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« The Psychedelic Revival | Main | Quasi-Scientific Cosmic Theory Fails, Again, to Get Nobel Nod »



Strung Out

I’m getting repetitive-motion disorder from all my years of whacking string theorists, or pluckers, as I fondly call them. I’m thus thrilled at the help I’ve gotten lately from Peter Woit and and Lee Smolin, authors of the anti-string screeds Not Even Wrong and The Trouble With Physics, which have been reviewed in Discover, the New Yorker, the Times, SEED, TIME and a bunch of other publications. I‘ve done my part, reviewing Woit for the British magazine Prospect (“Stringing Us Along”) and Smolin for Canada’s Globe and Mail (“Physics at the end of its string?”). Also, the Stevens Center for Science Writings just posted my conversation with Woit on its website.

Smolin, Woit and I agree on string theory's faults (untestability and almost infinite mutability), but I’m less sanguine than they are about the long-term prospects for particle physics. String-theory is just a symptom; you can’t fix physics by crushing string theory, any more than you can cure schizophrenia by suppressing hallucinations. Here’s how I put it in my review of Smolin:

Although I admire the authority and passion of Smolin’s diagnosis, I disagree with his prescription. What physics desperately needs are not new ideas but hard experimental data that can test ideas or inspire new ones, but these data are costly. Smolin does not even mention by far the most important event in physics over the past 25 years: Congress’s cancellation of the Superconducting Supercollider in 1993 after its projected costs ballooned to more than $10 billion. The Large Hadron Collider, which will be the most powerful accelerator in the world when it comes on line in Switzerland next year, will fall many orders of magnitude short of the energies needed to probe directly the microrealm where superstrings supposedly dwell.

Politicians and the public have become increasingly reluctant to pay for accelerators large enough to probe smaller distance scales and higher energies, where genuinely new phenomena might be discovered. The reluctance is understandable. Hawking… once promised that physics would help reveal “the mind of God.” But the “explanations” that physics offers are so abstract and mathematical that only an elite corps of cognoscenti can understand them. Moreover, theoretical physics is no longer yielding world-shaking applications such as lasers, transistors, nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. Little wonder, then, that funding for physics has stagnated while it has soared for biological research, which can help us not only understand but also heal our complicated selves. In other words, physics is in even bigger trouble than Smolin lets on.

 

By the way, I’m soliciting bad puns used in headlines for string stories. They must be worse, at least, than the headline of this post or of my “Scientific Curmudgeon” post “Pulling the Plug on Strings (Or: Taking Scissors to Strings, Cutting Strings Down to Size, Tripping Over Strings, Totally Plucked)” or of the reviews cited above.

Comments

mikehobbs

HEADLINE: Theorists working too hard-all strung out!

he he

sridattadev kancharla

Dear All,
I have been following the work of several of the prominent scientists to come up with a theory of everything. It seems that in this search of everything, one most important thing has not been considered. Who am I? I am in this universe as much as it is in me. Imagination is more important than knowledge for all that we know is just an imagination. Mind travels faster than light. It is not mind over matter, it is only mind that matters.

If universe is the meaning of understanding of once surroundings, then it is created with every birth and destroyed with every death. Universe is in a steady big bang state. The moment a thought arises the universe comes to existence. If one can still the mind to absoluteness then there will be absolutely nothing. That absolute state of mind is the Soul (spirit) with in all of us. Relativity of thougths is what makes the physical world. Everything has a mind of its own, Nothing is mind itself. If life is the meaning of our relative existence on this planet then we were all dead even before we were born, so why fear death as we all have already experienced death.

According to E=MC2, mass gets converted to energy when it travels at squared the speed of light. Thoughts travel faster than light and are continually getting converted to Mass or reality. Reality as it seems can be termed delayed implementation of imagination. Human brain is one of the best particle accelerator nature has created, for we use it to contiuously convert mass (food we eat) to energy (thoughts we get). S=BM2 (S-Soul, B-Body, M-Mind). Create a body with a thought, destroy the body with a thought and find the innermost self, Soul. As light can not escape black holes gravity and time stops in a black hole, so does a dead man can't see light or has no sense of time.

The theory of everthing is that there is absolutely nothing.
God is absolute state of mind, soul that is everything and nothing.
We are relative states of mind, bodies that are something in between.

Jon Willits

Above = ironic.

How about something along the lines of "stringing us along"

Andrei Kirilyuk

Stringy Deceit, or Can a Lie be “Elegant”? The Disease and the Cure

All the currently growing criticism of string theory results is EQUALLY WELL applicable to any other “ideas” of modern theoretical physics that becomes indistinguishable from the so-called “mathematical physics”, including the alleged “more promising” strings competitor, “spin network” (or “loop quantum gravity”) theory especially actively promoted by Lee Smolin in “opposition” to string theory that he “strongly” criticises. However, there is NO major difference in the nature of PURELY ABSTRACT (symbolic) and ULTIMATELY SIMPLIFIED constructions of both “rival” approaches within the same mathematical physics doctrine. They simply emphasize the invariably competing, “incompatible” and always UNEXPLAINED aspects of observed micro-world objects, wave-like (undular) behaviour for a string-like theory and particle-like (corpuscular) behaviour, for a spin-network-like theory. We deal here just with two kinds of lie about always unexplained and therefore completely perverted reality. At the beginning of “new physics” it was the canonical “wave-particle duality”. Then, after COMPLETELY FAILED attempts to provide any realistic description of “underground reality”, a number of “officially permitted” but totally supernatural “quantum mysteries” has been “ideologically” (artificially) imposed in scholar science, and the old wave-particle duality has been transformed into relation between “field theory” (waves!) and “particle physics” (particles!). Various smaller forms of the same opposition between the two “competing” kinds of “symptoms” were emerging one after another in a conceptually imitative, exclusively empirically driven “scientific progress” during the whole 20th century. “Strings against spin networks” is only the last, completely decadent and hopefully the very last chapter in that collective and explicit mystification story.

