Maybe it’s arrogance, or insecurity. Maybe it’s due to viewing themselves as the arbiters of good and bad science. Perhaps it’s just because, secretly, every physicist dreams of being a supervillain.
Physicists have a rivalry, you see. Whether you want to call it an archenemy, a nemesis, or even a kismesis, there is another field of study that physicists find so antithetical to everything they believe in that it crops up in their darkest and most shameful dreams.
What field of study? Well, pretty much all of them, actually.
A professor of mine once expressed the following sentiment:
“I have such respect for chemists. They accomplish so many things, while having no idea what they are doing!”
Disturbingly enough, he actually meant this as a compliment. Physicists’ relationship with chemists is a bit like a sibling rivalry. “Oh, isn’t that cute! He’s just playing with chemicals. Little guy doesn’t know anything about atoms, and yet he’s just sluggin’ away…wait, why is it working? What? How did you…I mean, I could have done that. Sure.”
They study all that weird, squishy stuff. They get to do better mad science. And somehow they get way more funding than us, probably because the government puts “improving lives” over “more particles”. Luckily, we have a solution to the problem.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has a pretty good take on this. Mathematicians are rigorous…too rigorous. They never let us have any fun, even when it’s totally fine, and everyone thinks they’re better than us. Well they’re not! Neener neener.
I already covered math, didn’t I?
Think about how mathematicians think about physicists, and you’ll know how physicists think about engineers. They mangle our formulas, ignoring our pristine general cases for silly criteria like “ease of use” and “describing the everyday world”. Just lazy!
What do these guys even study? I mean, what’s the point of metaphysics? We’ve covered that, it’s called physics! And why do they keep asking what quantum mechanics means?
These guys have an annoying habit of pointing out moral issues with things like nuclear power plants and worry entirely too much about world-destroying black holes. They’re also our top competition for GRE scores.
So, what do you guys use real analysis for again? Pretending to be math-based science doesn’t make you rigorous, guys.
We point out that surveys probably don’t measure anything, and that you can’t take the average of “agree” and “strongly agree”. Plus, if you’re a science, where is your F=ma?
They point out that we don’t actually know anything about how psychology research actually works, and that we seem to think that all psychologists are Freud. Then they ask us to look at just how fuzzy the plots we get from colliders actually are.
The argument escalates from there, often ending with frenzied makeout sessions.
Hey, we want a nemesis, but we’re not that desperate.