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jordanz

Criticism of String Theory in The New Yorker

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~ If I hadn't specifically clarified myself yet, re your persevering contempt about Aristotle (in pre-Baconian times), neither Einstein nor Hawking can really be properly considered as following in Francis Bacon's 'experimentalist' footsteps. 'Hands-on' empirical-testers, they've never been.

In the 20th century the field had become so big that a split between theoreticians and experimentalists had become unavoidable. But it is definitely wrong to assume that the theorists were not interested in the experimental results. It has just become impossible to do both well at the same time. In fact the triumph of the so-called Standard Model in the second half of the century is the history of a very close collaboration between theorists and experimentalists, the first making predictions and the second verifying those or refuting them, in a continuous interaction. It is only with the modern string theories that there is no longer a real interaction, basically while the string theorists after all those years still can't make testable predictions with their models.

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~ If I hadn't specifically clarified myself yet, re your persevering contempt about Aristotle (in pre-Baconian times), neither Einstein nor Hawking can really be properly considered as following in Francis Bacon's 'experimentalist' footsteps. 'Hands-on' empirical-testers, they've never been.

In the 20th century the field had become so big that a split between theoreticians and experimentalists had become unavoidable. But it is definitely wrong to assume that the theorists were not interested in the experimental results. It has just become impossible to do both well at the same time. In fact the triumph of the so-called Standard Model in the second half of the century is the history of a very close collaboration between theorists and experimentalists, the first making predictions and the second verifying those or refuting them, in a continuous interaction. It is only with the modern string theories that there is no longer a real interaction, basically while the string theorists after all those years still can't make testable predictions with their models.

Mayhap in a patent office somewhere, or in a library, or in a corporate documentation room or anywhere but a university, there is a bushy haired fellow with a dreamy look about him with a Bright Idea. We can always hope.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Baal:

~ Bet ya thought I'd never get back to this. Here I am.

~ Didn't know that Al had several patents; for a new refrigerator, even? So? This controverts my point about him not being a 'hands-on experimenter'? I think NOT! He was 'hands-on', clearly, in food eating, writing, and invention-tinkering-to-'patenting'-point. What this (or that he 'contributed to the development of lasers') has to do with my point that he was NOT a Baconian 'experimentalist', I have no idea. Can we say you've made an argumentum-ad-irreleventium here?

~ You admit that "Einstein was primarily theoretical..." and imply that I argued that he had "...become unglued from physical reality." --- I NEVER HINTED, INSINUATED, INNUENDED, NOR IMPLIED SUCH! Don't innuend that I had, pretty please.

LLAP

J:D

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Baal:

~ You argue that Al's definition about 'simultaneous' events was an operational approach; no argument (indeed, I see no prob with such per se, but then I'm not a philosophical scientist, though I aspire to understand the framework.)

~ Such is obvious in reading his own book on the subjects of Relativity. (As an aside, I still have a prob with his concept of 'simultaniety', but, that's a separate subject.) --- I have a prob with the term 'realized' as you use, since this implies a total non-reservation about all said by whomever. Even Al realized that there was 'more' necessary to yet discover; as far as I'm concerned, such includes the possibility of 'exceptions' (as he discovered about Newton) to his own 'established' theories.

LLAP

J:D

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Baal:

~ Anyhoo, you conclude this point of yours with "That sounds like 'hands on' to me." Uh, ok; we don't disagree that Einstein was not 'Platonic', but, like, who said he was? Not moi. I see not what my phrase you argue about, 'hands on', has anything to do with this ethereal, esoteric genius-vision Al came up with. Unless you've equivocally switched to metaphors? Such you showed with your argument about his argument re Brownian Motion. You want to call that 'hands on'? Ok. B-u-t, we're not talking in the Baconian-framework anymore, ok? We're NOT talking 'experimentalist', regardless that Al 'showed' 'why atoms must be real' (note that word you used: "must"...as in 'should be considered' as opposed to 'HERE they ARE!'

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey

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Baal:

~ You followup with "As Einstein got older he became more Platonic in his thinking which is why he disowned his brain-child, quantum theory..." Ok; Al wasn't 'Platonic', but, later, he was. Hmmm...shades of 'inconsistency' here; or, is there?

