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Space Education

Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong? (npr.org) 387

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from NPR: Some researchers now see popular ideas like string theory and the multiverse as highly suspect. These physicists feel our study of the cosmos has been taken too far from what data can constrain with the extra "hidden" dimensions of string theory and the unobservable other universes of the multiverse... it all adds up to muddied waters and something some researchers see as a "crisis in physics."
The article quotes Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin, the authors of a new book arguing that "Science is corrupted when it abandons the discipline of empirical validation or dis-confirmation. It is also weakened when it mistakes its assumptions for facts and its ready-made philosophy for the way things are." And according to this analysis of the book, what they're proposing is "to take a giant philosophical step back and see if a new and more promising direction can be found. For the two thinkers, such a new direction can be spelled out in three bold claims about the world. There is only one universe. Time is real. Mathematics is selectively real."
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Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong?

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  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @06:37PM (#52485181)
    He wants his Multiverse back.
  • old wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @06:37PM (#52485187) Journal

    what they're proposing is "to take a giant philosophical step back and see if a new and more promising direction can be found.

    OK, good advice, now do it. If you think there is some massive new physics to be discovered, then discover it. When you do, you will be admired and respected for generations, instead of mocked by me on Slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      You didn't RTFA, obviously. You might want to try that. It's super interesting, and brings up an important point that you obviously missed.
      • Re:old wisdom (Score:5, Informative)

        by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:08PM (#52485343)

        Smolin & Woit have been harping on this a long time.
        Go read The Trouble with Physics and Not Even Wrong, both published in 2006

        They might be right or they could be (not even) wrong.

        • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

          Quantum theory would have them both right and wrong but how would that help us find the truth?

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday July 11, 2016 @12:50AM (#52486711) Homepage

            Time is arbitrary, it is nothing more than a relative measure of change, how long that change takes is only relative to itself, the time it takes is only ever going to be relative to other changes. That duration in and of itself is completely meaningless. There are at least three greater cosmos, the microverse, the universe and the macroverse. A inherent balance of motion and size, represented differently in different ways within each verse. What exactly is going on in the microverse and macroverse, well trapped in the universe, we can only guess and hint at and try to make use of it as we are both to big and too small to effectively relate to them in any meaningful way, beyond hypothesising on them and trying to make use of the product of those hypothesises in our universe. Beyond the microverse and the macroverse, there is also the chaosverse and we all are a temporary extrusion from the chaosverse, the universe and it's associated microverse and macroverse.

          • Re:old wisdom (Score:4, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday July 11, 2016 @04:54AM (#52487393) Journal
            Science isn't about being right or wrong, it's about making useful predictions. If your theory lets people make predictions about a system that you can then validate and see that they were mostly correct, then it's science. Newton's laws of motion are a good example of this. They're categorically wrong, as various experiments have shown, but for things the size that a human will typically deal with the errors from failures of the model are far less than the errors from measurement. For very large, very small, or very fast things, the errors will be greater and so you need different models (and, eventually, we hope a single model that works for all scales). If your model doesn't make any predictions, then it isn't science, it's speculative fiction.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          In some universe in the multiverse, there's an alternative Smolin and Woit who are vehemently arguing for the unreality of time and the existence of a multiverse against a mainstream that tends to assume that the universe is only as it appears to be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by ganv ( 881057 )
      We are already doing it. But not in fundamental particle physics. It is in applied physics where the massive progress is being made. There are a huge range of problems in biology, geology, chemistry, mechanical engineering, nanoscience, neuroscience, and even sociology and economics to which the rigorous, empirical traditions of physics are making major contributions. Last decade we finally solved the problem of transition to turbulence in pipe flow. A more than 100 year old problem with deep mathemat
      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        General physics is more or less solved. It makes sense. Sure, they could work on turbulence more, but it''s not going to tell us anything else about the nature of reality. It's just going to require more computing power.

