>>> it is also starting to change with new ways to model/comprehend complexity (e.g. chaos and systems theories) plus what (I hope) is becoming a stronger tolerance for ambiguity.
What I know about chaos theory I learned from Jurassic Park (the movie), so I can't really comment on it. But I am interested in your use of the term "ambiguity". How are you defining it?
>>> A course I took recently pointed out that when we first try to comprehend anything scientific, we are of necessity concrete initially (e.g. new frontiers in physics are first parsed with mathematics, then over time become less quantitative and more conceptual). As more of the big picture comes into view, we become more able to abstract, infer, and employ metaphor, all of which makes the concepts more accessible to greater numbers of people. <<<
My question is: what is being abstracted, inferred, and metaphorized (sic - send your letters to NUL)? As you say, the physical sciences - which examine forms of energy - are understood in terms of mathematics, and it is mathematical relationships that are being conceptualized.
But these concepts themselves are ultimately composed of energy - so you have energy constructs "describing" other energy constructs. This brings to mind two possibilities :
1) This "describing" is the actual reproduction of the reality as a design whose physical structure mirrors the mathematical relationship being described (ie, form = function);
2) The design "elements" - individual ideas - can be used in other designs, just as carbon can be used in multiple chemical compounds, and "addition" can be used in multiple mathematical formulas.