Weekly Roundup 45

A statistical analysis of physics papers has recently been produced after collating 2000 physics articles from various scientific publications. It was found that the number of times articles had been used as a citation was inversely proportional to the average number of equations on each page. This harkens back to Stephen Hawking getting told that “each equation [he] included in [A Brief History of Time] would halve its sales.” But this appears to hold true even when it is a professional reading instead of a layman. It was shown that the the same drop of citations was seen for both biology and physics papers even though physicists are on average more mathematically adept as it is a strict requirement for their degree. This seems to imply that physicists don’t have either the patience of the faith in their own ability to work through these equations in order to understand the paper. If the work of more theoretical articles are reused less then there is the risk that some major ideas may get overlooked and never proven with experiment.

In a way it almost to be expected. Right now I think that all maths I know is stuck in my head so I’ll never forget it, but in thirty years time will I really remember all my trigonometric identities. Even if I could remember some of them I might be so out of practice I couldn’t solve any question with them. I can certainly empathise with scientists becoming dissuaded when faced with a page of number and values with no real meaning attached to them. In the future hopefully researchers will consider this when presenting their papers in order to make them more accessible to a wider ranger of individuals.

Until tomorrow, goodnight.


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