~ I disagree. He stayed 'operational' in his attempt for a 'Unification Theory' and found QT's argued base (not its methodology) lacking, as he no doubt found (as so many, even today, QT-base proponents included) that for a UT he had data lacking. --- As far as I'm concerned, it takes a 'Platonic' to accept QT as the unimprovable-upon 'explanatory' base for all that's so far known. Clearly, Al thought that there was more about 'The Bottom Line' than dice (as Hawking sees) thrown in a corner no one can see. How 'Platonic' can one get more than Hawking?

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey

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Baal:

~ You finish your disagreement with me (getting far away from our original concerns about Aristotle, thence Bacon, now Einstein) with...

I wish Stephen Speicher were still among the living. Stephen (a very bright fellow who will be missed) was rather an expert on Einstein and would have taken your position apart (but nicely and politely) nut from bolt.

~ First off, I'm not sure which 'position' you're referring to re what he'd take apart, since we've covered several; and, I'm quite familiar with his arguments on 4aynrandfans, btw. (Yes, just from reading him, I miss him too; his wife's sure got some heavy cojone-smarts too.)

~ At any rate, such may be, but, in accordance with the respect you've shown me, all I can say here is: Stephen Speicher, you're not.

LLAP

J:D

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Baal:

~ You followup with "As Einstein got older he became more Platonic in his thinking which is why he disowned his brain-child, quantum theory..." Ok; Al wasn't 'Platonic', but, later, he was. Hmmm...shades of 'inconsistency' here; or, is there?

P

J:D

The younger Einstein was very much in Mach's camp. Later on he became more Platonic in his outlook. People are not made of concrete. They change over time as they learn and do New Stuff.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Baal:

~ Ok. No argument on your generality. Granted, minds can and do sometimes (hell, often) change on whatever subjects over time. Of course, rational minds don't do so 'randomly,' and Al's was a rational one. Cripes, he changed his mind about the worthwhileness of assuming a 'constant.'

~ However, you assert that he became more 'Platonic' later on (uhm, after what?). Could you specify your reasons for that view of him?

LLAP

J:D

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Baal:

~ Ok. No argument on your generality. Granted, minds can and do sometimes (hell, often) change on whatever subjects over time. Of course, rational minds don't do so 'randomly,' and Al's was a rational one. Cripes, he changed his mind about the worthwhileness of assuming a 'constant.'

~ However, you assert that he became more 'Platonic' later on (uhm, after what?). Could you specify your reasons for that view of him?

LLAP

J:D

After what? After Einstein wunderjahr (1905). Over the years Einstein formulated the notion of a -principle theory- as opposed to a -constructive theory-. Einsten's idea of a -principle-theory- is that a physical theory should be derived from a fundamental physical principle. Einstein derived the General Theory of Relativity (a theory of gravitation) from two basic principles.

1. No difference can be detected between a uniform gravitational field and acceleration (equivalence principle). *

2. Physical theories (in general) should be covariant (i.e. not depend on particular reference frames).

A constructive theory is a physical theory formulated to explain a finite set of physical events and predict further events of the same kind. This is the usual view of a physical theory. Given events produce and explanation (in terms of general laws) and predictions. Newton was a constructive theorist. He insisted that laws be -derived from- the observations. His rules on hypothesis formation are stated in Book III of -Principia Mathematica-. Modern Mechanics is formulated as a -principle- theory-, to wit, the laws of mechanics are derived from least action principle (LaGrange, Hamilton De Lambert).

As Einstein developed his thinking he made the underlying principles the main object of his science. That is why he rejected quantum physics as a fully explanatory theory for physical events. Don't misunderstand. He never denied quantum physics predicted things and his Nobel prize was given to Einstein for a quantum theory of light (electro-magnetic radiation). However Einstein believed that quantum physics was not a complete and ultimate theory of the world. Einstein ultimately placed his principles before observed fact. Unfortunately this lead him into a dead end and after 1926 or so, he did not produce any breakthrough physics. His researches on unified field theory (unifying gravitation and electromagnetic fields) led to a dead end.

The modern version of unified field theory (a theory of Everything), to wit String Theory and M-Theory is apparently leading to the same dead end (see -The Trouble With Physics- by Lee Smolin). Could it be that nature is NOT an undivided whole? Could it be that humans are not smart enough to come up with a unified theory of physical nature? Stay tuned.

Ba'al Chatzaf

* Newton had a related notion. He said (in effect) the difference between uniform motion and absolute rest can not be detected by physical means. We know now (thanks to Einstein), that notion of absolute rest is bogus. There is no One and True reference frame provided by Nature. We must formulate our physical theories without assuming such a reference frame exists (that is what covariance is about).

