Pentcho Valev

2017-12-23 10:38:44 UTC

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Peter Woit: “This Week’s Hype: The Best Explanation for Everything in the Universe. Today The Atlantic has, via Quanta Magazine, some unadulterated, pure, grade A hype for the holidays: String Theory: The Best Explanation for Everything in the Universe. In a time when the credibility of science is under attack, does anyone else see a problem with telling the public that the “Best Explanation for Everything in the Universe” that science has is a “theory” for which we have no definition or equations, no experimental evidence, and no likelihood of ever getting any?” http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9894Raw Message

String theory is only the tip of the iceberg:

Sabine Hossenfelder (Bee): "The criticism you raise that there are lots of speculative models that have no known relevance for the description of nature has very little to do with string theory but is a general disease of the research area. Lots of theorists produce lots of models that have no chance of ever being tested or ruled out because that's how they earn a living. The smaller the probability of the model being ruled out in their lifetime, the better. It's basic economics. Survival of the 'fittest' resulting in the natural selection of invincible models that can forever be amended." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9375

The “general disease” can be called empirical theorising. Einstein’s text below suggests that a physics theory is either a not-even-wrong empirical concoction or a deductive construction "built up logically from a small number of fundamental assumptions, the so-called axioms":

Albert Einstein: "From a systematic theoretical point of view, we may imagine the process of evolution of an empirical science to be a continuous process of induction. Theories are evolved and are expressed in short compass as statements of a large number of individual observations in the form of empirical laws, from which the general laws can be ascertained by comparison. Regarded in this way, the development of a science bears some resemblance to the compilation of a classified catalogue. It is, as it were, a purely empirical enterprise. But this point of view by no means embraces the whole of the actual process ; for it slurs over the important part played by intuition and deductive thought in the development of an exact science. As soon as a science has emerged from its initial stages, theoretical advances are no longer achieved merely by a process of arrangement. Guided by empirical data, the investigator rather develops a system of thought which, in general, is built up logically from a small number of fundamental assumptions, the so-called axioms." https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/einstein/works/1910s/relative/ap03.htm

In other words, equations in a physics theory are either guessed or (possibly guessed initially but then rigorously) deduced from "a small number of fundamental assumptions, the so-called axioms":

Richard Feynman: "Dirac discovered the correct laws for relativity quantum mechanics simply by guessing the equation. The method of guessing the equation seems to be a pretty effective way of guessing new laws." http://dillydust.com/The%20Character%20of%20Physical%20Law~tqw~_darksiderg.pdf

Except for special relativity which is deductive, theories and models in today's fundamental physics are empirical (“invincible models that can forever be amended”).

Pentcho Valev