27 Aug 2014

The Difference Between Physics and Economics

Economics, Education 14 Comments

Pay attention to the way he teaches the class about conservation of mechanical energy starting around 1:45. If an economist did something comparable in class, he would be killed in front of his students. But they would still clap.

14 Responses to “The Difference Between Physics and Economics”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    You’ve got to be careful not to set it in front of an AC vent that might kick on and provide the extra force mid-swing, though.

  2. David R. Henderson says:

    Neat. I don’t get, though, your comment about economists. I don’t even know what the “comparable” thing would be. Please elaborate.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Precision differences, I assumed.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      And I suspect Bob would say “precision differences” is a generous rendition on my part


    • Ken B says:

      Bet money on future inflation.

    • Z says:

      Basically, some economic student would have placed a sharp knife sticking out of the other side of the ball, and when it came back, there would be a chance the ball would twist the other way around in midair and the professor would have conducted an unintentional seppuku. This is the kind of thing economics students like to do apparently.

      • Tel says:

        Only if you pay them enough.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m thinking a comparable would be an Economics professor saying something along the lines of, “You will see that when I raise the minimum wage, unemployment will rise causing this guillotine to NOT come crashing down on my neck. Here we go!”

  3. Major.Freedom says:

    Bob of course is sardonically implying, truthfully I might add, that most economists recommend extremely destructive social policies whose causes are usually hidden that the blame is usually placed on “capitalism”, so a microcosm of that in an economics class would be for the prof to literally kill the students because there is no way for the cause to be muddled and lost in a flurry of complex, dynamic social interactions characteristic of the market.

    • Ken B says:

      I think he is simply contrasting the certainty and accuracy of physics and physicist’s predictions.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        Two ways of saying the same thing, because when guns are used to enforce statist economist’s “predictions”, it is as you say inaccurate. Violence and inaccuracy is a dangerous mix.

  4. Matt M. (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:


    I had a science teacher do this in high school, only he used a bowling ball, and had *students* volunteer to sit in a chair while he held it up to your face, let it swing, and said “don’t move.”

  5. Tel says:

    My favourite is where you get a somewhat chubby professor, lay him down on his back, carefully place a large stone slab over the top, and then some musclebound guy comes in with a sledgehammer to crack the slab with one massive swing.

    If you do it right, the energy goes into cracking the slab and a little bit of belly fat absorbs the remainder. Why it works is because the head of the sledgehammer has a lot of energy, but much less mass than the slab, there is not enough momentum available to accelerate that slab, and hurt the guy underneath. Kind of an impedance mismatch resulting in poor kinetic energy transfer.

    There are lots of videos of this effect, if you search.

  6. Samson Corwell says:

    Now here’s the question: which field is more respectable?

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