Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
The Physicists' Bill of Rights.
We hold these postulates to be intuitively obvious, that all physicists are born equal, to a first approximation, and are endowed by their creator with certain discrete privileges, among them a mean rest life, n degrees of freedom, and the following rights which are invariant under all linear transformations:
- To approximate all problems to ideal cases.
- To use order of magnitude calculations whenever deemed necessary (i.e. whenever one can get away with it).
- To use the rigorous method of "squinting" for solving problems more complex than the addition of positive real integers.
- To dismiss all functions which diverge as "nasty" and "unphysical."
- To invoke the uncertainty principle when confronted by confused mathematicians, chemists, engineers, psychologists, dramatists, und andere schweinhund.
- When pressed by non-physicists for an explanation of (4) to mumble in a sneering tone of voice something about physically naive mathematicians.
- To equate two sides of an equation which are dimensionally inconsistent, with a suitable comment to the effect of, "Well, we are interested in the order of magnitude anyway."
- To invent fictitious forces to delude the general public.
- To justify shaky reasoning on the basis that it gives the right answer.
- To cleverly choose convenient initial conditions, using the principle of general triviality.
- To use plausible arguments in place of proofs, and thenceforth refer to these arguments as proofs.
- To take on faith any principle which seems right but cannot be proved.
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Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette