Sunday, January 25, 2015

Physics and equations

Paul Dirac: Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge 
and discoverer if antimatter

What it means really to understand an equation — that is, in more than a strictly mathematical sense — was described by Dirac. He said: “I understand what an equation means if I have a way of figuring out the characteristics of its solution without actually solving it”. So if we have a way of knowing what should happen in given circumstances without actually solving the equations, then we “understand” the equations, as applied to these circumstances. A physical understanding is a completely unmathematical, imprecise, and inexact thing, but absolutely necessary for a physicist.

Richard Feynman [1918-1988, 1965 Noble Prize in Physics]

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