“Can you think of a single advancement in theoretical physics, other than speculation like Strings and Loops and Safe Gravity and Twistors, and confirming things like the Higgs Boson and pentaquarks at the LHC, since Politizer and Wilczek and Gross (and Coleman) did their thing re QCD in the early 1980's?” ...I skipped a few items outside my expertise. The normalization group and other standard model work has been great, but a lot of the big ideas are from the 1970s.
Admittedly your question pains me considerably.
Quantum error correction, quantum logical gates, quantum computing.
Effective field theory/Renormalization group running.
Gauge-gravity duality (AdS/CFT).
"When Frank Wilczek becomes 65 in 2018, there will be no active (below normal retirement age) “fundamental” theorist with a Nobel prize, for the first time since H.A. Lorentz won the prize in 1902."
Quantum cryptography and quantum computing are big scams. Inflation is an interesting idea, but has not really been tested.
The history books of the next millennium will say that the great ideas of physics were worked in the XX century, or maybe 1860 to 1980. Then the field became overrun with charlatans.
SciAm writer John Horgan annoyed everyone with a 1996 book arguing that scientists had already found the big discoveries, and that new results would be disappointing. He now has a new edition bragging that he was right.
Yes, he was right. I did not believe him at the time, because I believe the hype that new experiments like the Superconducting Super Collider were going to discover new physics. Physicists are still complaining about that fiasco. But the LHC spent $10B, and only confirmed the standard model from the 1970s. It found the value of the Higgs mass, but nothing else new about it. String theorists have given up on any real physics, and are now babbling about “non-empirical theory confirmation”, whatever that is.
Attempts to prove quantum nonlocality have been a total failure. Quantum cryptography has taught us nothing new about quantum mechanics, and found no useful application to cryptography. Quantum computing has failed to convincingly demonstrate a quantum speedup or even a true qubit. Quantum gravity has never made any progress. Whole new areas like the multiverse are incoherent from the start.
The whole field of Physics is now dominated by charlatans.