The Physicists' Bill of Rights
We hold these postulates to be intuitively obvious, that all physicists are
born equal, to a first approximation, and are endowed by their creator with
certain discrete privileges, among them a mean rest life, n degrees of
freedom, and the following rights which are invariant under all linear
- To approximate all problems to ideal cases.
- To use order of magnitude calculations whenever deemed necessary (i.e.
whenever one can get away with it).
- To use the rigorous method of "squinting" for solving problems more
complex than the addition of positive real integers.
- To dismiss all functions which diverge as "nasty" and "unphysical."
- When pressed by non-physicists for an explanation of (4) to mumble in
a sneering tone of voice something about physically naive mathematicians.
- To invoke the uncertainty principle when confronted by confused
mathematicians, chemists, engineers, psychologists, dramatists, und andere
- To equate two sides of an equation which are dimensionally inconsistent,
with a suitable comment to the effect of, "Well, we are interested in the
order of magnitude anyway."
- To the extensive use of "bastard notations" where conventional mathematics
will not work.
- To invent fictitious forces to delude the general public.
- To justify shaky reasoning on the basis that it gives the right answer.
- To cleverly choose convenient initial conditions, using the principle of
- To use plausible arguments in place of proofs, and thenceforth refer to
these arguments as proofs.
- To take on faith any principle which seems right but cannot be proved.