        Quantum physics isn't reductionist, it's the basic building blocks of our universe, and it doesn't make sense. I don't think it's fair to call it "reductionist" at all.
        • Re:old wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:23PM (#52485421)

          General physics is more or less solved. It makes sense.

          Is this a troll? OK, if not, then explain to me why there are three generations of leptons, not two or four or some other number. Why do the elementary particles have the particular masses they do? What causes quark confinement? Why does velocity have a limit, and why does the limit have the value it does? Why do any of the fundamental physical constants have the values they do? What about these problems? [wikipedia.org] Should we expect answers in a year of two?

          • by DogDude ( 805747 )
            General relativity is very different than particle physics. That's why Einstein chose to ignore it. We have a unified theory of Newtonian physics, just not a theory that takes into account subatomic particles and the way they behave.
            • Re:old wisdom (Score:5, Informative)

              by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:42PM (#52485507)

              General relativity is very different than particle physics. That's why Einstein chose to ignore it.

              OK, you are a troll or just ignorant. Einstein is one of the great contributors to quantum mechanics and received a Nobel prize for it. [wikipedia.org]

              • by jthill ( 303417 )
                I think the standard metaphorical creature for "ignorant and braying noise in ways that make intelligent conversation difficult" is not mythical.
              • You're absolutely right. But it's also true that Einstein did not like quantum mechanics, and never made his peace with it before he died. One of the reasons he contributed to it so much is he wanted to prove it wrong. He would come up with things that he thought were preposterous, but would be true under quantum mechanics, like "spooky action at a distance".

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              The macroscopic world has ample unsolved things as well, such as inflation and dark energy.

      • ok, that's a really good post, and should be copied in and pasted to replace the article.
      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        > There are a huge range of problems in ... sociology and economics to which the rigorous, empirical traditions of physics are making major contributions.

        Typical arrogance of the physicist that solves everything by reducing it to a point shape and ignoring higher order terms.

        The problems in the softer sciences are not just rigor. Sure, many in those fields have a bad understanding of methods and statistics, but their field is quite different from physics. There is no underlying idea which can be used to

    • There is no fundamental change of course in physics.

      Firstly: particle physics is far from the only branch of physics and it makes zero sense to judge the "philosophical foundations of physics" by particle physics alone.

      Secondly, it is hardly uncommon to have experimental measurement abilities and theorising out of sync. It was only about 75 years after the Schroedinger equation was proposed that we got anything like direct physical confirmation of the shape or orbitals.Gravity lenses confirming general

  • But Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @06:45PM (#52485219)
    String theory, multiple universes, complexity, quantum teleportation... these are to Physics what Division I football is to college, which is to say, it sells tickets and opens purse strings. No one is going to buy a book on Newtonian physics and relive their junior year in high school. But let Brian Greene write something crazy and out there about a "Holographic Universe" or somesuch and the peeps will scoop it up, and maybe even decide to become physics and math majors, and there are lots of worse results than that. So let the alumni donate for the football team, and let the googley-eyed high schoolers all plan on high-paying and fulfilling careers as Quantum Mechanics. It puts butts in the seats...
    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      I don't know what "Division I" is, but quantum physics isn't a game, or something to sell books. It's the nature of our reality, and as we understand it, it doesn't make sense. That's pretty awesome!
      • I do believe physics is a bit of an intergalactic game of gravity, mass, magnetism and momentum. Some say God does not roll dice with the Universe... but I say, he sure is one hell of a billiards player.

      • When I took physics in college, I don't think 'nature of reality' was ever mentioned. It was all about outer products, Hamiltonians, PDE and residue which I found more interesting than the 'nature of reality'. I suppose this is why I sucked at being a physicist (my first major and short lived career). Clifford algebra was really interesting too, but I did not go that far. The only popsci physics book that I read was by Bohm. I started a few others but only made it as far as the first paragraph.
      • It's the nature of our reality, and as we understand it, it doesn't make sense. That's pretty awesome!

