress. So I don't.

Physicists use mathematics. Doesn't make them mathematicians.

Thank you for agreeing with me that mathematicians tend to write books in physics more rigorously than physicists, and tend to reject mathematically incoherent theories.

In mathematics, we call this "q.e.d." (quod erat demonstrandum).
 
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  • #73
coquelicot said:
Thank you for agreeing with me that mathematicians tend to write books in physics more rigorously than physicists, and tend to reject mathematically incoherent theories.

In mathematics, we call this "q.e.d." (quod erat demonstrandum).
ln physics, we call it “q.e.d.” (quantum era demonstrandum).
 
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  • #74
coquelicot said:
In mathematics, we call this "q.e.d." (quod erat demonstrandum).
apostolosdt said:
ln physics, we call it “q.e.d” (quantum era demonstrandum).

On PF, we call it "q.e.e." (quod erat expectandum).
 
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  • #75
coquelicot said:
and tend to reject mathematically incoherent theories
Which is why mathematicians are not that important for the overall progress of physics? ;)
 
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  • #76
malawi_glenn said:
Which is why mathematicians are not that important for the overall progress of physics? ;)
So, let ban Galileo, Pascal, Descartes, Fermat, Euler, Lagrange, Legendre, Gauss, Jacobi, Cauchy, Riemann, Levy-civita, Lie, Von Neuman, Noether, and all the other useless crackpots from the physics.

Oh, I forgot to ban Newton, who was primarily a mathematician and a teacher of mathematics at the university. From Wikipedia:
Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
 
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  • #77
apostolosdt said:
ln physics, we call it “q.e.d.” (quantum era demonstrandum).
(liked it).
You may be right after all, maybe I should consider Vanadium50 is not representative for the physics, a quantum jump in some sense. But that's your fault, you wrote above "Can be read as today’s physics manifesto". ;-)
 
  • #78
Who said anything about banning and calling mathematicians crackpots?

Do you have any, more contemporary, mathematicians? Or are you just gonna use names which are ~100 years old? Are you mathematicians still content with writing books on classical physics? Because god forbid writing a book on qft or string theory.
 
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  • #79
malawi_glenn said:
Who said anything about banning and calling mathematicians crackpots?

Do you have any, more contemporary, mathematicians? Or are you just gonna use names which are ~100 years old? Are you mathematicians still content with writing books on classical physics? Because god forbid writing a book on qft or string theory.
I will not enter into the discussion of the type "who are the best, mathematicians of physicists". That's ridiculous for me. It is evident that professional physicists, who are often excellent mathematicians too, and who deal with physics full time, contribute more to physics than mathematicians who only occasionally deal with this matter. On the other hand, I'm afraid that when god sees posts like "the author of such or such book is a mathematician, hence the book is bad", he really wants to forget writing his book in physics.
 
  • #80
I apology for not being able to answer to further posts. I have to travel and will probably be too busy during the next weeks. Hope this thread will continue though.
 
  • #81
coquelicot said:
I apology for not being able to answer to further posts. I have to travel and will probably be too busy during the next weeks. Hope this thread will continue though.
Have a safe trip!
 
  • #82
thoughts on Edward Witten?
Is he a physicist or a mathematician? Or both?

What are his "real" contributions to physics? I can think of topological qft which is (?) somewhat useful for condensed matter physics. Sure you will say "what about supersymmetry?" ... has supersymmetry been verified?

He was the first physicist to receive the fields medal.
 
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  • #83
coquelicot said:
maybe I should consider Vanadium50 is not representative for the physics,
Aye, No True Scotsman puts sugar on their porridge!
 
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  • #84
malawi_glenn said:
thoughts on Edward Witten?
Is he a physicist or a mathematician? Or both?

What are his "real" contributions to physics? I can think of topological qft which is (?) somewhat useful for condensed matter physics. Sure you will say "what about supersymmetry?" ... has supersymmetry been verified?

He was the first physicist to receive the fields medal.
Feynman too? He started out on maths then switched.
 
  • #85
malawi_glenn said:
thoughts on Edward Witten?
Is he a physicist or a mathematician? Or both?

What are his "real" contributions to physics? I can think of topological qft which is (?) somewhat useful for condensed matter physics. Sure you will say "what about supersymmetry?" ... has supersymmetry been verified?

He was the first physicist to receive the fields medal.
I thought the rivalry was a bit more jokey till I read this thread! ; )
 
  • #86
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  • #87
Rather than go off the rails here, I think its appropriate to end the thread with Feynman's Messenger lecture given at Cornell in 1963.

Thank you all for contributing here. And to those physicists and mathematicians turning in your graves, you rest easy knowing Prof Feynman resolved this issue long ago.

He has an interesting take on physics and math. Often physicists try to think outside the box bending math to work in their new theory. Ultimately though, they need to ground their theory in solid mathematics.

In Feynman's example, he talks about a physicist looking for math that works in 3D and the mathematician says I have this even better notation that works in N dimensions and the physicist says thanks but no thanks until they hit a roadblock and find they need more dimensions and sheepishly goes back to the mathematician for help. (this story stars around 44 minute mark)



As an aside, this is true in many professions like hardware engineers may have a disdain for programmers and vice versa but they need each other to make a successful project. In one such big company project, I ran into this mindset and where the hw engineers hated our "complicated" C programs. They preferred their simple BASIC programs until one day they ran out of RAM on a PC DOS machine and needed our help to get around it.
 
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