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Einstein began his career as more of an Empiricist (inductivist, constructive theorist), along the lines of Mach, and later became more of a Rationalist (deductivist, principle-theorist).

Biting off the inductive hand that fed him, Einstein once said:

There is no inductive method which could lead to the fundamental concepts of physics. Failure to understand this fact constituted the basic philosophical error of the 19th century. Logical thinking is necessarily deductive. It is based upon hypothetical concepts and axioms.

As Leonard Peikoff notes (lecture 6, The Dim Hypothesis), Einstein "always retained the very important tie between theory and observation. And that’s important in his classification, because he never, even though you’re going to see a lot of Rationalism, and he never floated off into complete Platonism or this world as unreal or insignificant, even though he sometimes talks this way."

As an example of the latter, Peikoff cites the famous incident in 1919, when the English physicist Eddington, cabled Einstein to tell him that the deflection of light in a gravitational field, which his theory predicted, had in fact been discovered. When Einstein’s assistant reacted with pleasure, Einstein replied, “But I knew that the theory was correct.” She asked, “What if there had been no confirmation of the prediction?” Einstein replied “Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct.” Peikoff notes that "this is the extreme of the famous physicist’s disdain for observation."

Peikoff concedes that Einstein might have been exaggerating out of a sense of exuberance or bravado, but "something prompted that exaggeration," which Peikoff suggests is "Platonic Idealism, abstraction as more fundamental than concretes, as something you can study apart from concretes. And there are several indications that Einstein actually moved in this direction, came near to taking the views that Platonic Forms, in effect, are the essence or the root of reality."

In partial illustration of this point, Peikoff says:

Einstein does make an effort to reduce matter and space to mathematics. Matter is reducible to fields, which are defined by equations. Space is studied by geometry, which relates mathematical structures. So, in a sense, therefore, space completely and matter partially are reducible to mathematical equations. And then you go a little further with this idea: the ultimate equations, which all of this is reduced to, he sometimes says, are abstractions in God’s mind of the form of God’s thought. So, in essence, the abstract postulates in physics represent in some way God’s thought, which in turn leads to geometry and matter, which leads to our perceptual observations.

REB

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~ Hmmm...thanx, both. Al's shifting perspectives/emphases in thinking, as you both show, is interesting. Makes one wonder how tempting 'rationalistic'-thinking is in developing ideas in near ethereal (re 'ivory tower') territory.

~ Ntl, I always thought that his comment "Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct," as an obviously facetious (if not condescending) way of answering his questioner, who clearly was asking from the framework "Suppose you're wrong?" with what I consider a Hank Rearden's unshakeable confidence in his 'theory;' Einstein clearly didn't consider his 'theory' as actually a Platonic one (though his thinking 'style' may have been a bit so influenced, I now grant), being based on De Sitter's observations and all that that, combined with the rest, entailed.

LLAP

J:D

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The link in the preceding post is obsolete. Here are some current ones:

What Black Holes Teach about Strongly Coupled Particles

Clifford V. Johnson and Peter Steinberg (May 2010)

Neutron Stars and String Theory in the Lab

John E. Thomas (Dec 2010)

Kathryn Levin (e.g.)

Gary T. Horowitz (e.g.)

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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The link in the preceding post is obsolete. Here are some current ones:

What Black Holes Teach about Strongly Coupled Particles

Clifford V. Johnson and Peter Steinberg (May 2010)

Neutron Stars and String Theory in the Lab

John E. Thomas (Dec 2010)

Kathryn Levin (e.g.)

Gary T. Horowitz (e.g.)

Good references. thank you.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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.

The Causal Set Approach to Quantum Gravity

Joe Henson (2008)

A Specimen of Theory Construction from Quantum Gravity

Rafael D. Sorkin (1995)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the root of this thread, the link to the New Yorker article “Unstrung” is obsolete. The new link is here.

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Post #88

To that far-from-home application of the mathematics of string theory,

add another:

http://qpt.physics.harvard.edu/c63.pdf'>Strange and Stringy

Subir Sachdev

http://arxiv.org/pdf/1102.4628v2.pdf'>Quantum Criticality

Subir Sachdev and Bernhard Keimer

(Search on string.)

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.

Possible advance (first I know of) in understanding why there are three spatial dimensions is contained in the following paper:

Knotty Inflation and The Dimensionality of Spacetime

A. Berera et al. (arXiv 8/6/15)

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