[ExI] Discontent with the path physics is taking

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Sat Aug 20 12:13:10 UTC 2011

2011/8/20 Sophia Rose <sen.otaku at googlemail.com>

> Even if science is a cultural product, there are lots of subcultures within
> all countries that have scientific research. What effect do you feel these
> subcultures have on the pursuit of science in general, or Physics in
> specific?
> I know that it is a general trend in dominant culture to grab the limelight
> for one's self (I think that is easily drawn from the Reality Star trend).
> So we are saying that this is the motivation behind this race for String
> Theory? The desire to be the next Einstein/Newton/Maxwell?

I do not claim to have a final word to say on the subject, but I suspect
that the contemporary international physics community has cultural traits of
its own, which in turn reflect to some extent those of the societies which
are (still?) predominantly represented in its ranks.

Now, it appears at least very debatable that such societies are currently
going through any kind of cultural Renaissance... :-)

Moreover, globalisation itself may lead to a loss of wealth and diversity -
just think of uniformisation of very different educational traditions - that
would not bode well even for the development of hard sciences. One need not
resort to postmodern or critical theory here, see what, eg, Oswald Spengler
or Stephen Wolfram have to say on how much mathematics itself appears to
reflect a civilisation's interests and biases or Lee Smolin's The Trouble
with Physics on the sociological reasons for string theory's current
dominance in the academia.

And if so, how is that different from past trends? What was the previous
> motivation for scientific discoveries? Is it possible, or even desirable to
> return to that?

Let us say that I am in principle wary of orthodoxies, of byzantinisms and
of putting all one's eggs in one basket, and more confident in breakthroughs
generated by grand visions and revolutionary approaches.

How do we produce all that? I do not have any magic recipe, but historical
experience suggests that such things usually take place in places and ages
less conservative than our existing context...
Stefano Vaj
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