Theorists Without a Theory in Einstein's Schizophrenic World
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Pentcho Valev
2017-11-24 21:37:09 UTC
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Peter Woit: "Theorists Without a Theory. I had been intending to write something here on the blog about this essay by George Ellis, so when I was contacted by someone at Inference about writing a letter in response, I did so for publication there. It has now appeared in their latest issue, with the title Theorists Without a Theory. [...] The main point I was trying to make in this piece is that to a large degree the arguments over the scientific status of string theory (and of its supposed landscape and multiverse) revolving around its lack of testability are moot, since the underlying problem is something different: that there is no real theory to argue about." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9755

Unlike Peter Woit, George Ellis, Joao Magueijo and Lee Smolin know that "there is no real theory" goes well beyond string theory:

"[George] Ellis is up against one of the most successful theories in physics: special relativity. It revealed that there's no such thing as objective simultaneity. [...] Rescuing an objective "now" is a daunting task." https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22730370-600-why-do-we-move-forwards-in-time/

Joao Magueijo, Faster Than the Speed of Light, p. 250: "Lee [Smolin] and I discussed these paradoxes at great length for many months, starting in January 2001. We would meet in cafés in South Kensington or Holland Park to mull over the problem. THE ROOT OF ALL THE EVIL WAS CLEARLY SPECIAL RELATIVITY. All these paradoxes resulted from well known effects such as length contraction, time dilation, or E=mc^2, all basic predictions of special relativity. And all denied the possibility of establishing a well-defined border, common to all observers, capable of containing new quantum gravitational effects." http://www.amazon.com/Faster-Than-Speed-Light-Speculation/dp/0738205257

"And by making the clock's tick relative - what happens simultaneously for one observer might seem sequential to another - Einstein's theory of special relativity not only destroyed any notion of absolute time but made time equivalent to a dimension in space: the future is already out there waiting for us; we just can't see it until we get there. This view is a logical and metaphysical dead end, says Smolin." http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/10/time-reborn-farewell-reality-review

"Was Einstein wrong? At least in his understanding of time, Smolin argues, the great theorist of relativity was dead wrong. What is worse, by firmly enshrining his error in scientific orthodoxy, Einstein trapped his successors in insoluble dilemmas..." https://www.amazon.com/Time-Reborn-Crisis-Physics-Universe-ebook/dp/B00AEGQPFE

Pentcho Valev
Pentcho Valev
2017-11-25 07:50:00 UTC
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Einstein's false constant-speed-of-light postulate was a malignancy that eventually killed physics:

"The speaker Joao Magueijo, is a Reader in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London and author of Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation. He opened by explaining how Einstein's theory of relativity is the foundation of every other theory in modern physics and that the assumption that the speed of light is constant is the foundation of that theory. Thus a constant speed of light is embedded in all of modern physics and to propose a varying speed of light (VSL) is worse than swearing! It is like proposing a language without vowels." http://www.thegreatdebate.org.uk/VSLRevPrnt.html

"...Dr. Magueijo said. "We need to drop a postulate, perhaps the constancy of the speed of light." http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/31/science/e-and-mc2-equality-it-seems-is-relative.html

"But the researchers said they spent a lot of time working on a theory that wouldn't destabilise our understanding of physics. "The whole of physics is predicated on the constancy of the speed of light," Joao Magueijo told Motherboard. "So we had to find ways to change the speed of light without wrecking the whole thing too much." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/12/06/speed-light-discovered/

So Peter Woit's "theorists without a theory" can be generalized to "physicists without physics":

Leonard: "I know I said physics is dead, but it is the opposite of dead. If anything, it is undead, like a zombie."

