Sunday, December 03, 2006

Physics And Economics - Two Quotes

"There really is nothing more pathetic than to have an economist or a retired engineer try to force analogies between the concepts of physics and the concepts of economics. How many dreary papers have I had to referee in which the author is looking for something that corresponds to entropy or to one or another form of energy." -- Paul Samuelson
I get this quote, originally from Samuelson's "Nobel" prize lecture, secondhand from Philip Mirowski, More Heat Than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics (Cambridge University Press, 1989). This and Mirowski's later Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science (Cambridge University Press 2002) are required reading for anybody interested in the relationship between economics and the natural sciences.

I find amusing the proposed course deletions in the following:
"The real problem with my proposal for the future of economics departments is that current economics and finance students typically do not know enough mathematics to understand (a) what econophysicists are doing, or (b) to evaluate the neo-classical model (know in the trade as 'The Citadel') critically enough to see, as Alan Kirman put it, that 'No amount of attention to the walls will prevent The Citadel from being empty'. I therefore suggest that the economists revise their curriculum and require that the following topics be taught: calculus through the advanced level, ordinary differential equations (including advanced), partial differential equations (including Green functions), classical mechanics through modern nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics, stochastic processes (including solving Smoluchowski-Fokker-Planck equations), computer programming (C, Pascal, etc.) and, for complexity, cell biology. Time for such classes can be obtained in part by eliminating micro- and macro-economics classes from the curriculum. The students will then face a much harder curriculum, and those who servive will come out ahead. So might society as a whole." -- Joseph L. McCauley and Cobera, "Response to 'Worrying Trends in Econophysics", Physica A


Anonymous said...

Greetings Robert and congratulations on taking the time to erect and maintain a website.
It strikes me that McC wants to replace the Micro and Macro courses with math courses not physics in coming up with his new improved Econophysics (notable not Physiconomics). I wonder if the String theorists want to replace the physicists who think the empirical side must stay attached to their discipline.
Is part of the attraction that the math whizzes find gainful employment in the HF industry where; atleast up to recently, serious money speaks as loudly as any peer approval could?

Michael Greinecker said...

Interestingly, McCauley leaves out all the mathematics that is necessary to "evaluate" what he calls "the citadel":

Convex Analysis, Fixed Point Theory, Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Differential Topology...

Too bad that McCauley is still no mathematician.

Robert Vienneau said...

I agree that McCauley's suggested math courses are more directed at (a) (understanding what econophysicists are doing) than (b) (to evaluate "the" neoclassical model). By the way, Michael, are you aware that one cannot click on your name, as I understand it, and be one or two clicks away from your blog?

This post relates to comments on another blog.

Apropos of those comments - I think what J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. is considers child's play may be beyond the ken of many other mortals.

Michael Greinecker said...

Thank you!