History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Griffiths on quantum mechanics, krugman/wells on economics

March 12th, 2018 · No Comments

No we are not indulging in anti-science. We merely look at the ways science succeeds and the veneer of science in the social sciences, etc…
One might compare two subjects, with a book each:

David Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
Wells & Krugman, Macroeconomics….(if you can get a cheap second hand copy at amazon for a few bucks)

The first points to a real science, the second (not a bad textbook, in fact) to something far less.

I am not strong in QM but I realized recently I had studied all the core math disciplines for the subject, and suddenly the Griffiths book made sense at its starting point. The key elements that can be studied piecemeal are calculus/advanced calculus, partial differential equations with fourier series/fourier analysis, vector analysis (an maybe elementary tensors) and its use in electromagnetics, a spin through lagrangians/hamiltonians, linear algebra, …i can’t do the exercises in this book but a bird’s eye view is possible in the first chapters with the math fragments above, most of the material can be got in quickie summer school courses in many universes and/or via self-tutoring. Instead of books on pop quantum mechanics which never make sense, a quick tour of the math might help people who spend decades trying to figure out schrodinger’s cat, etc…
In any case, the point here is that for sheer elegance quantum mechanics is almost unmatched and shows how real science works with the close fit of the math to the phenomena…notwithstanding the puzzlement that haunts the whole subject…
Now switch to economics…the fit of the math to the subject is almost phony…
To be fair, there is very little discussion of science in economics textbooks as they proceed with ad hoc constructs. We have noted the need to be wary of theories and to proceed with empirical histories. Actually that’s what economists tend to do in these textbooks, at least. But an immense pretense of science lurks in the background in the field of mathematical economics and the attempts at general equilibrium theory and marginal analysis. As far as i can determine this whole field fails to reach the level of science.

Quantum mechanics is not of course the last word: the field proceeds to quantum electrodynamics and then to string theory: our list of topics to study expands twice to the point of making our quick tour as with qm almost impossible…We must finally confront the doubters who challenge string theory, but that is another story…

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