Even physicists are ‘afraid’ of mathematics

Interesting news, since it is widely known that physicists are the most mathematically literate out of all the sciences. Perhaps what the research really shows is that huge chunks of equations may obscure the meaning of the research and thus is correspondingly less cited.

Similarly for math, nobody likes to read dry math texts crammed full of equations, theorems, and opaque proofs. Some illustration, explanation and motivation will greatly improve the exposition.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161111132118.htm

Physicists avoid highly mathematical work despite being trained in advanced mathematics, new research suggests.

The study, published in the New Journal of Physics, shows that physicists pay less attention to theories that are crammed with mathematical details. This suggests there are real and widespread barriers to communicating mathematical work, and that this is not because of poor training in mathematical skills, or because there is a social stigma about doing well in mathematics.

Dr Tim Fawcett and Dr Andrew Higginson, from the University of Exeter, found, using statistical analysis of the number of citations to 2000 articles in a leading physics journal, that articles are less likely to be referenced by other physicists if they have lots of mathematical equations on each page.

Dr Higginson said: “We have already showed that biologists are put off by equations but we were surprised by these findings, as physicists are generally skilled in mathematics.

“This is an important issue because it shows there could be a disconnection between mathematical theory and experimental work. This presents a potentially enormous barrier to all kinds of scientific progress.”

The research findings suggest improving the training of science graduates won’t help, because physics students already receive extensive maths training before they graduate. Instead, the researchers think the solution lies in clearer communication of highly technical work, such as taking the time to describe what the equations mean.

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One Response to Even physicists are ‘afraid’ of mathematics

  1. you might just be right, Statisticians thrive on maths – I know I was one but I can see it might cloud physicist’s findings especially if in working through it the Paper becomes too unwieldy to manage.

    Liked by 1 person

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