Unfalsifiable (Dead) Physics: Who Is to Blame?
(trop ancien pour répondre)
Pentcho Valev
2017-05-11 07:44:11 UTC
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"Unlike the Standard Model, even after fixing all the parameters, any inflationary model gives an infinite diversity of outcomes with none preferred over any other. This makes inflation immune from any observational test." https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/a-cosmic-controversy/

"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

"Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories? You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple. [...] ...a mounting concern in fundamental physics: Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/a-crisis-at-the-edge-of-physics.html

"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

Where is the root of the evil? Nowadays physics models are not DEDUCTIVE, and this makes the idea of observational testing meaningless. A physics theory (model) should be DEDUCTIVE - its falsification could be logical (reductio ad absurdum) or empirical (experimental). The only alternative to deductive theory is empirical (in the sense defined by Einstein below) concoction - a "theory" that is not even wrong. Einstein clearly explains this here:

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."

Special relativity was indeed "built up logically from a small number of fundamental assumptions", that is, it was deductive (even though a false postulate and an invalid argument spoiled it from the very beginning), but general relativity was, to use Einstein's words, "a purely empirical enterprise". Einstein and his mathematical friends changed and fudged equations countless times until "a classified catalogue" was compiled where known in advance results and pet assumptions (such as the Mercury's precession, the equivalence principle, gravitational time dilation) coexisted in an apparently consistent manner. Being an empirical concoction, general relativity allows Einsteinians to introduce, change and withdraw fudge factors until the "theory" manages to predict anything Einsteinians want. Then the prediction turns out to be confirmed by observations (surprise surprise). So, as far as the unfalsifiability problem is concerned, THE ROOT OF THE EVIL IS GENERAL RELATIVITY.

The fudge-factor activity is inglorious and Einsteinians don't discuss it openly, but sometimes the truth comes out inadvertently. So conventional dark matter models based on general relativity "need four free parameters to be adjusted to explain the data" (how many fudge factors LIGO conspirators needed in order to model the nonexistent gravitational waves is a deep mystery):

"Verlinde's calculations fit the new study's observations without resorting to free parameters – essentially values that can be tweaked at will to make theory and observation match. By contrast, says Brouwer, conventional dark matter models need four free parameters to be adjusted to explain the data."

Being an empirical concoction, Einstein's general relativity has no postulates:

What are the postulates of General Relativity? Alexander Poltorak, Adjunct Professor of Physics at the CCNY: "In 2005 I started writing a paper, "The Four Cornerstones of General Relativity on which it doesn't Rest." Unfortunately, I never had a chance to finish it. The idea behind that unfinished article was this: there are four principles that are often described as "postulates" of General Relativity:

1. Principle of general relativity

2. Principle of general covariance

3. Equivalence principle

4. Mach principle

The truth is, however, that General Relativity is not really based on any of these "postulates" although, without a doubt, they played important heuristic roles in the development of the theory." [end of quotation]

Essentially, general relativity is equivalent to the "empirical models" defined here (that is, it is as much a theory as they are):

"The objective of curve fitting is to theoretically describe experimental data with a model (function or equation) and to find the parameters associated with this model. Models of primary importance to us are mechanistic models. Mechanistic models are specifically formulated to provide insight into a chemical, biological, or physical process that is thought to govern the phenomenon under study. Parameters derived from mechanistic models are quantitative estimates of real system properties (rate constants, dissociation constants, catalytic velocities etc.). It is important to distinguish mechanistic models from empirical models that are mathematical functions formulated to fit a particular curve but whose parameters do not necessarily correspond to a biological, chemical or physical property."

