Sheldon Cooper Illustrates Bias Blindness

“Don’t you think if I were wrong I’d know it?”

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“I have a working knowledge of the entire universe and everything it contains”

As Sheldon Cooper would have it, physics explains everything. All the workings of the universe, from black holes and dark energy to the financial markets down to the inner workings of our brains and the atoms and molecules that comprise them are assumed to be controlled by the same set of fundamental physical laws. That goes a long way towards explaining why the finance industry hires so many physics Ph.Ds. Anyway, or so the thinking goes, the only people who are studying anything really interesting are – like Sheldon – theoretical physicists.

The misplaced triumphalist arrogance of certain physicists (and many alleged experts) is nothing new, of course.  For example, the discoverer of the positron proclaimed that, thenceforth, “the rest is chemistry.”

PuritySource: xkcd

Unfortunately for Sheldon, the ability to reduce everything to physics does not mean that we can start with physics and reconstruct – or even model meaningfully – the universe. In fact, the more we learn about fundamental physics, the less relevance it seems to have to our everyday world, largely on account of scale and complexity. Continue reading