Max Planck and the Immutable Laws of Physics

Kristen Sparrow • December 11, 2011

Charlie Munger discusses Max Planck a number of times in the book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack(1).
Max Planck was a physicist who developed Planck’s constant, earned a doctorate at the age of 21, worked on energy emissions which lead to the “Quantum Theory,” and received the Nobel Prize in 1918. He tried once to do economics and gave it up. So why would one of the smartest people to have ever lived give up economics? “It’s to hard. The best solution you can get is messy and uncertain.” It didn’t have enough order to it so he gave it up.
What does this have to do with Health Matters? It made me think about the fact that medicine is a messy science too. Though our models are those of the hard sciences, physics, biochemisty, cellular biology, anatomy, results in medicine are not orderly. Outcomes are multifactorial. In my own career, I’ve gone from perhaps the only branch of medicine that has the most reliable outcomes, Anesthesiology, to one that has the least, Acupuncture (though I would say Psychiatry is on a par with Acupuncture.) But in contrast to Economics, where we’re only talking about money (cough), the stakes in Medicine are so much higher. We need to convince people of Max Plancks’ exceptional ability to wrestle with difficult, multifactorial, untidy outcomes because the need is so great. We need new and better models and methods.
Info on my practice here.

(1)Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Peter Kaufman 2006