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If physics is too difficult for the physicists, the nonphysicist may wonder whether he should try at all to grasp its complexities and ambiguities. It is undeniably an effort, but probably one worth making, for the basic questions are important and the new experimental results are often fascinating. And if the layman runs into serious perplexities, he can be consoled with the thought that the points which baffle him are more than likely the ones for which the professionals have not found satisfactory answers.
A good deal of my research work in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problems, but simply examining mathematical quantities of a kind that physicists use and trying to get them together in an interesting way regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later that the work does have an application. Then one has had good luck.
The attitude of Aristotelian physics toward lawfulness takes a new direction. So long as lawfulness remained limited to such processes as occurred repeatedly in the same way, it is evident, not only that the young physics still lacked the courage to extend the principle to all physical phenomena, but also that the concept of lawfulness still had a fundamentally historic, a temporally particular, significance. Stress was laid not upon the general validity which modem physics understands by lawfulness, but upon the events in the historically given world which displayed the required stability. The highest degree of lawfulness, beyond mere frequency, was characterized by the idea of the always eternal.
They [the critics] forget that while the artist never works outside his time yet his art will go on to be merged gradually into the new art of a new age. There will be no short stop. We shall not, contrary to the expectation of these people, hear of the sudden death of Cubism, abstraction, so-called modern art.... if they could but realize that energy is a spiritual movement and that they must conceive of working under a law of universal aesthetic progress, as we do in science, in mathematics, in physics.
Non- Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, and tries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints of Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be wholly free from mental tension. (Dreams In The Witch-House)
To give a complete mechanical explanation of electrical phenomena, reducing the laws of physics to the fundamental principles of dynamics is a problem that has attracted many investigators.... If the problem admitted of only one solution, the possession of this solution, which would be the truth, could not be bought too dearly.
In Newton's day the problem was to write something which was correct - he never had the problem of writing nonsense, but by the twentieth century we have a rich conceptual framework with relativity and quantum mechanics and so on. In this framework it's difficult to do things which are even internally coherent, much less correct. Actually, that's fortunate in the sense that it's one of the main tools we have in trying to make progress in physics. Physics has progressed to a domain where experiment is a little difficult... Nevertheless, the fact that we have a rich logical structure which constrains us a lot in terms of what is consistent, is one of the main reasons we are still able to make advances.
Not only must philosophy be in agreement with our empirical knowledge of Nature, but the origin and formation of the Philosophy of Nature presupposes and is conditioned by empirical physics. However, the course of a science's origin and the preliminaries of its construction are one thing, while the science itself is another. In the latter, the former can no longer appear as the foundation of the science; here, the foundation must be the necessity of the Concept.