Sunday, August 24, 2014

Three arguments for string theory

This is summarized from a David Gross lecture:
String theory is a framework, not a specific theory making specific down-to-earth predictions about realistically doable or ongoing experiments that could decide about its fate, ...

The three arguments that either instinctively or knowingly contribute to the competent physicists' faith and growing confidence in string theory are:

UEA: unexpected explanatory coherence argument. If the theory weren't worth studying, it would probably almost never lead to unexpected answers, explanations, and ways to solve problems previously thought to be independent
NAA: no alternative argument. There's no other game in town. The argument has existed in the case of the Standard Model – in recent decades, NAA was getting increasingly important.
MIA: meta inductive argument. String theory is a part of the same research program that includes theories whose success has already been established.
Are you kidding me? Theologians make better arguments.

Here is another opinion, that string theory resulted from physics being trapped in a wrong philosophy:
Horgan: Do you ever think it’s time for physicists to abandon the quest for a unified theory?

Rovelli: The “quest for a unified theory” is a misconception. Physicists never really searched for it. They stumbled upon string theory, which to some appeared as a possible unification of everything, and, for lack of imagination, put too much energy into strings. When the enthusiasm for strings begun to fade, many felt lost. Now that supersymmetry is not showing up where string theorists expected it, it is a disarray. ...

Here is an example: theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy: the idea that you can make progress by guessing new theory and disregarding the qualitative content of previous theories. This is the physics of the “why not?” Why not studying this theory, or the other? Why not another dimension, another field, another universe? Science has never advanced in this manner in the past. Science does not advance by guessing. It advances by new data or by a deep investigation of the content and the apparent contradictions of previous empirically successful theories. Quite remarkably, the best piece of physics done by the three people you mention is Hawking’s black-hole radiation, which is exactly this. But most of current theoretical physics is not of this sort. Why? Largely because of the philosophical superficiality of the current bunch of scientists.
It is not just the string theorists who suffer from a unified theory delusion. Einstein suffered from that since about 1925, and so have nearly all of the leading theoretical physicists of the last 40 years.

Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne is upset that the Rovelli interview is not sufficiently atheistic, and writes:
Well, if you see compatibility as the ability of human minds to do science and believe in fairy tales, then Rovelli’s right. ...

Most of the rest of the first paragraph is good; it’s useful to realize that religious people dislike science because it forces us to live with doubt, and many believers aren’t comfortable with that. (Richard Feynman particularly emphasized that difference, as in the video below)
The Feynman video does not say anything about religion.

Coyne's blog attacks religious people all the time. But Coyne always writes with great certainty while the religious people express doubt. So Coyne seems to have missed Feynman's point, and is attacking a straw man.

Update: Now Coyne says that he does not want to diss philosophy, and disagrees with those who do, but he cannot find any example of where philosophy helped science.


  1. rovelli is spewing mumbo jumbo.

    string theory is a cult. The cult leader is Witten.

  2. Sadly,
    this is true. If Witten were to abandon String Theory tomorrow, you would quickly see how many 'True Believers' are following a cult of scientism and personality, not physics or any actual comprehension of actual physical phenomena. String theory is predicated on a lie of necessity, the 'string' component was only really introduced to excuse a degree of freedom into equations that were struggling with trying to explain how 'point particles' can have any real interactive behavior when they have zero physical extension.
    The problem continues to be that the physics community bought into the absurdity of mathematical points carrying any physical forces, and instead of coming clean, and moving on to actual physical extension or volumes (Which this universe is most apparently composed of) they merely skipped up one dimension, from a point to a line. The bad news is quite simply, lines (or strings if you prefer) do not exist any more than points except as abstractions in peoples heads.
    Abstractions do can not physically mingle, interact, tangle, knot, or breakdance except by the power of reification, hypostatization, imagination, or just plain bullshit. To say that a line can physically interact with another line or point makes about a much sense as claiming a point has mass, an inch can be weighed, or that a mile has tensile strength.