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Physicists' Bill of Rights

1965

We hold these truths to be intuitively obvious; that all physicists were born equal (to a first approximation), and were endowed by their creator with certain indiscrete rights, and among these are a mean rest life, n degrees of freedom, and the pursuit of the physics secretary*. We also reserve the following rights, which are invariant under all linear transformations.

  1. To approximate all problems to ideal cases.
  2. To use order of magnitude calculations whenever it is necessary.
  3. To dismiss all functions which diverge as "nasty" and "unphysical".
  4. To invoke the uncertainty principle when confronted by confused mathematicians, electrical engineers, and others.
  5. When pressed by non-physicists for an explanation of (4) to mumble in a sneering voice about physically naive mathematicians.
  6. To equate the two sides of an equation which are dimensionally inconsistent with a suitable comment such as "Well, we are only interested in order of magnitude anyway." see (2).
  7. To the extensive use of "bastard notation" when conventional mathematics will not work.
  8. To justify shaky reasoning on the basis that it gives the correct answer.
  9. To use plausibility arguments in place of proofs, and thenceforth to refer to these arguments as proofs.
  10. To take on faith any principle which seems right but can't be proven.
  11. When confronted with a question which requires any thought at all to reply... "Why not?"

Origin unknown

Source: Dr. Kelly, Physics 152, Miami University, 1965

* Note pre-equal opportunity era unconscious sexism.