Management Consultants should refrain from making statements about Physics

Although it has been more than 20 years since I got my MSc-degree in Applied Physics, I think I can claim a basic understanding of the laws of Physics and I most certainly can confirm that these laws do not apply to the context of Management Consultancy. For that reason I would actively discourage my colleagues and competitors in this field to use analogies from Physics in cases where it is not appropriate. The risk that they are uttering total nonsense is just to great.

When I hear someone claim that ‘under pressure anything becomes fluid’ the physicist in me is utterly confused. Without going into detail about Bose-Einstein condensates or neutron-degenerate matter, there are just four states of matter observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Applying pressure on matter in any state is most likely to move matters towards solid. And if you have a solid state to begin with, applying pressure only heats things up and taking you further from liquidity all together. That may of course be exactly what you need but if it’s not, please avoid additional pressure at all time!

Of course it is no rocket science!

Another scientific phrase that is quite regularly misused is the reference ‘this is not rocket science’ where the speaker intends to emphasize that the topic at hand is less complex than this alleged mother-of-all-complexities. Unfortunately ‘rocket science’ scarcely qualifies as the archetype of complexity. Putting a man on the moon was among the greatest achievements of mankind, but not for scientific reasons. The calculations behind it were based on simple Newtonian 17th century ballistics and Physics has greatly progressed since then. A statements like ‘it is not quantum electrodynamics’ would be way more appropriate as QED refers to the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics which is complexity of another order of magnitude compared to rocket science.

It’s probably good to end with some facts to remember around the speed of light. It is fixed, which means there is no patch for increasing it. And before you wish for anything to move at the speed of light, please be aware that this has consequences on the timelines in our space-time continuum. Albert Einstein wrote some noteworthy things about that when stating his general laws of relativity. Since his theories are notoriously counter-intuitive, it is unlikely any speed of light analogies will carry across the point you are making.

In some cases however the laws of Physics and day to day live coincide. Opposites do attract and all is relative. But that’s about as far as your Physics claims should go without any formal training.