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Demystifying Spin 1/2

5 Oct 2016, 11:41 UTC
Demystifying Spin 1/2
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Theoretical physics is the most math-heavy of disciplines. We don’t use all that math because we like to be intimidating, but because it’s the most useful and accurate description of nature we know. I am often asked to please explain this or that mathematical description in layman terms – and I try to do my best. But truth is, it’s not possible. The mathematical description is the explanation. The best I can do is to summarize the conclusions we have drawn from all that math. And this is pretty much how popular science accounts of theoretical physics work: By summarizing the consequences of lots of math. This, however, makes science communication in theoretical physics a victim of its own success. If readers get away thinking they can follow a verbal argument, they’re left to wonder why physicists use all that math to begin with. Sometimes I therefore wish articles reporting on recent progress in theoretical physics would on occasion have an asterisk that notes “It takes several years of lectures to understand how B follows from A.”One of the best examples for the power of math in theoretical physics – if not the best example to illustrate this – are ...

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