The story goes that Horace Lamb, when speaking at a meeting of the British Association of the Advancement of Science, made a really great physics joke. “I am an old man now,” he said, “and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics and the other is turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic.”
You get it? Because, like, turbulent motion of fluids is really complicated so even a guy who made the universe probably wouldn’t know what was up with that.
This story is often blockbustered up by recasting the wry Lamb with Heisenberg, changing the scene to Heisenberg’s death bed, and making the dialogue a little more snappy. This becomes: When Heisenberg was on his death bed he opened his eyes and said quietly “When I meet God I am going to ask him two questions. Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.”
So now the story is about unending curiosity and the mystery of life. Or the fact that physicists are a little obsessive and sad.
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As I reach the end of my Masters I have decided to ask a slightly more basic question: why physics? Specifically, what are my fellow students doing with their physics degrees? Harpreet has a real job and Thomas is getting another degree, so I’ve asked them to tell you all about it. And yes, this is shameless physics propaganda.