[Book] The Physicists

I was reading Lehmann’s memoir on his friends and colleagues who influence a great deal on establishing his career. I’m happy to know that his meeting Landau, Courant, and Evans led him to be a statistician; otherwise, we, including astronomers, would have had very different textbooks and statistical thinking would have been different. On the other hand, I was surprised to know that he chose statistics over physics due to his experience from Cambridge (UK). I thought becoming a physicist is more preferred than becoming a statistician during the first half of the 20th century. At least I felt that way, probably it’s because more general science books in physics and physics related historic events were well exposed so that I became to think that physicists are more cooler than other type scientists.

The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt

This short play (wiki link) is very charming and fun to read. Some statisticians would enjoy it. A subset of readers might embrace physics instead of repelling it. At least, it would show different aspects of non statistical science to statisticians beyond genetics, biology, medical science, economics, sociology, agricultural science, psychology, meteorology, and so on, where interdisciplinary collaborations are relatively well established.

The links for The Physicists and the book by Lehmann below were from Amazon.

Reminiscences of a Statistician: The Company I Kept by Erich Lehmann

The following excerpt from Reminiscence…, however, was more interesting how statistics were viewed to young Lehmann because I felt the same prior to learning statistics and watching how statistics were used in astronomical data analysis.

… I did not like it (statistics). It was lacking the element that had attracted me to mathematics as a boy: statistics did not possess the beauty that I have found in the integers and later in other parts of mathematics. Instead, ad hoc methods were used to solve problems that were messy and that where based on questionable assumptions that seemed quite arbitrary.

Aside, I have another post on his article , On the history and use of some standard statistical models.

I’d like to recommend another with a hope that someone finds its english translation (I have been searching but kept failed).

Der Teil und das Ganze by Werner Heisenberg.

YES, Heisenberg of the uncertainty principle! My understanding is that the notion of uncertainty is different among physicists, statisticians, and modern astronomers. I think it has evolved without communications.

Related to uncertainty, I also want to recommend again Professor Lindley’s insightful paper, discussed in another post, Statistics is the study of uncertainty.

Not many statisticians are exposed to (astro)physics and vice versa, probably the primary reason of wasting time on explaining λ (poisson rate parameter vs. wavelength), ν (nuisance parameter vs. frequency), π or φ (pdfs vs. particles), Ω (probability space vs. cosmological constant), Ho (null hypothesis vs. Hubble constant), to name a few. I hope this general reading recommendations is useful to narrow gaps and time wastes.

Leave a comment