Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quote of the Week... from Michael D. Fayer’s illuminating book, Absolutely Small: How Quantum Theory Explains Our Everyday World:
The uncertainty principle says that you can know something about the momentum of a particle and something about the position of a particle, but you can’t know both the position and the momentum exactly at the same time. This uncertainty in the simultaneous knowledge of the position and the momentum is in sharp contrast to classical mechanics.
In classical mechanics, you can know x and p. In quantum mechanics, you can know x or p. Generally for quantum particles, absolutely small particles, you know something about p and something about x, but you can’t know both precisely simultaneously.
As the above quote demonstrates, even in physics, true uncertainty exists at absolutely small levels. More importantly, the persistence of uncertainty at a micro level does not prevent greater clarity from being achieved at a macro level. In fact, the different levels may operate under entirely different organizational principles. Unfortunately economics has not yet come to terms with the scientific advancements of quantum theory. If economics truly wishes to mimic physics, than as a science it has fallen even further behind.  

FAYER, Michael D. (2010-06-16). Absolutely Small: How Quantum Theory Explains Our Everyday World (Kindle Locations 1223-1244). Amacom - A. Kindle Edition.


  1. Does economics wish to mimic physics? I'm not sure that it does. Some of the tools of physics (especially statistical mechanics) have been useful for economics, but I'm not sure that the natural laws of physics necessarily have analogues in economics. Some do, maybe, but not all. I haven't read the book though so I don't know if the author presents an argument for why quantum theory should have an analogue in economics.

    You might be interested in the article "Econophysics: Culture Crash" by Philip Ball in Nature (2006) at

    1. The book does not actually pose any relationship to economics and is solely about describing quantum theory in a primarily non-mathematical manner (for the lay person). The view that economics wishes to mimic physics is my own, although I have certainly heard similar claims made by many others both in support of and opposition to that claim.

      In my intro micro class we actually discussed the laws of physics and parallels to economics. I think of the ergodic axiom and other axioms associated with REH as being an attempt to match the precise calculations in classical mechanics. That may be my uncharitable interpretation, but I think it's a view more widely held than you may expect.

  2. Funnily as always how physicists always avoid even mentioning that they do not know what reality is and still struggling to understand what quantum mechanics brought them:


    1. Yes, even physics has internal fights over the importance and meaning of certain new findings and/or theories. I didn't realize there were quite so many different interpretations though.