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Math United Kingdom Science

New Calculations May Lead To a Test For String Theory 284

Posted by timothy
from the string-washing-powder-what's-the-difference dept.
dexmachina writes "A team of theoreticians, led by a group from Imperial College London, has released calculations that show string theory makes specific, testable predictions about the behaviour of quantum entangled particles. Professor Mike Duff, lead author of the study from the Department of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London, commented, 'This will not be proof that string theory is the right "theory of everything" that is being sought by cosmologists and particle physicists. However, it will be very important to theoreticians because it will demonstrate whether or not string theory works, even if its application is in an unexpected and unrelated area of physics.' In other words, string theory may finally have shed its critics' most common complaint: unfalsifiability. However, given the second most common complaint, I can't help but wonder: which string theory?" Update: 09/03 23:34 GMT by S : Columbia University's Peter Woit, author of the Not Even Wrong blog, says these claims are overblown, and adds that a number of string theorists said as much to Wired.
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New Calculations May Lead To a Test For String Theory

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  • But.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Entropy98 (1340659) on Friday September 03, 2010 @05:00AM (#33462680) Homepage

    However, given the second most common complaint, I can't help but wonder: which string theory?
     
    Exactly, if this turns out to be false it won't disprove all string theory.
     
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  • Not a test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnHolier than ever (803328) <unholy_@nOSPaM.hotmail.com> on Friday September 03, 2010 @05:04AM (#33462704)
    I scanned through the article and from what I see, they have made an equivalence between the maths used in string theory and the maths used in entanglement. This is interesting in itself, because this allowed them to port a result from string theory to entanglement theory, a result which was not known before and could be falsified.

    However, this is like saying that the mathematical theory used to count apples harvested from an orchard (addition of natural numbers) is the same as the mathematical theory behind the algorithm the slashcode uses to count the number of comments below threshold (addition of natural numbers). It allows one to port result from ancient mathematics to modern applications without having to rederive everything from first principles; it does not mean that sub-threshold comments are, deep down, really made of apples.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday September 03, 2010 @05:18AM (#33462762)

    God has also failed every test thrown at it.

    I don't believe in God, but if he (i'll use the 'he' pronoun for convenience) exists then he's the one making up the rules not us, so 'testing' for God is a bit dumb. We can prove that the universe could have happened without God but we can't prove he doesn't exist.

    And if he does exist I bet string theory is giving him the best laugh he's had in centuries :)

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday September 03, 2010 @05:29AM (#33462798)

    If you dislike, please propose a better solution rather than just complaining.

    It's turtles . . . all the way down . . .

  • by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Friday September 03, 2010 @05:52AM (#33462872)
    I think the public media attacks string theory on the grounds of its impossibility to test because they don't know any better. Those of us in physics and math have very real and strong arguments against string theory that have little to do with testing.
  • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Friday September 03, 2010 @06:14AM (#33462944) Homepage

    So, we need a new theory that gives the same predictions at QM and GR in the realms that we can measure them. This is where string theory etc comes in.

    Not really. Last I checked, String Theory hasn't made any useful predictions about systems like this. No one has managed to fold gravity into a Theory of Everything yet, unless I missed an important update. (Feel free to correct me if I have.)

    TL;DR - People complain at string without proposing anything better.

    A theory that offers no new powers of explanation and prediction is itself no better than the pre-existing paradigms. Until String Theory can show itself to have some value (leaving aside the issue of whether it's the best such model), there's no reason to cling to it. "Better" implies that ST was somehow useful to begin with.

  • by Haxamanish (1564673) on Friday September 03, 2010 @07:48AM (#33463440)

    So really math is not consistent (if something cannot be proved, even if not actually disproved, you cannot reasonably say that it *is*, because it isn't).

    You are confusing "consistency" with "completeness".

  • Wazza? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ErikZ (55491) * on Friday September 03, 2010 @08:17AM (#33463642)

    In other words, string theory may finally have shed its critics' most common complaint: unfalsifiability.

    It's critics? It's CRITICS.

    Holy crap man. After spending a significant chunk of your life working on string theory, wouldn't you want to test it? That's part of the whole "I'm a scientist"!

  • Numb3rs (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @08:25AM (#33463722)

    Numbers have very little to do with the maths we're talking about at this level :-)

  • by apoc.famine (621563) <.apoc.famine. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday September 03, 2010 @08:39AM (#33463846) Homepage Journal
    Thank you. That made me laugh, in part because it struck so close to home. I came to post the same, albeit less funny message.

    As a physicist, I think string theory represents a lot of interesting math, but no interesting science. I have some pretty serious doubts that it will ever amount to anything useful.
  • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:08AM (#33464126)

    As long as there are no testable predictions, and it fails Occam's Razor, it's not a theory, plain and simple.

    I hate Contact, I hate Contact, I hate Contact.

    Because Carl Sagan had a misunderstanding about what Occam's Razor is, but nevertheless explained it wrongly in Contact, now millions of people have been introduced to the concept as explained by his novel or the movie. "The simplest explanation is usually the correct one" is not Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor says nothing about correctness at all, and it's most certainly not a requirement to create a scientific theory. All it actually says is that if two theories make the exact same predictions, with absolutely no differences but one is more complex than the other, than there's no reason to use the more complex theory, even though it's perfectly reasonable that the more complex one could more correctly describe what actually happens. The point is, science is about making predictions and testing them, not about some other abstract form of "truth." If you can't differentiate them through this method, you have determined you can't be any more specific about "truth" but you have not determined that one is more likely than the other.

  • Chill out, Pinky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:26AM (#33464342) Journal

    Chill out, Pinky.

    Where did I say I was using the one from Contact or anything. Yes, I'm using largely the version you explain there: as long as two hypotheses explain the exact same sets of measured data, go with the less complex one, leave the more complex one for when you actually have some data that the other one can't explain.

    In exactly that sense, as long as the String Hypothesis doesn't have at least one testable prediction [b]of its own[/b], that can't be explained by the simpler GR and QM, it freaking fails Occam's Razor.

    It doesn't mean it's _false_ and nowhere did I say it's _false_. I said until such time as it makes testable predictions of its own, it's just a _hypothesis_. Different thing from "false".

    So basically, what, you made all that fuss to answer to your own strawman?

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