I don’t really know what is meant by the word physics. Maybe, I shouldn’t want to make something out of it, pysicists and philosophers are there for such a job, and I am becoming such a boring engineer. But I still do think about this pretty question, “What is physics?”, as said a by Naruto, “A ninja never leaves the field!”
Sometimes I feel that mathematics is all that physics is, and the remainder is philosophy. In high school I never really appreciated complex differential equations and matrix, all the physics numericals could be solved by simple algebra and trigonometry. So, then physics was about philosophy and no maths. Just because the maths was doing for physics was so easy for me, I didn’t feel those maths abstract at all.
My first encounter with quantum mechanics made me to rethink the way I did physics. I knew that quantum mechanics was all about chances and probabilities, all the popular science articles say that. But when I really came to know the uncertainty principle, I realized the intellectual leap made by Heisenberg and co. That was simply philosophy. A question e.g., “Say if the moon is up, without looking at the sky?”. I don’t think this question exists in real world, if we consider moon as something that cannot be in a superposed state of visibility and non-visibility, and classically moon cannot be in a superposed state. All we can say that, “Moon can be up or not!”, but that is not a proper answer for a question as deterministic as this, so we take resort to probability. 50% chance of moon being up, and 50% up of moon not being up. And viola! We are one step closer to quantum mechanics. And when we really say that moon has 50% chance of being up and 50% chance for not, we also say that moon is now in a superposed state. And when we look at the sky and check if the moon is there, we force moon to collapse to one certain state (being up or not) from the superposed state.
This was pretty much simple. But when we do calculate the differential eq. of quantum mechanics and infer some phenomenon like tunneling, molecular orbitals etc etc, and see them experimentally things really get abstract, because at that stage mathematics and philosophy of physics is so intermingled, that is hard see them separately. At the core philosophy, classical mechanics and quantum mechanics are same, but to us they are apart far, as a wise man said to me once, “Newton is in your blood, quantum mechanics would have a hard time getting inside you.”
And that is why I am trying to see classical mechanics in a way, so that I can see philosophy and mathematics intermingled, that should help me to have a deeper understanding of quantum mechanics. And now after a small course on quantum mechanics, and having deeper understanding of such a mixture of mathematics and philosophy, which we call physics, I do appreciate differential equations and matrix.
And suddenly, while writing the last line, it came to me that philosophy’s ‘phi’ or ‘phy’, and mathematics’s ‘ics’ may have made physics. That’s fishy, isn’t it?