“So, what do you do?”
“Me? I’m a physicist.”
“Hey, isn’t that a coincidence? I hated physics!”
“I was so terrible at it in school, and my teachers were simply awful. But you must be a genius!”
“Oh, hi! Nice to meet you. A mathematician? I was so bad at math...”
That exact conversation is more common than you might think. I’m sure that lawyers get evil-lawyer jokes and accountants get some variant of, “Gee, that’s boring,” but physicists are told that their passion is dreadful in a way that’s supposed to be a compliment. It would be easy to slip into the conceit that what we’re doing is so esoteric and so painfully difficult that we are modern-day wizards, but that would be a lie.
Physics isn’t about out-of-this-world things like flux capacitors and trips across the eighth dimension: it’s as in-this-world as you can get. It’s a fascination with all the little things that our world does, such as ice crystals growing on a spider web on a signpost. (...)
From “Coffeshop Physics” by Jim Pivarski. Make sure to check out other of his brilliant posts, like “Leprechauns and laser beams” or the Physics in a Nutshell section.
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century's end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There's every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn't happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
Cause I’ve got the brains, they’re there in my head
All that remains is just to get out of bed
I’m missing the best part of the day
Stealing tomorrow to help me get over today
— The Fratellis, “Lazybones”
The Chuck Norris of mathematics.
- When Gauss died, he did not leave any conjectures but exercises.
- Gauss knows the last digit of pi.
- Erdos believed God had a book of all perfect mathematical proofs. God believes Gauss has such a book.
- Fermat once made Gauss angry. The result - Fermat’s Last Theorem.
- The common phrase used by mathematicians, “Let n be an integer”, is literally a request to Gauss to allow it to be so.
- Gauss didn’t discover the normal distribution, nature conformed to his will.
- Gauss doesn't understand stochastic processes because he can predict random numbers.