HUPRaise your hand: How many of you have heard of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (HUP)?
The form you're most likely familiar is: dx dp > constant. In words, the more information you have about an object’s position (x), the less information you can have about it’s momentum (p) [at a particular moment in time]. The less familiar form, but mathematically equivalent, is: dE dt > constant. In this version, E is energy and t is time.
I hate when people misuse the HUP or draw a feeble analogy to something completely unrelated.
But I’m going to do that now, because I’m trying to write a brief statement of a very general idea for a dissertation topic, and I’m running into trouble. Here’s the problem. Say I am interested in a long time period – 40 years or so. Say I am also interested in a topic of wide scope– say “print culture in American physics”.
It would seem to me that one would have to pick a narrow topic (read: graduate-level textbook publication in American high energy physics) and a long time period (40 years) OR a broad topic (print culture in American physics) and a short time period (5 years).
So we have the Dissertation Inequality Principle (DIP): dS dt < constant. Note the inequality is inverted. The broader the topical scope of the dissertation thematically (S), the shorter the time period you can consider (t), and vice versa. Having a wide scope and a time frame – in other words, attempting some sort of synthetic work – would violate the DIP. A dissertation that violates the DIP is more than likely bound for the morgue. (No pun intended.)
And with that, I have fulfilled my daily mathematics quota and sufficiently annoyed myself by bastardizing a perfectly good scientific rule into a historical rule.