        It may be awesome, but it wasn't the lesson. The lesson was, it isn't intuitive; but it does make sense.

    • Re:But Seriously... (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:12PM (#52485363) Journal

      No, they're are postulates that even their strongest adherents admit cannot be tested at the moment, and may not ultimately be true. The authors confuse researchers tendency to argue in favor of theories with researchers overestimating the evidence.

      The problem, as always, is people judging science by press releases, documentaries and the utter idiocy and ignorance of most scientific journalism.

      Within physics itself, you know, the actual community of physicists, string theory is seen as an interesting model, but one that as of yet simply cannot be stated even in the most tenuous terms as an actual description of reality. That being said, string theory and other related theories have contributed a considerable amount to the mathematical toolkit available to physicists, so that even if they are ultimately discarded, they will have had their use.

    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @08:43PM (#52485775) Homepage Journal
      On the other hand, we do think that the laws of the universe should be based on the same principles at all levels, so the fact that General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics do not mesh well is a problem we need to solve. If some physics people want to look for other ways to solve the problem fine, but we do not discount a theory in modern physics simply because we cannot observe the phenomena with out current equipment.

      We have to recall the Quantum mechanics was a radical explanation for a real problem. Theory says that if you put a heat source in a black box the universe should be destroyed. This does not happen so the theory was wrong and we ended up with a theory was very difficult to prove. I have had professors tell me that the absolute proof of quantum mechanics, i.e. an experiment that could not be explained using an alternative theory, did not exist until the 1960's when lasers were used. That does not mean that an alternative theory will win out, but there is a great deal of support for QM.

      Likewise, general relativity is only now getting empirical evidence that supports it as the most likely out of competing theories. We must recall that the impetus of general relativity was a lack of symmetry in the mathematics of Maxwell laws, having to do with identical magnets moving with respect to one another. Warped space is an elegant explanation for why things happen, but it may not be the best explanation.

      Time is more complex. Right now thermodynamics, which is not considered as grounded as Newtonian mechanics, says the the universe evolves in one direction defined by the fact that entropy always increases. The are some measurements of the asymmetry of a nucleus that indicates that direction of time is a constant, but I don't think anything in physics right now decisively says there is an arrow in time, just an arrow in the evolution of the universe, which is why we don't have perpetual motion.

      This guy is nothing more than the friction described in The Structure of Scientific Revolution. There are always going to be people who do not assimilate the growing accumulation of data, who are stuck in the current paradigm, and who will oppose all efforts to a paradigm shift. They understand that Physics does change, but they get hung up on disproving new theories and not their pet theories that they assume are already beyond reproach.

      • On the other hand, we do think that the laws of the universe should be based on the same principles at all levels, so the fact that General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics do not mesh well is a problem we need to solve. If some physics people want to look for other ways to solve the problem fine

        Yes, and one of the people in question has done precisely that [leesmolin.com] ("loop quantum gravity").

        Likewise, general relativity is only now getting empirical evidence that supports it as the most likely out of competing theories. We must recall that the impetus of general relativity was a lack of symmetry in the mathematics of Maxwell laws, having to do with identical magnets moving with respect to one another.

        General relativity, or special relativity?

      • Re:But Seriously... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <{slashdot} {at} {worf.net}> on Monday July 11, 2016 @02:42AM (#52487047)

        We have to recall the Quantum mechanics was a radical explanation for a real problem. Theory says that if you put a heat source in a black box the universe should be destroyed. This does not happen so the theory was wrong and we ended up with a theory was very difficult to prove. I have had professors tell me that the absolute proof of quantum mechanics, i.e. an experiment that could not be explained using an alternative theory, did not exist until the 1960's when lasers were used. That does not mean that an alternative theory will win out, but there is a great deal of support for QM.

        The other thing with quantum mechanics is we use it everyday, and we still don't know how it works. LEDs, flash memory and many other technologies we use today all apply quantum mechanical principles in order to work.

