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Who Killed Theoretical Physics?
Symptoms of dead science:
Harry Cliff: "Have we reached the end of physics?"
John Horgan: "Physicists' fantasies about parallel and virtual realms are not just stale. Increasingly, they strike me as escapist and even irresponsible, because they are so lacking in evidence."
John Horgan: "The Beginning of The Ends of Science"
"Turok explains that the "large bandwagon" of the last 30 years has not found experimental support. The bandwagon in question is the Standard Model of particle physics established in the 1970s, which, he says, people have been elaborating ever since. "Grand unified theories, supersymmetry, string theory, M-theory, multiverse theory," he lists. "Each is not particularly radical, but is becoming ever more complex and arbitrary." To illustrate the lack of experimental support for these ideas, Turok describes how many people were hoping string theory would represent a radical development; but since string theory - as currently interpreted - leads to the multiverse, Turok describes it as the "least predictive theory ever". Indeed, experimental support has not been found for other extensions of the Standard Model either. "We have discovered the Higgs and nothing else," says Turok, "yet the vast majority of theorists had been confidently predicting WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles) and supersymmetric particles... Theorists are walking around in a bit of a stunned silence." He adds that it could turn out to be right that all sorts of other particles are needed along with the Higgs - but that thought seems to be misguided. "My view is that this has been a kind of catastrophe - we've lost our way," he says. "What we need are ideas as simple and radical as in the start of the 20th century with quantum mechanics."
George Ellis and Joe Silk: "This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue - explicitly - that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical."
Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, and Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College: "A Crisis at the Edge of Physics. Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories? You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple. (...) ...a mounting concern in fundamental physics: Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility."
Frank Close, professor of physics at the University of Oxford: "In recent years, however, many physicists have developed theories of great mathematical elegance, but which are beyond the reach of empirical falsification, even in principle. The uncomfortable question that arises is whether they can still be regarded as science. Some scientists are proposing that the definition of what is "scientific" be loosened, while others fear that to do so could open the door for pseudo-scientists or charlatans to mislead the public and claim equal space for their views."
Joao Magueijo, Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 250: "Lee [Smolin] and I discussed these paradoxes at great length for many months, starting in January 2001. We would meet in cafés in South Kensington or Holland Park to mull over the problem. THE ROOT OF ALL THE EVIL WAS CLEARLY SPECIAL RELATIVITY. All these paradoxes resulted from well known effects such as length contraction, time dilation, or E=mc^2, all basic predictions of special relativity. And all denied the possibility of establishing a well-defined border, common to all observers, capable of containing new quantum gravitational effects."
Steve Giddings: "What really keeps me awake at night (...) is that we face a crisis within the deepest foundations of physics. The only way out seems to involve profound revision of fundamental physical principles."
What scientific idea is ready for retirement? Steve Giddings: "Spacetime. Physics has always been regarded as playing out on an underlying stage of space and time. Special relativity joined these into spacetime... (...) The apparent need to retire classical spacetime as a fundamental concept is profound..."
Nima Arkani-Hamed (06:11): "Almost all of us believe that space-time doesn't really exist, space-time is doomed and has to be replaced by some more primitive building blocks."
"And by making the clock's tick relative - what happens simultaneously for one observer might seem sequential to another - Einstein's theory of special relativity not only destroyed any notion of absolute time but made time equivalent to a dimension in space: the future is already out there waiting for us; we just can't see it until we get there. This view is a logical and metaphysical dead end, says Smolin."
"Was Einstein wrong? At least in his understanding of time, Smolin argues, the great theorist of relativity was dead wrong. What is worse, by firmly enshrining his error in scientific orthodoxy, Einstein trapped his successors in insoluble dilemmas..."
Peter Woit: "I don't think though that this will have any effect on multiverse mania and its use as an excuse for the failure of string theory unification. It seems to me that we're now ten years down the road from the point when discussion revolved around actual models and people thought maybe they could calculate something. As far as this stuff goes, we're now not only at John Horgan's "End of Science", but gone past it already and deep into something different."
Mike Alder: "This, essentially, is the Smolin position. He gives details and examples of the death of Physics, although he, being American, is optimistic that it can be reversed. I am not."
