Common knowledge...

April 26, 2016 | 16:00
Common knowledge...
Common knowledge...
Reading a recent article by my colleague Clemens Valens on the tribulations of Ohm’s law got me thinking. I try to imagine what goes through one’s mind just before the realization of a definite discovery. I’d love to taste that privileged moment where your mind is expanded by a new discovery, never to go back to its previous form.

While translating this anecdote on the subject of Cavendish for the French version of our E-zine, I was also wondering about the influence of the fundamental laws of physics on the way we look at the world and life in general, even to things that don’t seem to have their rigor: I amuse myself by – for example – applying Ohms law to Politics or Education, areas where we know that the interaction of voltage, current and resistance are new ideas!

This little game of unexpected analogies gives sometimes instructive and often amusing parallels. Thus the revered Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem (The discrete representation of a signal by regularly spaced samples requires a sampling frequency higher than twice the maximum frequency present in the signal.) becomes in my merry fancy: “To speak with authority on a subject, we must know at least twice as much as what we say”. This would have pleased Claude Shannon himself, who saw that “reduction of complexity is the dominant problem of the information age”. Far from attributing to himself the theorem that bears his name, he modestly noted: “This is a fact which is common knowledge in the communication art.”
 
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