Physics Envy

Is everybody trying to be a physicist?

Physics seems to be the science of uniform laws of motion and force. Hit a billiard ball with X force and see Y result. One can see the appeal. In health care, evidence-based medicine could lead to alternate treatments and healthier people. In economics, laws of money supply and output can help us tame inflation and stimulate the economy.

Only life is rarely so neat and clean. You can’t do controlled experiments on municipal finance like you can on ant colonies. And much of the “evidence” in medicine is the result of self-reporting, where someone with back pain feels oh-so-much better after a sympathetic listener rubs some weird cream on his feet.

But policy demands certainty, even though people aren’t predictable like simple harmonic motion. The thing is, when you really understand physics, quantum behavior is full of all kinds of random, unpredictable events, with strange forces and weird twinning behavior. The physical world actually is a very bizarre place.

Maybe physics is a pretty good analogy after all.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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