Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why the Relevance?

We must answer this question - why is there a book, The Relevance of Physics - before we proceed to study it in detail.

Jaki gives the answer in a concise preface. As if it were a hologram, almost any sentence might (on its own) render a complete reason or justification for the remainder of this huge volume - or at least it gives a very strong enticement. One might not even be a physicist, or even a historian, to find a fascination with the subject.

In his original preface Jaki quotes two excellent - perhaps superlative - statements about his topic. Oddly, neither is annotated, but since he quotes them elsewhere, I can provide the attribution. They are important for us, and I shall offer them for your consideration:
...no less prominent a figure of present-day American science than Vannevar Bush voiced the desperate cultural need for a systematic illustration of the limitations of physical science. "Much is spoken," he noted, "today about the power of science, and rightly. It is awesome. But little is said about the inherent limitations of science, and both sides of the coin need equal scrutiny." To help redress the balance between those two sides is the aim of this book.
[SLJ, preface to TROP, quoting VB "Science Pauses," Fortune 71 (May 1965), p. 116.]

Then there is this grand epigram, an insight from one of the greatest scientists of history, which ought to be a poster upon every lab and in every work area of all scientists:
[This book's] purpose would be fully achieved if it increased in those who cultivate and love physics that component of the wisdom of science of which Maxwell once wrote,"One of the severest tests of a scientific mind is to discern the limits of the legitimate application of scientific methods."
[SLJ, preface to TROP, quoting JCM "Paradoxical Philosophy" (1878), in The Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, edited by W. D. Niven, II (Cambridge, 1890), p. 759.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cannot study a book when you can't find a copy of it. Or, one that you can afford.