Peter Woit: "If, as seems increasingly all too possible, we're now at an endpoint of fundamental physics, with the field killed off by a pseudo-scientific argument..." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9444

Neil Turok: "It's the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all." http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/09/05/perimeter-institute-and-the-crisis-in-modern-physics/

Peter Woit: "Many are worried about the status of science in our society, as it faces new challenges. I don't see how the physics community is going to continue to have any credibility with the rest of society if it sits back and allows multiverse mania to enter the canon. Non-scientists taking science classes need to be taught about the importance of always asking: what would it take to show that this theory is wrong? how do I know this is science not ideology?" http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9469

Frank Close: "In recent years, however, many physicists have developed theories of great mathematical elegance, but which are beyond the reach of empirical falsification, even in principle. The uncomfortable question that arises is whether they can still be regarded as science. Some scientists are proposing that the definition of what is "scientific" be loosened, while others fear that to do so could open the door for pseudo-scientists or charlatans to mislead the public and claim equal space for their views." http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/features/what-happens-when-we-cant-test-scientific-theories

Peter Woit: "As far as this stuff goes, we're now not only at John Horgan's "End of Science", but gone past it already and deep into something different." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=7266

George Ellis and Joe Silk: "This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue - explicitly - that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical." http://www.nature.com/news/scientific-method-defend-the-integrity-of-physics-1.16535

Peter Woit: "This all of a sudden made things clear: what is going on is "theatrical physics", not "theoretical physics"." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9691

Sabine Hossenfelder: "Many of my colleagues believe this forest of theories will eventually be chopped down by data. But in the foundations of physics it has become extremely rare for any model to be ruled out. The accepted practice is instead to adjust the model so that it continues to agree with the lack of empirical support." http://www.nature.com.proxy.readcube.com/nphys/journal/v13/n4/full/nphys4079.html

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

Peter Woit: "I think the worst thing that has happened to theoretical physics over the past 25 years is this descent into ideology, something that has accelerated with the multiverse mania of the last 10-15 years." http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9375

"This paper investigates an alternative possibility: that the critics were right and that the success of Einstein's theory in overcoming them was due to its strengths as an ideology rather than as a science. The clock paradox illustrates how relativity theory does indeed contain inconsistencies that make it scientifically problematic. These same inconsistencies, however, make the theory ideologically powerful. [...] The gatekeepers of professional physics in the universities and research institutes are disinclined to support or employ anyone who raises problems over the elementary inconsistencies of relativity. A winnowing out process has made it very difficult for critics of Einstein to achieve or maintain professional status. Relativists are then able to use the argument of authority to discredit these critics. Were relativists to admit that Einstein may have made a series of elementary logical errors, they would be faced with the embarrassing question of why this had not been noticed earlier. Under these circumstances the marginalisation of antirelativists, unjustified on scientific grounds, is eminently justifiable on grounds of realpolitik. Supporters of relativity theory have protected both the theory and their own reputations by shutting their opponents out of professional discourse. [...] The triumph of relativity theory represents the triumph of ideology not only in the profession of physics bur also in the philosophy of science." Peter Hayes, The Ideology of Relativity: The Case of the Clock Paradox http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a909857880

Mike Alder: "It is easy to see the consequences of the takeover by the bureaucrats. Bureaucrats favour uniformity, it simplifies their lives. They want rules to follow. They prefer the dead to the living. They have taken over religions, the universities and now they are taking over Science. And they are killing it in the process. The forms and rituals remain, but the spirit is dead. The cold frozen corpse is so much more appealing to the bureaucratic mind-set than the living spirit of the quest for insight. Bureaucracies put a premium on the old being in charge, which puts a stop to innovation. Something perhaps will remain, but it will no longer attract the best minds. This, essentially, is the Smolin position. He gives details and examples of the death of Physics, although he, being American, is optimistic that it can be reversed. I am not. [...] Developing ideas and applying them is done by a certain kind of temperament in a certain kind of setting, one where there is a good deal of personal freedom and a willingness to take risks. No doubt we still have the people. But the setting is gone and will not come back. Science is a product of the renaissance and an entrepreneurial spirit. It will not survive the triumph of bureacracy. Despite having the infrastructure, China never developed Science. And soon the West won't have it either." https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-172684821.html

Pentcho Valev