One fairy tale, many fairy tales
“Once upon a time there was an old miller with three children, a donkey, a tabby cat, and not a penny to his name…” So begins one of the many versions of the fairytale Puss in Boots. Well, is there by chance anything in common between such make-believe tales and contemporary physics? Can cold and aseptic mathematical formulas regarding natural phenomena have anything in common with exquisitely human creations such as stories told to children of all ages, with lullabies, and even an embrace (as we shall see later)?
First of all, we have to recognize that science certainly changes our vision of the world, presenting us with a reality very different from the one we experience every day, but without imposing on us any particular philosophical vision, limiting itself much more modestly to a quantitative formulation of the observed phenomena (and to the prediction of their occurrence, as far as possible). There is no lack of examples of eminent scientists who, having agreed on how to describe a physical quantity in mathematical terms, then found themselves in serious disagreement on how to interpret it from a more explicitly philosophical point of view. Moreover, scientists in general and physicists in particular, trying to explain their concepts in a more accessible and discursive way than in mathematical terms – which remain essential and indispensable – make use of descriptive and narrative tools that are very close to the mode of fairy tales or fables, as well as metaphors, but leaving out the rich accompaniment of ethical and moral teaching.