Essays

Updated by h.z. on July 18, 2012

  • Oliver Heaviside: A first-rate oddity by Bruce J. Hunt (Physics Today, November 2012, 48-54).  "Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925) was a self-educated English mathematical physicist who spent most of his life on the far fringes of the scientific community. Yet he did more than anyone else to shape how James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory was understood and applied in the 50 years after Maxwell's death."
  • How to nurture scientific discoveries despite their unpredictable nature by Abraham Loeb (arXiv:1207.3812v1, 2012). "Open research without a programmatic agenda establishes a fertile ground for unexpected breakthroughs."
  • Francis Crick (1916-2004) by Mark Bretscher and Peter Lawrence (Current Biology, 2004) The key to discovery: identifying problems that were really worth solving.
  • The mismeasurement of science by Peter A. Lawrence (Current Biology, 2007).
    Impact factors and citation numbers are used heavily to rank individual scientists. This unavoidably leads to significant changes in the strategies of scientists.
  • Network science and complexity by Alert-Laszlo Barabasi (Nature Physics, 2012).
    Data-based mathematical models of complexity systems. Algorithms to extract regularity and information from incomplete and nosy data.
  • A complex legacy by Cristopher Moore (Nature Physics, 2011).
    The grand unified theory of computation; ultimate limits to computation; the P versus NP question; statistical physics and typical computation complexity; quantum computers ...
  • Learning brings happiness by Manfred Spitzer (Newsletter 5/2011 of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation).
    What is happiness? Why do some people seem to be happier than others? Can you buy happiness? How be be happy? ... Science of happiness. Pleasure maximisation; "long-term happiness has a lot to do with purpose and meaning and very little with consumption or gratification"; "the nucleus accumbens is neither pleasure nor addiction centre, and only incidentally a happiness center. Rather, it is our brain's own learning booster."