        I suppose that's where the conflict lies - we assume a traditional model - science makes a discovery, engineers apply it to create technology. Unfortunately, these days it's a blended set - engineers may discover something and then ask science to explain it while they figure out how to exploit the something.

        And understanding why is key - if we properly understood how LEDs work, we can make brighter, more efficient LEDs that last longer, and exploit that to create better say, OLED panels or even matrix LED panels (LEDs are relatively big, which is why we generally go OLED, but if we can improve thengs, maybe we can avoid using OLED and just have our screens made up of LEDs). Or flash memory that's denser and lasts longer (the buried or floating gate gets its charge put on and taken off by electron tunnelling, but we only have crude control over it - so electrons are left during erasure, and we damage the insulation during programming/erasure which leads to charges leaking off and limited life).

        There's plenty of stuff where we know how to exploit QM to do what we want, but we can certainly do better. We know the how, but not the why

  • My thoughts... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2016 @06:49PM (#52485233)

    I have spent the last 14 years of my life studying fundamental theoretical physics and mathematics. I find a lot of the research in cosmology very unappealing, because it is way too speculative and far-fetched (multiverse, eternal inflation, bounce, cyclic cosmology, etc). And the mathematics behind these things is very primitive and simple, there is no elegance.

    But string theory is different. Although it has not been a success phenomenologically, it has led to many beautiful results in mathematics and field theory, such as Mirror Symmetry and AdS/CFT. Further research in string theory is definitely worthwhile, and Lee Smolin is unreasonably biased against it. These other "quantum gravity" approaches that Smolin champions are completely disconnected from any kind of real physics, and they have not led to any kind of deep mathematical insights.

    • So far as I understand it, at the moment the only real competitor for a quantum theory of gravity is quantum loop gravity, which has its own significant issues. This really is Smolin being disgruntled and trying to argue in the press what he has not been able to argue within the field itself. When scientists try to win their fights in the popular press, I'd say their motives automatically become suspect.

    • by mbkennel ( 97636 )
      > And the mathematics behind these things is very primitive and simple, there is no elegance.

      > But string theory is different. Although it has not been a success phenomenologically, it has led to many beautiful results in mathematics and field theory,

      That is judging physics approaches by how fun are the mathematics they induce. Which is exactly the attitude which is being criticized.

      As far as 'primitive and simple'----a primitive and simple phenomenological theory which gets the core behavior right an
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Aighearach ( 97333 )

        The problem is that in cosmology predictions only predict the next prediction, and the data behind most of the hypotheses is worthless edge data.

        Actual predictions about the distribution of stuff in space that have had good measurements are continuing to come in mostly wrong; for example, the Earth's radiation belts were recently measured and were not as predicted. A spacecraft recently made it to the solar heliopause, and no surprise but (spoiler alert!) it was not as predicted.

        Compare that to real physics

    • by mx+b ( 2078162 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:50PM (#52485551)

      But string theory is different. Although it has not been a success phenomenologically, it has led to many beautiful results in mathematics and field theory, such as Mirror Symmetry and AdS/CFT. Further research in string theory is definitely worthwhile, and Lee Smolin is unreasonably biased against it.

      Yes, string theory is a bit different in that it hasn't been able to make any testable predictions, which makes it non-science. Science is based on the idea of experimental evidence, and falsifiability. It isn't science, it isn't physics.

      Now it very well may have some beautiful results in mathematics. Maybe it will have applications and effects on topology, cryptography, who knows. But those things are mathematics, not science.

      I tend to agree with Smolin that string theory, as currently presented (and I understand it), is not a scientific theory, even though it is interested and deserves its own mathematical research. The problem is, string theory gets the ratings, so we have more cosmologists and string theorists as professors physics, taking the few positions (and associated funding!) away from people that want to be true experimental physicists. That's where the semi-outrage is.

