Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Theoretical physics reached ultimate catastrophe

A Perimeter Institute pitch said:
Theoretical physics is at a crossroads right now…In a sense we’ve entered a very deep crisis.

You may have heard of some of these models…There’ve been grand unified models, there’ve been super-symmetric models, super-string models, loop quantum gravity models… Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models.

If you ask most theorists working on particle physics, they’re in a state of confusion.

The extensions of the standard model, like grand unified theories, they were supposed to simplify it. But in fact they made it more complicated. The number of parameters in the standard model is about 18. The number in grand unified theories is typically 100. In super-symmetric theories, the minimum is 120. And as you may have heard, string theory seems to predict 10 to the power of 1,000 different possible laws of physics. It’s called the multiverse. 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.
That is the problem with all these theories that aim to replace the Standard Model. The main reason for their existence is that they are supposed to simplify physics, but they are actually much more complicated. The Standard Model is by far the simplest model that has any similarity to reality.

A comment said:
My guess is that the crucial insight will be more philosophical/interpretational than mathematical. Likewise, the Lorentz transformations were discovered and analyzed in the context of electromagnetism almost 2 decades before Einstein came up with special relativity.
We should get the History of Lorentz transformations correct, if it is going to be used as an excuse for useless theoretical investigations.

Lorentz was not just pursuing some mathematical exercise that was detached from the physical world. From the very start, he and FitzGerald were using the transformations to give a physical explanation for the Michelson-Morley experiment. It is true that Einstein was mainly regurgitating ideas that had been published many years earlier.

I think that the commenter was trying to say that 20 years of mathematical theorizing could be justified by some Einstein genius finally figuring out how to apply it to physics. But the relativity history is more nearly the opposite. After 20 years of applying relativity to physics, the consensus among historians is that Einstein used postulates instead of experimental evidence.


  1. Physics needs more than a new'interpretation', how about valid definitions that actually describe things that are actually possible? Start with using actual particles of finite measureable size that can interact when discussing photons, not purely mathematical 'point particles' which have about as much to do with actual things as imaginary singularities in flat endless, empty universes pretending to have gravitational influence on nothing... Ditching objects with no size and abandoning the singularity would be a good place to start cleaning this mess up. Telling Hawking he can't divide by zero and get infinity without flunking arithmetic would clean out the whole black hole community which has yet to actually find a black hole, much less agree on the properties of their numerous undefined fantasies.
    Physics is about the movement and interaction of things, actual things that exist and can be measured. Counting how many virtual angels can spontaneously dance on the head of a singularity in some other imagined universe is not physics in this one.

  2. No experiment has been able to detect a nonzero size to a photon or electron.

  3. @Roger,
    You make an excellent observation about the present state of the mainstream and experiment. It would also place experiment in contradiction with reality, since photons and electrons (two entirely different things, though often confused in many equations) interact with everything, including the receptors in your eye allowing you to read this blog and the nerves which transmit electrical impulses to your brain. A zero sized anything would not be able to interact with your cells of your body, or the world around you.
    As for the photon size, someone disagrees with the current popular interpretation of the data. You might consider "the radius of the messenger photon is 6.67 x 10-11 smaller than the radius of the hydrogen atom."