Based on Scott’s review, I read through Stephen Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. I can’t top Scott’s exposition of the book, but it is pretty incredible how far humanity has gone when you step back to look at the big picture.
One line intrigued me, one that Pinker credits to a book called The Big Picture by Sean Carroll
The laws of physics underlying everyday life (that is excluding extreme values of energy and gravitation like black holes, dark matter and the Big Bang) are completely known.
Hasn’t this statement almost always been true, in the sense that the leading minds would make this claim at many times in history. The ancient Greeks probably believed they understood physics that underlies everyday life. So did physicists after Newton. Life back then not today. My everyday life involves using a GPS device that requires understanding relativistic effects and computer chips that needed other scientific advances.
Is it possible we could do more in everyday life if we knew more physics? I’d certainly use a teleporter in everyday life.
And is the statement even true today? We all use public key cryptography, even to read this blog. It’s not completely clear if we understand the physics enough to know how or if large-scale quantum computers capable of breaking those systems can be built.
Everday life is relative.
from Computational Complexity http://bit.ly/2KXeTDQ