Physical reality, and dynamics “is” or “are”

So I was asking Google to help me decide whether to treat the word “dynamics” as a singular noun or a plural noun. I get 2,410,000 hits for “dynamics are” and 2,380,000 hits for “dynamics is.” Of course, not all of those copulas are taking “dynamics” as their grammatical subject, but it still pretty much seems like a toss-up.

I suppose the plural is safer — although the singular definitely sounds more natural in some (but not all) contexts: “The dynamics indicates (singular) the nature of the system,” but “The dynamics allow a particular trajectory.” Perhaps in the singular case I’m thinking of a kind?

Anyhow, I was interested to see my Google search turn up an online conversation that I had missed over at Cosmic Variance between Tim Maudlin and Tom Banks. They’re discussing what it means to have a “realist” interpretation of physics.

It’s an important an interesting topic; but I can’t discuss it until I get this paper on the computational theory of mind shipped off . . .


4 responses to “Physical reality, and dynamics “is” or “are”

  1. I found you through googling “dynamics is or are”. :)
    I also found this:
    a. (used with a sing. verb) The branch of mechanics that is concerned with the effects of forces on the motion of a body or system of bodies, especially of forces that do not originate within the system itself. Also called kinetics.
    b. (used with a pl. verb) The forces and motions that characterize a system: The dynamics of ocean waves are complex.
    This helped me at least – maybe you will find it helpful, too.

  2. Pingback: TBM » Blog Archive » On grammar in scientific research

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