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(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)
The term simple requires explanation. It has to be understood in its context.
- I do not mean by this term "capable of being understood by the man in the street". This is clearly not the case, for instance, with the law of universal gravitation in Einstein's general theory of relativity.
- I do, however, retain some of the naive sense of the word simple. Natural laws have turned out to be far simpler than there was any a priori reason to suspect.
- In physics, when referring to the world's laws as simple I mean "capable of being described by mathematics".
- Because mathematics, unlike language, is on the borderline of human capacities, people demonstrate an enormous range of ability and very few find mathematics simple. However, the existence, say, of inverse square laws in gravitation & electrostatics is a remarkable fact, given that any irregular function of distance might have appeared possible a priori.
- Laws in sciences other than physics, while they cannot always be totally reduced to mathematical expression, usually have a pronounced mathematical character, as in the statistical characters of the laws of natural selection and of genetics.
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