Neil Turok: "It's the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all."
"Nous nous trouvons dans une période de mutation extrêmement profonde. Nous sommes en effet à la fin de la science telle que l'Occident l'a connue », tel est constat actuel que dresse Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond, physicien théoricien, épistémologue et directeur des collections scientifiques des Editions du Seuil."
In 1954 Einstein predicted, in a somewhat enigmatic way, the death of physics:
Albert Einstein (1954): "I consider it entirely possible that physics cannot be based upon the field concept, that is on continuous structures. Then nothing will remain of my whole castle in the air, including the theory of gravitation, but also nothing of the rest of contemporary physics."
How did Einstein base his theory on the field concept? By adopting the false constancy of the speed of light as defined in the ether field theory:
"The two first articles (January and March) establish clearly a discontinuous structure of matter and light. The standard look of Einstein's SR is, on the contrary, essentially based on the continuous conception of the field.."
"And then, in June, Einstein completes special relativity, which adds a twist to the story: Einstein's March paper treated light as particles, but special relativity sees light as a continuous field of waves."
Relativity and Its Roots, Banesh Hoffmann, p.92: "There are various remarks to be made about this second principle. For instance, if it is so obvious, how could it turn out to be part of a revolution - especially when the first principle is also a natural one? Moreover, if light consists of particles, as Einstein had suggested in his paper submitted just thirteen weeks before this one, the second principle seems absurd: A stone thrown from a speeding train can do far more damage than one thrown from a train at rest; the speed of the particle is not independent of the motion of the object emitting it. And if we take light to consist of particles and assume that these particles obey Newton's laws, they will conform to Newtonian relativity and thus automatically account for the null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment without recourse to contracting lengths, local time, or Lorentz transformations. Yet, as we have seen, Einstein resisted the temptation to account for the null result in terms of particles of light and simple, familiar Newtonian ideas, and introduced as his second postulate something that was more or less obvious when thought of in terms of waves in an ether. If it was so obvious, though, why did he need to state it as a principle? Because, having taken from the idea of light waves in the ether the one aspect that he needed, he declared early in his paper, to quote his own words, that "the introduction of a 'luminiferous ether' will prove to be superfluous."
Albert Einstein: "...it is impossible to base a theory of the transformation laws of space and time on the principle of relativity alone. As we know, this is connected with the relativity of the concepts of "simultaneity" and "shape of moving bodies." To fill this gap, I introduced the principle of the constancy of the velocity of light, which I borrowed from H. A. Lorentz's theory of the stationary luminiferous ether..."
Who Killed Theoretical Physics?
Einstein's 1905 false constant-speed-of-light postulate, the tool by which Einstein killed physics, is worshiped by Einsteinians as "a cosmic conspiracy of the highest order":
Neil deGrasse Tyson, pp. 123-124: "If everyone, everywhere and at all times, is to measure the same speed for the beam from your imaginary spacecraft, a number of things have to happen. First of all, as the speed of your spacecraft increases, the length of everything - you, your measuring devices, your spacecraft - shortens in the direction of motion, as seen by everyone else. Furthermore, your own time slows down exactly enough so that when you haul out your newly shortened yardstick, you are guaranteed to be duped into measuring the same old constant value for the speed of light. What we have here is a cosmic conspiracy of the highest order."
Robert Scherrer: "In fact, the laws for adding and subtracting speeds have to conspire to keep the speed of the light the same no matter how fast or in what direction an observer is moving. The only way to make this happen is for space and time to expand or contact as objects move."
David Tong: "Special relativity is where the famous equation E=mc^2 comes from. The central idea of the theory is that there is a speed limit in our Universe. The laws of physics conspire so that nothing can ever travel faster than the speed of light."
Brian Greene: "Einstein proposed a truly stunning idea - that space and time could work together, constantly adjusting by exactly the right amount so that no matter how fast you might be moving, when you measure the speed of light it always comes out to be 671000000 miles per hour."
Brian Greene: "If space and time did not behave this way, the speed of light would not be constant and would depend on the observer's state of motion.. But it is constant; space and time do behave this way. Space and time adjust themselves in an exactly compensating manner so that observations of light's speed yield the same result, regardless of the observer's velocity."
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