Sand, Man

sand dune from 2006 trip to Death ValleyIn physics, most of what we do is look for the simple, often in extremely complicated systems. If you’re asking the wrong question, or looking at the wrong aspect of the system, this quest for the simple is unlikely to work at all, but the right question asked about the right aspect can yield rather striking insights, often with far-reaching consequences. Although it often is not emphasized in this manner during our school or undergraduate (and sometimes even graduate) education, this is the primary skill in the physicist’s arsenal that we teach and learn. (See an earlier article here for a take on this.)

Sometimes, you don’t need the sharp eyes and years of training and drilling in these seemingly arcane (but, I’d argue, most natural) arts (and the requisite sequestering away in monasteries and nunneries with abstinence, self-flagellation, and so forth) – there are times when if just jumps out at you that there’s a simple question or two […] Click to continue reading this post