My Favorite Metaphors From Math and Physics
I’m currently a finishing up my undergraduate degree in physics. Physics is the branch of science that deals with all properties of energy and matter. I study how the universe works, not just classically, but also at relativistic and quantum levels. I’m effectively studying to be a wizard.
As part of my wizard training, I need to be able to read the language of physics so that I can cast spells. The special properties of mathematics make it an easy language to describe the universe in. Therefore, all physics students must take so many math classes that we earn a minor degree in math.
Many people believe that human needs and desires are beyond quantitative reasoning. The idea is that the heart, spirit, and mind can not be described by the formulas used for the physical realm. I’m not so sure I agree. At the very least, I repeatedly see relationships between the physical science and emotions.
This post is a list of my favorite metaphors in physics and mathematics for humanity. It is by no means exhaustive. It merely covers the similarities that I think most about and feel that a useful revelation can be made. This also means that I did not include Newton’s 3rd Law.
The 3rd Law was omitted because I believe it is an obvious metaphor for human interaction. If you don’t know it, google it. But once you do, then you’ll see why I didn’t feel like including it.
My Favorite Metaphors
The larger the number you divide a constant by, the smaller the result. ½ is larger than 1/3 is larger than ¼ and so on. As the denominator gets infinitely larger, the result getsinfinitely smaller until eventually there is nothing left. A constant divided by infinity is zero. A constant divide by zero is undefined.
Your attention is the constant. It is the numerator. The things we give our attention to represent the denominator. The more things we divide our attention by, the smaller the result.
Giving attention to 2 things (1/2) is better than giving attention to 3 things (1/3) is better than giving attention to 4 things (1/4) and so on. Pay attention to too many things and you will produce nothing.
In mathematics, dividing a constant by zero is impossible. This makes sense. You can’t break something up into nothing. As long as you’re alive and conscious, it’s impossible to think of nothing. Even if you empty your mind entirely, you’ll still have the room as the frame of reference. Only through unconsciousness or death is it possible to “think of nothing”.
Inphysics, escape velocity is the minimum speed needed for an object to escape from the gravitational attraction of a massive body, without the aid of thrust, or suffering the resistance from friction. Once free of the gravitational attraction, it is free from all gravitational influences the planet exerts.
You will never free yourself from societal influences if you think at the same level as everyone else. You need to be sharper, quicker and bolder. However much of these quantities you think you need to escape the influence of those around you, you’ll likely need even more.
This is because unless your mind and energy are strong enough, you will be pulled back down to earth by the mass, with the masses, and for the masses.
The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. For example, turning on a light seems to produce energy; however, it’s just electrical energy that is converted.
Everything in life is a trade-off. To reach a goal you must take energy that you would have used one place and use it somewhere else. In the most scientific sense of the word, creation is impossible. From our limited perspective, creation occurs when we take energy from once place and transfer it to another.
This energy doesn’t come from nowhere. It could have been used on another idea or activity. Instead, it’s put out to get used to get a great return. I am convinced that this metaphor is the secret to great success.
The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy of any isolated system always increases. Isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermal equilibrium—the state of maximum entropy of the system. More simply put: the entropy of the universe (the ultimate isolated system) only increases and never decreases.
Generally speaking, entropy is another measure of disorder. Things don’t tend towards order. They tend towards disorder. Over time, if you do not put energy and effort into something then it will eventually deteriorate.
You need a minimum amount of exercise to maintain your physique, a minimum amount of learning to maintain your mind and must also add love to your relationship. Otherwise, they tend towards ruin.
There are only two things are deemed impossible by physics: traveling backward in time and perpetual motion. More technically, one cannot reverse the order of events or act continuously without the need for external energy. Even the most efficient actions still lose energy to friction that will eventually have to be replenished or else the system stops working.
There’s no point in stressing over the past. What’s done is done and can’t ever be undone. The best you can do is learn from it so that you make better decisions next time. It is a tremendous waste of energy to let one’s self be paralyzed by guilt over the past. Own the mistake, learn from it, and move on.
Inertia is the resistance of a physical object to any change in its state of motion; this includes changes to its speed, direction, or state of rest. It is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity.
This law is commonly stated as “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force”. This is a human tendency as well and the most important analogy to understand.
This is why the first step is the most important step when you make a decision to change your life. It’s why winners keep winning, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and losers keep losing.
Whether you are at rest or in motion, you want to stay that way. If you aren’t doing shit, you want to continue being lazy. If you’re killing it in life, you don’t want to slow down. The only thing that over comes inertia is force.
In physics, force is defined as the quantity of mass*acceleration. Another way inertia is described is that it’s an object’s mass. The greater the mass of the object, the more force is required to change its direction, speed, or state of rest. You have to force yourself to over come the inertia holding you back. Once you start going, nothing can hold you back.