In New Scientist 27 April 2011, Ian Stewart offers “The formula of life” with a riff off the old joke about
|May 9, 2011||Posted by News under Intelligent Design|
… the drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost (in connection with mathematics invading biology):
There is another old joke, about a drunk searching under a lamp post for his keys. “Did you drop them here?” “No, but this is the only place where there’s enough light to look.” The original context, in Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum, was an analogy with science, and his point was the exact opposite of the usual interpretation of the joke. In science, you have to search under the lamp post, or you’ll never find anything. Even if the keys are somewhere along the road in the gutter, you might find a torch under the lamp post. Then you can search further afield.
You might win the lottery too.
I would be surprised if mathematics ever came to dominate biological thinking in the way it does physics, but it is rapidly becoming an essential part of the discipline: 21st-century biology makes use of mathematics in ways that no one would have dreamed of at the start of the 20th. By the time we get to the 22nd, mathematics and biology will have changed each other beyond all recognition, just as mathematics and physics did in the 19th and 20th centuries. Science is changing from a collection of villages to a worldwide community. Welcome to the global ecosystem of tomorrow’s science.
So by then we are guaranteed a torch under the lamppost?
See also: Mathemagician wanted.