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The Mole Hill Effect: Mathematical and Other Failures in Physics

Peter Marquardt
Year: 2010 Pages: 5
"We do not stumble over mountains - we stumble over mole hills" - Confucius

This philosophical motto continues to be a welcome inspiration to a distant view of science in general and physics in particular. Here the mole hill serves as metaphor for all those obstacles we tend to overlook in our intellectual efforts. If we watched out for those little mole hills at our feet, we would have a safer excursion to the mountains of science. As exemplified in the following, mole hills come in various kinds of disguises, some of them proving to be quite unsuspected and surprising, with a lot of psychology involved. Thorough observation and analysis (if needed, over and over again) definitely makes you a slow poke; but at times, it's quite rewarding to go slow in science. There is no need to dwell in formulas in order to formulate the warning about deadend roads, inconsistencies, unjustified conclusions and generalizations, and other kinds of pitfalls which will be presented here in a grab bag fashion. This is just an appetizer for your own mole hill hunting. Once you are on the lookout for those mole hills, you are sure to find more and more, outside science, too. And it's fun to do so.