    • by quax ( 19371 )

      True, String theory is good math. But it fails to make connection to physical reality.

  • Super interesting idea. Article summary missed the point. The point is: We may not be able to determine the nature of the universe as it relates to quantum particles, experimentally. Are the ideas any less valid, if we can't prove them experimentally (by, say, going back in time, or visiting alternate realities)?
    • The entire point of the article is that not being able to prove them experimentally makes some of these ideas no different, conceptually, than religion and magic. This observation is hardy new, the same objections about no testable hypotheses = religion has been around for a very long time,

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        It is certainly new. We weren't able to prove germs existed until we had powerful enough microscopes. We'll need to be able to time travel to prove some of the next hypothesis in physics. I think that there's a significant difference between not having powerful enough equipment to measure things, and not having the ability to travel through time/travel to alternate universes. That's the point. Science may have come to the point where further experimental knowledge is, quite literally, impossible.
        • It is certainly new. We weren't able to prove germs existed until we had powerful enough microscopes.

          That's quite incorrect. Germ theory did not even postulate the existence of discrete microorganisms, but even if it did, you can prove the existence of discrete microorganisms without a microscope or any form of direct observation.

        • Re:Quantum physics (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Monday July 11, 2016 @02:19AM (#52486983)

          We weren't able to see germs until we had a powerful enough micrcoscope - but germ theory predicted that they existed, and that you should look for them and if you looked carefully enough, you would see them Just like the Higgs Boson - it was predicted for many decades before any instrument could detect it, and no one was really sure that it existed until it was detected at the mass predicted.

                Much of string theory, as an example, is theoretically unobservable, in that no matter what you do you can never see them at all, That's about like saying germs are not just too small to see with current equipment, they are invisible by their nature.

    • We may not be able to determine the nature of the universe as it relates to quantum particles, experimentally.

      We experimentally test all sorts of things in relationship to quantum particles all the time. Having trouble parsing the point you are trying to make here.

      Are the ideas any less valid, if we can't prove them experimentally (by, say, going back in time, or visiting alternate realities)?

      If we cannot prove something experimentally (even in principle since we something lack the technology) then it is not science.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2016 @06:52PM (#52485251)

    There was a time when humanity believed that everything could be explained by mechanics.
    Higgs was ridiculed for good 50 years.This is no different.
    String theory evolved great deal from where it was first formulated, thins that were not good are already invalidated.
    There is no crisis of physics here, jut a massive layer of incomplete work.

    Few points to add.
    "There is only one universe" - sounds like theological clam. And just as unconfirmed ad multiverses.
    "Time is real" - Einstein might disagree. Time is the imaginary part in the complex equations of space-time.
    "Math is selectively real" - Only f the reality is defined by the capabilities of our brains and our technologies,

    • by sittingnut ( 88521 ) <sittingnut@@@gmail...com> on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:35PM (#52485459) Homepage

      There is no crisis of physics here, jut a massive layer of incomplete work.

      that is a crisis.
      furthermore there has been hardly any real progress in resolving this incomplete work/problems, for several decades.

      you seems to have got confused.

      "There is only one universe" - sounds like theological clam. And just as unconfirmed ad multiverses.

      but we can confirm existence of one universe.
      existence of others should only be included in theories if there is confirmation, not because its easier to do maths, by assuming multiverses, when working on some pure theories.

      "Time is real" - Einstein might disagree. Time is the imaginary part in the complex equations of space-time.

      depending on personal authority, however great , is not part of science.
      your last sentence says a lot about what is wrong . theoretical assumptions should not be taken for unquestionable facts.

      "Math is selectively real" - Only f the reality is defined by the capabilities of our brains and our technologies,

      when you abandon empirical validation, which is what your claim implies, you are in the field of pure unfalsifiable theory, and thus theology.
      gods or ghosts(and many other things) are also defended with claims about limits of our brains and technologies.

