Skeptical mathematician on the decade’s biggest change in physics
|April 13, 2014||Posted by News under Mathematics, Multiverse, News|
The discovery of the Higgs has been a wonderful vindication of the ideas and techniques of high energy physics, both experimental and theoretical. As we learn more about the Higgs the lesson seems to be that this sector of the Standard Model behaves in the simplest way possible. This is a significant new piece of information about nature, although a frustrating one since it doesn’t provide a hint of how to improve the Standard Model.
Sure, but the good news is, when we do get information, it will likely be typical science information, not “this’ll-blow-yer-mind” stuff.
On the whole though, I fear that thinking about changes over the last ten years mostly puts me in a not very good mood. Some of the depressing developments and trends of the last ten years are:
• One reaction to string theory’s failures in the marketplace of ideas has been a Russian billionaire’s decision to try and manipulate that marketplace by injecting tens of millions of dollars into it on one side. The largest financial prize in science now is devoted to each year rewarding people for work on a failed project. This is corrupting the marketplace in a significant way.
• Some of my earliest postings back in 2004 were about KKLT, the string landscape and the multiverse. At the time I was sure that if the landscape proposal being pushed by the Stanford group became widely accepted as an implication of string theory unification, that would be the end of it. Surely no sensible person would try and argue for an extremely complicated, inherently unpredictive theoretical framework. Boy, was I wrong. As I’ve gone on about far too often here, the current multiverse mania is a disastrous and shameful episode for fundamental theoretical physics, threatening its essential nature as a science.
The rest of the piece and the comments are most interesting.
It’s not clear to many of us that proponents of the multiverse want cosmology to be a science at all. Consider the BBC story, “Is the multiverse detectible?” What emerges is, for all practical purposes, no, but that isn’t going to stop proponents.
The story should have been titled “Why do people think an undetectible state of affairs is science?” The fact that the BBC would not develop such a story tells us what we need to know already: The multiverse is a cause, a desire, a hope, a quest a crusade. It threatens physics to the extent that people are encouraged to hunt and peck for evidence for a multiverse, rather than just follow evidence where it leads.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology), for a brief explanation of how we got here.
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