I have gone to great lengths on this blog in order to explain how and why a degree in physics prepares you for seemingly different careers, or at least does not hurt.
But it would have been so simple. I will now illustrate this – using just two incomprehensible images.
Actually, I have a hidden agenda: The top page on this blog is my review of the book Student Friendly Quantum Field Theory. Of course I am trying now to coast on its success.
But I swear that each of these images made us – the Chief Engineer and me – spontaneously and independently burst out:
This is more complicated than Feynman’s path integrals!!
So if QFT does not prepare you for plumbing and IT security – I don’t know what does.
1) Feynman diagrams spotted in pipework – especially in the way the Chief Engineer depicts it! We assume that this sort of documentation is commented by your typical HVAC contractor with What does he have smoked??
2) Feynman diagrams in certificate paths – in the way authors of Request for Comments envisage the proper usage of related internet protocols. This is the kind of paper any developer sometimes SHOULD read to cross-check implementation versus best practices but I MIGHT give because the RFC is rather PhD-thesis-like.
OK – and now a true Feynman diagram. As with the other ‘examples’ a full-blown diagram would be built from lots of these units:As a disclaimer in case any practicing theoretical physicist feels offended: Of course I don’t intend to say that either of these things is as complicated or requires as much training as Quantum Field Theory.
But probably there is a more serious message to be uncovered here:
Feynman diagrams are often described as depicting the reactions between elementary particles. Yet they are shortcut for very unwieldy integrals in an abstract space.
Drawings of pipework and also the certificate paths seem more tangible. But the latter is replacing cryptographic relationship by little sticks and the former is after all an abstract map of physical items using 2D symbols.
In The Shallows – What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains Nicholas Carr reminds us of the significance of our abilities to create maps at increasing levels of abstraction:
Mankind’s first maps, scratched in the dirt with a stick or carved into a stone with another stone, were as rudimentary as the scribbles of toddlers. … As more time passed, the realism became scientific in both its precision and its abstraction. The mapmaker began to use sophisticated tools like the direction-finding compass and the angle-measuring theodolite and to rely on mathematical reckonings and formulas. Eventually, in a further intellectual leap, maps came to be used not only to represent vast regions of the earth or heavens in minute detail, but to express ideas—a plan of battle, an analysis of the spread of an epidemic, a forecast of population growth.
Building and interpreting – abstract – maps of all kinds has become a key ‘skill’ – from software enterprise architecture diagrams to all sorts of infographics shared on social media like How Douglas Adams predicted the iPad.