Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics essays heavy in math, bad or hard?

  1. Nov 19, 2016 #1
    In this article,
    the authors did a study of 2000 physics essays and found that those containing more math were cited less often. We have this problem in philosophy. Essays which are heavy in logic are cited less often. But in philosophy the essays heavy in logic are rightly ignored because they are so bad. What happens is that logician just translates their ideas into a barely comprehensible language, then they start begging the question. When an essay in philosophy begs the question in plain English then you at least know what the author is talking about. I'm wondering if essays in Physics which are heavy in math are rightly ignored or is it because the community of physicists do not want to work hard.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    "To beg the question" is a logical fallacy where a statement is assumed to be true without evidence.

    It does not mean to ask or raise a question. I wonder if this is what you meant?
  4. Nov 19, 2016 #3
    Yes, that's what I mean. Sometimes 'beg the question' is synonymous with the fallacy of petitio principii which is what you quoted, other times (I would say 10% of the time) it is synonymous with proving something by placing the conclusion in one of the premises.
  5. Nov 19, 2016 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    But this is highly misleading. All I can see here is that there is a a correlation. And as scientists, these people should know better than to confuse such correlation with causation!

    For example, the paper by N. Arkani-Hamed et al. Phys. Lett. B 429, 263 (1998) has lots of math. Yet, it is has TONS of citations, not to mention, lots of publicity. What happened there?

    Maybe papers with lots of mathematics tend to generally be theoretical papers, and they tend to not have huge number of citations, at least in the beginning. Or maybe many of these are in more esoteric areas of physics in which the number of physicists involved in these areas are smaller than others, so citation frequencies are lower in general.

    There are numerous possible "causation" for this. Simply equating the cause to math-phobia, as the article implied, is completely misleading.

  6. Nov 19, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    First, I don't understand why this is coming out now when Fawcett and Higgenson have been doing this for years. (Actually, I do - it makes for great clickbait)

    Second, the same criticism gets tossed at Fawcett and Higgenson again and again. By looking only at journals with severe space restrictions, they are a) looking at a small and biased sample, b) the citation counts depend on many factors, and if the authors don't want to do a principal component analysis they can't even begin to say what causes what. Additionally, it's not clear to me that the article is the thing you want to count - shouldn't it be the citation? Finally, as Zz alludes to, some of the most cited papers are experimental (and a PCA would tease this out). The Higgs discovery papers have 6000-7000 cites. Maldecena's ADS/CFT paper has 10,000 (this is the most cited HEP theory paper), but it's also 17 years old - it has about half as many cites as the Higgs papers since they came out.

    And, as a PS, while citations are correlated with importance, it's not a perfect correlation. I wrote a paper once that reported a measurement that definitively settled an issue. It didn't get many cites, because once the issue was settled, people stopped working on it.
  7. Nov 21, 2016 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted

Similar Threads - Physics essays heavy Date
Holiday trip for physics student Saturday at 1:52 PM
How did you learn "simple" physics? Feb 13, 2018
Which physics branch contributed more to modern civilization Feb 11, 2018
BIG New Scientific Ideas? Sep 25, 2016
An essay on Physics Forums Oct 14, 2006