    • "There is only one universe" is disprovable. The idea of multiverses is not. Therefore the first is scientific while the latter is not. The other two I am not sure about.
    • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @08:07PM (#52485611)
      | Higgs was ridiculed for good 50 years.This is no different.

      It's completely different. The scalar "Higgs/6 other authors" field was never ridiculed.

      Higgs field was an essential part of an extraordinarily empirically successful theory and was generally accepted as 'probably real' by the 1970's, but was difficult to find experimentally.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "There is only one universe" - sounds like theological clam. And just as unconfirmed ad multiverses.

      Consider two competing hypothesis: "there is an elephant in the corner of the room but it is undetectable" versus "there is no elephant in the room". Both predict the same outcome, but most would say the latter is the simpler explanation even though on a technical level this choice is arbitrary. Now replace the word elephant with parallel universe. Until we come up with an experiment that makes a testable prediction on the basis of there being multiple universes that does not have a simpler explanation *

      • by quax ( 19371 )

        Thanks for correctly pointing out, that the AC's idea about keeping a Euclidian spacetime metric with an imaginary time coordinate is just one way (and a very old fashioned one) to go about it. Using an explicit Minkowski metric is much more common.

        At any rate, it is absurd to assume that the authors of this manifest don't know 101 SR.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      There is a crisis, but it's been misidentified. The crisis is a PR crisis caused by tentative theoretical work being pushed by publicists as if it were validated and proven....leading to a crisis in public trust.

      Physics depends on the existence of theories that are speculative. But PR insists on certainty.

    • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

      "There is only one universe" - sounds like theological clam. And just as unconfirmed ad multiverses.
      "Time is real" - Einstein might disagree. Time is the imaginary part in the complex equations of space-time.
      "Math is selectively real" - Only f the reality is defined by the capabilities of our brains and our technologies,

      "There is only one universe" - We know there is one universe. From what I've seen, multiverse theory is not falsifiable. This makes it bad science.
      "Time is real" - Einstein would not disagree. Yes, it is the imaginary part of complex equations, that does not make it unreal. Your suggestion is is just conflating different meanings of the term "real", and you know that.
      "Math is selectively real - Only f the reality is defined by the capabilities of our brains and our technologies" - I have no idea what

  • by Anonymous Coward

    that the "promised" sci-fi ideas of warp drives and colonizing space just will never happen, ever. This goes against the prevailing Western mindset of eternal progress and growth. Therefore physics and reality must be wrong.

  • epicycles (Score:4, Funny)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:26PM (#52485429) Homepage Journal

    "Extra dimensions are the epicycles of Modern Physics" -- Mark Maughan

    Mathematics is selectively real

    I quite agree with this. Oftentimes, mathematics is rather complex.