The true “disease” behind these and all other “symptoms” of modern physics SHOULD now be specified: it is the doctrine of “mathematical physics”, which is a quite SPECIAL, extremely esoteric concept underlying unfortunately the whole explicative, conceptual practice of scholar “exact” (and largely natural) sciences. In fact, it is not very much different from the ancient mystical teaching of cabbala, as it asserts, explicitly or tacitly, that the main, truly fundamental “order of the universe” underlying anything else it can contain is given in the form of purely abstract (necessarily immaterial but real!), symbolic, mathematical constructions that “somehow” (mystically) “determine” all we can observe and therefore our true purpose is to “guess” a suitable abstract object from that underlying “mathematical” (or “archaic”) reality in order to be able to predict, or “understand”, the related behaviour of “visible”, material objects. The latter are seen only as an externally “heavy”, but actually illusive “envelope” of the “truly fundamental” and therefore all-important “mathematical reality”. The latter emerges, therefore, as a substitute for old good usual divinity, which is “decisively rejected” , of course, by the dominating scientific priests boldly imposing at the same time their “inexplicable” (and therefore de facto SUPERNATURAL) quantum, but also relativistic and other “mysteries”. Besides a certain kind of subjective mental “speciality”, the origin of “mathematical physics” can be understood as a typical case of “means substituted for the end” or “a servant jumping into master's place”: being indeed a useful technical TOOL, instrument of knowledge acquisition, mathematics is transformed here into the final purpose in itself that will determine everything else. It is as if a painter would concentrate exclusively on his paint matter and brushes under the pretext that they are very important for the final result of his work. (To reproduce the situation in modern science one should imagine that such kind of very special, abstract painting is exclusively and very strongly supported by the state, against any other kind of art...)

Now that the disease is specified, we should choose a suitable cure. Although John Horgan asks us for string-related terms, while the disease is VERY destructive and persistent, “string up” would be too radical. Recall, however, a bitter scientific joke attributed to Max Planck and saying that new ideas can be accepted in science only by way of physical disappearance of the old doctrine supporters... Well, he actually had a chance to live a happy exception from that pessimistic rule, so we may still hope too. As to the cure, it can only be specified as a decisive return to REALISTIC approaches, where one explicitly and provably reveals the MATERIAL content of a material world and how it moves in real, not abstract space and time (these latter entities being also REALISTICALLY, not only “mathematically” defined), where mathematics should be used as an important tool but NOT THE OBJECT of study. Instead of inefficient discussion of possibility or impossibility of such QUALITATIVELY NEW, intrinsically complete world understanding, I would simply refer to its successfully working example (e.g. http://arXiv.org/abs/physics/0401164 and http://arXiv.org/abs/physics/0601140 ) solving realistically and consistently the old mysteries, confirming all major, including latest observations (contrary to officially imposed abstractions), providing all necessary “unifications”, etc.

At this point, however, I can disprove a popular classification of John Horgan's attitude to science as a “black” pessimism. On the contrary, he is an incorrigible optimist when he writes (see his auto-citation in this post): “What physics desperately needs are not new ideas but hard experimental data that can test ideas or inspire new ones, but these data are costly”. If only it were as good as that! People can always find money when really needed! In reality, major necessary data ARE there (see the above references for details) and new ones could be obtained without extreme expenses (the latter is just another official lie of a bankrupt doctrine in order to hide its fraud). In science one always sees what one wants to see, and unfortunately today this is determined by ultimately subjective, totally selfish attitudes and actions. For example, a major purpose of the new European “very big” (and therefore very expensive) accelerator is to look for so-called “Higgs bosons”, another purely abstract invention of abstract theories that in reality does not solve the existing problems, but serves as just another anti-Occamian “new entity” made responsible for various stagnating “mysteries” (together with “hidden dimensions”, “supersymmetric partners”, “dark matter” species, strangely imperceptible but appearing just “where necessary”, etc.). And if in that situation there is a theory that nicely explains the totality of existing data without those artificially imposed new entities, at the expense of new, much richer DYNAMIC phenomena of interaction, overlooked by usual imitations because of their own, doctrinal limitations, do you think, John, they will acknowledge their “mistake” and change the details of their multi-billion enterprises? John, you should take care about your excessive optimism about modern science. It's genuine current “end” involves mainly its major producing element, human mind, and one won't be able to advance further even having infinite material resources, without a serious upgrade of the dominating way of thinking and science practice (see also my previous comment at http://discovermagazine.typepad.com/horganism/2006/09/scientific_regr_1.html ). It is not difficult to see that the dominating purely empirical, conceptually blind science advance is even very dangerous at the just attained level of ultimately strong tool power that touches, contrary to what we had before, the whole depth of natural system complexity always “invisible” for conventional science doctrine but now completely unprotected. It shows that purely emotional scientific optimism may indeed have some “strangely” negative and potentially severe consequences...

Ian Monteith

Well here's a headline that could be used in a story about string theory: "What String Theory Hasn't Taut Us." Sorry about that.

The comments to this entry are closed.



   
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