[ExI] Discontent with the path physics is taking

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 17:24:26 UTC 2011

2011/8/17 spike <spike66 at att.net>:
> Dan, this has long been a concern of those outside string theory, but I look
> at it this way.  String theory has few if any commercial applications.
> There is *plenty* of physics going on in microdevices and other areas where
> there are enormous economic incentives.  String theory is not competing with
> that, and that is where the money is.  I don’t worry if a few physics
> professors struggle over their 14 dimensional mathematics and eat up some
> small and dwindling theoretical research budget supplied by governments.  I
> cheer for them, hope they find interesting stuff.  I am interested in
> theoretical physics myself.  I worry they may have taken a long and
> fruitless path.  But I don’t lose any sleep over it.

I am not a theoretical physicist, so these are the opinions of a
poorly informed amateur... but I am interested from that perspective.

It is my understanding that much of what is described by string theory
is untestable by experimental means. That is, the energies required to
test string theory experimentally are beyond our ability to create and
may continue to be beyond our ability to create for a very long time.
If this is true, and I have yet to read an article indicating that any
part of string theory has been experimentally verified, then string
theory is an elaborate mathematical construct that is internally
consistent, and *perhaps* nothing more. It lacks (from the layman's
point of view) the beauty that is so common in the rest of physics and
is therefore suspect. And it seems that whenever you string theory
guys run into a problem, you just add another dimension, the problems
go away because they are now magically orthogonal, and you continue on
with your theorizing. There seems to be no physical justification for
adding all these dimensions, or at least it hasn't come across to the
great unwashed (me).

Sometimes, it seems like it rises to a religious belief, with little
science behind it. If it isn't science, should we be spending this
much attention on new age alchemy?

I am with Spike here that I'm more interested in physics that at least
has the possibility of some kind of application eventually. Now, we
all know that we can't tell in advance what is going to have
application and what isn't... look at the math that led to CAT
scanners, it sat dusty on the shelf for more than 50 years. But it
seems that some effort should go in other directions. You can't ALL be
Newton, Einstein or Maxwell, so stop trying to be.

I don't mind that some people chase string theory, but why does the
mass herd of lemmings have to chase it in such large numbers? Is it a
flaw with our educational system? With our grant system? What leads to
this apparent madness?

I can't comment intelligently beyond this, and can not even claim any
degree of measurable intelligence up to this point. I'm just going off
of what I've read in the popular press and seen on NOVA and similar
science programs. If you can't test it, it's magic, not science.


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