  • by fadethepolice ( 689344 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:38PM (#52485479) Journal
    The article mentions hidden dimensions and other universes in the same sentence. This is a pet peeve of mine. In Multi-dimensional quantum mechanics the dimensions are additional directions. They are not other universes and the combination of the two in one sentence is either intentinally muddying the water, or the person writing the article is not familiar with the mathematics involved and should not be taken seriously. The standard Cartesian coordinate system used to describe our universe in it's basic sense contains x.y, and z, directions, a set of values that many of the programmers on Slashdot are familiar with. Multi-dimensional physics just adds more of these in an attempt to explain the very real observable quantum effects that Newtonian physics and relativity cannot explain and never will. We currently know more about the Andromeda galaxy than the Milky Way because it is difficult to describe an object when you are inside it. Getting a third person look at the universe, even if it is just a mathematical trick, is probably the easiest way to describe it. The refusal to do so is probably not going to go very far. What the emergence of time means is also not what they are describing it to be and should not be looked upon as a valid argument. In a holographic quantum view of the universe it could be considered similar to a wave propagating through a substrate, but also be akin to a temporary chemical reaction wave, where the structure of the substrate is momentarily changed while the wave propagates through. This temporary excitation of the substrate generates the universe we live in. The movement of the universe's propagation is in the direction of time. My take on the hidden dimensions is that instead of viewing them as hidden, we should look at them as directions in which the particles we are made of have a zero width. The reason we cannot travel in time is not because the directions don't exist, it's because the particles we are made of have a zero width in that direction. We would have to be made of something else, and when we went backwards in time we would effect leave our current universe. Other particles, such as the elemental particle of gravity have a non-zero width in one of these direction. What we should really be talking about is the fact that relativity CANNOT describe the orbital trajectories of any stars accurately. The lack of a theory to accurately explain a basic observable fact is more problematic than the inability of technology to currently test the most advanced physics problems. Once our ability to manipulate quantum effects (such as the creation of a working quantum super computer - looking at you google) and we can create technology that is based on quantum mechanics then maybe we will be able to test the theories. Second failure of current theory that I don't think is spoken of enough is the failure of the planck observatory to detect the effects of gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background. There were several stories about the waves being detected but second looks at the data supporting this cast serious doubt. Since we have now confirmed the existence of gravitational waves and their effects have not been observed as inflation predicts, then the current theory of the big bang they reference at the beginning of the article (we can describe the universe up to a bit before it's creation) is in fact not supported by current experiments and should be rethought. Instead of taking a step back from quantum mechanics we need to take a second look at the non quantum component of physics as it is currently not supported by current data.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:39PM (#52485485) Homepage

    The time where you could find new physics in your average lab is mostly over. We often need huge, one-in-all-mankind projects like the Large Hadron Collider, the Hubble telescope and various other huge, super-powerful or super-sensitive systems to make experimental progress. They're massively expensive and take forever to create so maybe once a decade there's a new source of data. Meanwhile there's a ton of professors looking to research something, what's cheap to do? Computer models. Computer simulations. Not that I'm saying we know everything, far from it. But there's what we know, what we don't know and just a very thin slice that we're actively experimenting on right now. And we have our best and brightest working at CERN etc. it's the rest that need to justify their existence.

  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:41PM (#52485495) Journal
    Mathematics is not real at all. And it is entirely real. It studies implications of assumptions. The assumptions do not at all have to be based in reality. Ask your favorite mathematician about axiom of choice if you don't believe me on that one. Math is based on a priori deductions. These deductiosn do not need to be and, in fact, cannot be verified through observations. Sometimes the conclusions which are made from mathematical assumptions match the observed reality. And then scientists try to see if the underlying assumptions on which those conclusions were based also match reality. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Without empirical validation, science remains unproved and a-priori-based hypothesis. Only observation can make it a posteori conclusive.
  • by mschaffer ( 97223 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @07:43PM (#52485513)

    I guess that String Theory is knot for everyone---especially empiricists.

  • by InfiniteZero ( 587028 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @08:03PM (#52485595)
  • People, we cannot expect the question to "42" in the blink of the eye. Less than 100 years ago our Universe was limited to the Milky Way galaxy. It wasn't until Edwin Hubble discovered that some of those little bright dots in the sky were actually other galaxies.

    Science has provided many answers in the past 100 years. But to think that we can know all the answers in just a brief history of time is preposterous. There is only one Universe. That Universe may have a new definition when new discoveries ar

  • It's the study of the universe, which is interesting, and has some nifty things to say about the ontology of particles, but so does philosophy, to be honest.

    If it can't be disproven, it's not science. It might still be a cool area of study, but not all fields of study are science.

  • Time is real. Oh shit, I'm so fucked.
  • When Einstein came up with Relativity, there was no way to falsify it, so it wasn't real science. But just about everybody who understood Relativity also understood that it wouldn't always be that way...tools would come along that could either prove it or disprove it.