Here Michel Janssen describes the anti-deductive approach of Einstein and his mathematical friends - endlessly "adjusting the model" until "excellent agreement with observation" is reached:

Michel Janssen: "But - as we know from a letter to his friend Conrad Habicht of December 24, 1907 - one of the goals that Einstein set himself early on, was to use his new theory of gravity, whatever it might turn out to be, to explain the discrepancy between the observed motion of the perihelion of the planet Mercury and the motion predicted on the basis of Newtonian gravitational theory. [...] The Einstein-Grossmann theory - also known as the "Entwurf" ("outline") theory after the title of Einstein and Grossmann's paper - is, in fact, already very close to the version of general relativity published in November 1915 and constitutes an enormous advance over Einstein's first attempt at a generalized theory of relativity and theory of gravitation published in 1912. The crucial breakthrough had been that Einstein had recognized that the gravitational field - or, as we would now say, the inertio-gravitational field - should not be described by a variable speed of light as he had attempted in 1912, but by the so-called metric tensor field. The metric tensor is a mathematical object of 16 components, 10 of which independent, that characterizes the geometry of space and time. In this way, gravity is no longer a force in space and time, but part of the fabric of space and time itself: gravity is part of the inertio-gravitational field. Einstein had turned to Grossmann for help with the difficult and unfamiliar mathematics needed to formulate a theory along these lines. [...] Einstein did not give up the Einstein-Grossmann theory once he had established that it could not fully explain the Mercury anomaly. He continued to work on the theory and never even mentioned the disappointing result of his work with Besso in print. So Einstein did not do what the influential philosopher Sir Karl Popper claimed all good scientists do: once they have found an empirical refutation of their theory, they abandon that theory and go back to the drawing board. [...] On November 4, 1915, he presented a paper to the Berlin Academy officially retracting the Einstein-Grossmann equations and replacing them with new ones. On November 11, a short addendum to this paper followed, once again changing his field equations. A week later, on November 18, Einstein presented the paper containing his celebrated explanation of the perihelion motion of Mercury on the basis of this new theory. Another week later he changed the field equations once more. These are the equations still used today. This last change did not affect the result for the perihelion of Mercury. Besso is not acknowledged in Einstein's paper on the perihelion problem. Apparently, Besso's help with this technical problem had not been as valuable to Einstein as his role as sounding board that had earned Besso the famous acknowledgment in the special relativity paper of 1905. Still, an acknowledgment would have been appropriate. After all, what Einstein had done that week in November, was simply to redo the calculation he had done with Besso in June 1913, using his new field equations instead of the Einstein-Grossmann equations. It is not hard to imagine Einstein's excitement when he inserted the numbers for Mercury into the new expression he found and the result was 43", in excellent agreement with observation."

Pentcho Valev
Pentcho Valev
2017-05-12 09:21:57 UTC
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"A fudge factor is an ad hoc quantity introduced into a calculation, formula or model in order to make it fit observations or expectations. Examples include Einstein's Cosmological Constant..."

"In 1916 Einstein found what he considered a glitch in his new theory of general relativity. His equations showed that the contents of the universe should be moving - either expanding or contracting. But at the time, the universe seemed the very definition of stasis. All the data, facts, and phenomena known in the early 1900s said that the Milky Way was the cosmos itself and that its stars moved slowly, if at all. Einstein had presented the definitive version of the general theory of relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences the previous year, and he was not inclined to retract it. So he invented a fudge factor, called lambda, that could function mathematically to hold the universe at a standstill. [...] Lambda, also known as the cosmological constant, has come in handy of late."

Ken Croswell, Magnificent Universe, p. 179: "Ever since, the cosmological constant has lived in infamy, a fudge factor concocted merely to make theory agree with observation." http://www.amazon.com/Magnificent-Universe-Ken-Croswell/dp/0684845946

Can one introduce a fudge factor analogous to the cosmological constant in the Lorentz transformation equations? One cannot, and the reason is simple: Special relativity is DEDUCTIVE (even though a false postulate and an invalid argument spoiled it from the very beginning) and fudging is impossible by definition - one has no right to introduce anything that is not deducible from the postulates.

Deduction is not the method in physics nowadays. The infinitely adjustable empirical concoction called "general relativity" has become theoretical paradigm:

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."

Pentcho Valev