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The Conversation #19 — Joseph Tainter

I see a set of con­straints fac­ing us in the future, and they’re all going to be very expen­sive. First is fund­ing retire­ments for the Baby Boom gen­er­a­tion. Second is con­tin­u­ing increas­es in the costs of health­care. The third is replac­ing decay­ing infra­struc­ture. The fourth is adapt­ing to cli­mate change and repair­ing envi­ron­men­tal dam­age. The fifth is devel­op­ing new sources of ener­gy. The sixth is what I see as in all like­li­hood con­tin­u­ing high mil­i­tary costs. The sev­enth is the costs of inno­va­tion.

The Art of Discovery, As Seen by a Physicist

The sci­en­tif­ic method was per­fect­ed in the cru­cible of nat­ur­al sci­ence, and physics in par­tic­u­lar. And an old pro­fes­sor of mine once told me that a good the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist is intrin­si­cal­ly a lazy per­son. And so these heuris­tics of ignor­ing super­flu­ous detail, sim­pli­fy­ing the prob­lem to its barest essen­tials, maybe even mak­ing a car­i­ca­ture out of it, solv­ing that sim­pler prob­lem. If you can’t solve that sim­pler prob­lem, solve an even sim­pler prob­lem. This actu­al­ly works in physics. Because the uni­verse is intrin­si­cal­ly a lazy place.

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