  • The crisis in physics is due to people refusing to believe what instruments and physical measurements reveal. Thinking the universe is what we see and conforms to human intuition when we can't even perceive 0.01% of the spectrum of light, not to mention all of the fields and 99.9999% of the particles around is the problem. We know space is so flat that the actual universe is 1000 times larger than what we can observe.

    The universe is far more strange than everyday human observation. Insanely bizzare
  • A theory that can't predict anything, that has an automatic 'out' seems pathological. String theorists may point out that they have proven that there are only so many consistent parameters for their theories, but it still seems there are no falsifiable predictions.

    It's like someone saying the time-complexity of an algorithm is O(m^a^b^c). You then say - wtf? and they say 'Great news, we've proved that c can only be between 9 and13!. You then say integers? and they say 'Uh, NOOOOOO you idiot, obviously

  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Sunday July 10, 2016 @10:04PM (#52486121) Homepage

    Richard Feynman wrote in the introduction of one his books that one easy way to find out of a theory is bad is to look at its complexity If it isn't simple, it is most likely wrong. He went on to talk about how strange the orbital mechanisms and mathematics were before Kepler found the correct and simple solution to the problem that disproved nearly everyone in the field. With that he ends the introduction and delves into quantum mechanics.

    • What does right or wrong mean? Is F=ma wrong? It's a lot simpler than relativity. Is principle of least action more or less simple than Newtonian mechanics? I think it's much simpler, but requires a year of higher math before you can do anything practical with it. I'm currently rooting for a CA interpretation which is about as simple as one can get, but so far no one has figured it out.
  • How far has physics fallen, when theorist divas get insulted by the fact that their multiverse ideas are not backed up by the data?

    http://backreaction.blogspot.c... [blogspot.ca]

    (Pls read till the end when Sabine, an accomplished theorist herself, mentions the Streisand effect).

  • The physics analysis is not a controversial at all. The big controversy here is over what should be funded.

    Cosmologists and quantum theorists are in good company when it comes to leveraging popular fantasies for fame and fortune. I'm a condensed matter physicist, and about every five years for a very long time we have discovered a material "stronger than steel," or that "will replace silicon."

    This is now the culture of science (not just physics) because we have allowed basic research to become a profit ce

  • at least not natural science. Since physics is supposed to be part of natural science, it also isn't physics. String theorists can do their natural philosophy all they want, it certainly is not a "crisis of physics". Just like people who make highly unscientific claims like "there is only one universe".
  • The best model should bubble to the top until a better model is proposed. Multiverses and extra dimensions can produce models that "explain" (fit) observations, but they arguably lack parsimony and/or conservation of material/dimensions.

    Maybe we are in an epicycle-like stage where we get into the habit of throwing more layers of circles at the problem (planet movements) until the next Copernicus/Galileo/Newtons come with cleaner models and formulas.

    Is it that Galileo II hasn't arrived yet, or are we just ci

  • String theory is still pretty young. Yes, it has problems. It's very possible that it will be entirely thrown out and replaced with something else, eventually. I welcome healthy debate over the scientific method (I have to, it's one of the rules of said method), but I think some of this is blown a bit out of proportion. Physics being in "crisis" is a bit much.

    We had gravity wrong for almost 300 years. Remember Vulcan [wikipedia.org] (not related to Star Trek)? Somehow I think this will be sorted, we just need hard work, pe

  • If a theory produces no verifiable predictions then it is philosophy, not science. If parallel universes have no effect on this universe, then it doesn't matter whether they exist or not.

    And as a mathematician - mathematics is not "real", and never has been. Numbers do not physically exist, no one claims they do. But as abstractions mathematics can be a very useful tool in describing reality. As long as you understand the limits of your model. If for instance you were to say "Space has to be infinite becaus
  • Absence of evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kim0 ( 106623 ) on Monday July 11, 2016 @03:47AM (#52487235)

    And what IS the evidence then for there being only one universe?
    Same goes for time being real.
    The article does not provide evidence for this, thus contradicting its own demand for evidence.

    It is just bla bla blah.

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