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If you gave them the equivalent of a modern university education in physics, you most probably could.
I don't see this as the issue at all. Newton, Descartes, Huygens, Leibniz were first rate minds who were quite capable of bridging the conceptual and philosophical with the practical. This is in fact what they did and what we celebate them for.

There is very little that's actually difficult about relativity or quantum mechanics at the purely conceptual level. Anybody can pick up the basics from countless books written for the public if they like. The true difficulty is technical. You cannot join the scientific conversation without a mastery of Riemannian geometry or operator theory, and these take many years to approach.

Yet the technical aspects are only used to actually solve problems, and in principle one is free to solve a problem any way one likes. I would claim that with nothing but the purely conceptual foundation of the modern theories, such as could be explained in an evening, the likes of Huygens and Newton would have had no difficulty in solving real problems. They did so with the problems of their day after all, which were just as vaguely expressed. Their solutions would have looked nothing like what we expect to see today of course, but would have been solutions nevertheless.

$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Mon Jun 1st, 2009 at 03:15:23 AM EST
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