Fact and Fiction

Thoughts about a funny old world, and what is real, and what is not. Comments are welcome, but please keep them on topic.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The failure of string theory

Excellent! Physicists have in their midst the seeds of a revolution. The new book by Peter Woit entitled "Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory And the Search for Unity in Physical Law" (see Amazon here) sets out to expose String Theory as an example of The Emperor's New Clothes. It's about time too. By the usual standards of science, where you demand that any theory must make predictions whose experimental verification can potentially falsify the theory, String Theory is not even science. String Theory is a very interesting piece of mathematics, but it doesn't have any impact on the real world that real scientists inhabit. As far as I can tell, from the perspective of scientists, the claim that String Theory is relevant to the real world belongs in the realm of philosophy; it is an interesting assertion, and one that we could debate at length, but one that is not anchored in the real world. Is String Theory the sort of ingenious philosophical construction that scientists construct when they are starved of real-world input from experiments? Is the pseudo-religious bigotry of some proponents of String Theory a sign that they are finally realising that they don't have any real scientific arguments to defend themselves, but that all they have is a rather beautiful mathematical construction that they merely claim is a model of the real-world.

I might be accused of indulging in "social commentary" here. Yes! That's exactly what I am doing, because the situation in String Theory seems to be driven by social dynamics rather than scientific dynamics.


At 3 June 2006 at 16:23, Blogger island said...

String Theory seems to be driven by social dynamics rather than scientific dynamics.

Anthropic Dogma seems to be driven by social dynamics rather than scientific dynamics.

Viva La Revolucion!

At 4 June 2006 at 07:33, Blogger Steve said...

I had to check that your Anthropic Dogma link was pro rather than contra what I was saying! I too find it very puzzling that so many people don't like the weak (i.e. a large ensemble did it a posteriori) form of the anthropic principle, and some of them even equate it with the strong (i.e. "god" did it a priori) form of the anthropic principle. Surely, the weak anthropic principle is a logical possibility that has to be considered, even if one might not like it on "philosophical" grounds.

There appears to be a strong urge to "run with the herd" rather than to "think and act idependently". I suppose most people think of their careers first, and tend not to question things that are derided by the more prominent people in their "herd", which usually means that their scientific honesty is compromised (wittingly or unwittingly).

At 4 June 2006 at 16:30, Blogger island said...

Probably nothing makes me more angry than the attitude that you get from many, like... "I can't refute your physics, but I still don't buy it, so I'll just refrain from comment until some better refutation comes along."

Say, what?!?

If you can't refute my physics, then I'm most correct until that happens, JACK!... and an honest scientist would admit that, loser.

Oh well, maybe "the fringe" is the only answer to this.

See comments: Not Even Wrong

At 6 August 2009 at 15:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can come up with a better theory to link the four forces that are presently investigated using General Relativity (big heavy things) and Quantum Mechanics (tiny things) - please do tell...

At 7 August 2009 at 10:28, Blogger Stephen Luttrell said...

Like I said in my posting "String Theory is a very interesting piece of mathematics", but it has yet to receive the experimental support necessary to move it towards being useful science. My main criticism is of those proponents (or zealots) of string theory who behave as if it is all done and dusted.

But to address your question, of course string theory is so beautiful that nature has no right to do things any other way (tongue only slightly in cheek!), so I would be very pleased if it turned out to be experimentally verified.


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