The versatile physicist

Thinking back to last entry, I think the way the physicist thinks makes him (and I’m sorry but ‘him’ is still about 90% correct) quite versatile in terms of problems he can address. I’ve been exchanging emails recently with an economist, with a view to having him speak at cafe scientifique. What has economics got to do with science, and physics in particular?

The large merchant banks and financial institutions  fall over themselves to recruit physicists. (Well, probably they’re not recruiting anyone now, but when they did, physicists were certainly a target.) One of my fellow students (a New Zealander, incidently) in Bristol, UK, where I did my PhD, was snapped up by a large London financial institution.


Why? It’s because the physicist knows how to deal with complex systems, such as financial markets. In this kind of system there are random factors, but also more predictable driving forces. These two together make what’s called a stochastic system, and physics has developed ways of describing how this works.

Of course we cannot predict random things, but we can say things about what they will do to a system, and build up predictions of what a system could do. In economic circles, I suspect this is  mostly targeted at managing risk, rather than making lots of money quickly.

I deal with stochastic systems in my research work on the electrical currents in the brain. That’s biology, you say. Well, it could be, but what I focus on is the physics – some of the electrical effects  are very predictable. some are not, so we have a stochastic system. The physics I use to study this can equally be applied to other areas of science, such as studying the turbulent flow of fluids or movement of scree down a slope. The point I’m making is that in physics, the same kind of understanding can be applied to many, many situations, including many that are not at all obvious. 

2 thoughts on “The versatile physicist”

  • Good sir/Madam,
    I wish to address this my letter to the supposed owner of this email address. Presently, it seems the global world is in enthusiastic spirit corncerning the anounnced result of faster than light neutrino which seems to open a new dimension in the world of theoritical physics. But in the realm of supposed newly discovery on september 2011 which i have independently worked on 1 january 2009-july 13 2010 and kept in my library, seems to shed light on the truth about the universe. In all accountability, relativistic theory seems perfectly complete. For truly, a particle that has mass cannever attain speed of light. But at the same time, the supposed faster than light particle NEUTRINO seems to defy such truth.
    Before enthusiastically accepting this newly discovery, some question should come into the mind of the acceptor. Some questions which includes: WHAT IS THE ROLE OF SPACE AND ELECTRON ON THIS? for all the necessary observations i get concerning the nature and affect of neutrinos MASS, i expressed freely that neutrino mass coincidises with space! and i tell you that to seperate mass of neutrino from space is like removing a soul from the body for the soul and body is nothing but the same thing that can appear no different than the soul and body itself. Fermion family is a very powerfull arrangment that lacks a single truth which could have given this breakthrough a solid and firm foundation for the manner in which its being interpreted is wrong but not the theory itself. I am waiting for the right time to give the generalised idea which i have completed over 1 year ago concerning the nature of neutrinos mass and its interaction with space.
    Sir/madam, i strongly wish that my responses will bear noticed idea towards our future interactions together hopefully waiting for your responces.Thank you

  • Marcus Wilson says:

    Hello Philip. The usual way in science for new work to be discussed is through reputable peer-reviewed journals, conferences or seminars, or, at a lower level of formality, discussion with other experts in the field. I am not an expert in particle physics; I suggest you therefore first of all talk to some of these or members of their research teams. A bit of googling should identify who these people are without too much trouble.
    Or perhaps you’d like to put your findings on arXiV, which is a pre-print server for physics – the idea is that you let a wide audience look at your work and comment on it before it gets submitted to a journal.

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