what lies behind the phenomenal progress of physics in the last few centuries ?

Great progress usually accompanies changes in our basic perceptions. First, it was realized that for scientific progress, only qualitative thinking, though no doubt important, is not enough.
  • Quantitative measurement is central to the growth of science, especially physics, because the laws of nature happen to be expressible in precise mathematical equations.
  • The second most important insight was that the basic laws of physics are universal. The same laws apply in widely different contexts. 
  •  Lastly, the strategy of approximation turned out to be very successful.

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