Well, no, it’s not, but … we didn’t think many people other than Peter Woit had noticed.
Many have rather pursued a war on falsifiability to protect it.
Ethan Siegel in Forbes distinguishes between a mathematical theory and a physical theory. Can we make testable predictions of string theory, which we should be able to do fora physical theory?
The answer, so far, is no. The first one is a huge problem: we need to get rid of six dimensions to get back the Universe we see, and there are more ways to do it than there are atoms in the Universe. What’s worse, is that each way you do it gives a different “vacuum” for string theory, with no clear way to get the fundamental constants that describe the Universe we inhabit, which is the second prediction. The third prediction has come up empty, but we would need to achieve energies that are ~1015 times higher than what the LHC can produce to rule out string theory entirely and falsify it. Moreover, supersymmetric particles is not a unique prediction of string theory; finding them would only mean that string theory isn’t ruled out, not that it’s right. And the last prediction is only a mathematical one, not a physical one. It doesn’t give us anything specific to look for or test about our Universe.
Although there was an entire conference on it earlier this month, spurred by a controversial opinion piece written a year ago by George Ellis and Joe Silk, the answer is very clear: no, string theory is not science. The way people are trying to turn it into science is — as Sabine Hossenfelder and Davide Castelvecchi report — by redefining what “science” is. More.
We’ll let Siegel tell the rest of that, but—if we are into predictability—here’s a prediction:
If string theory flunked all the tests, many cosmologists would still believe it. It’s one of those beliefs they just need. You watch. For why see Cosmology, the skinny
Re redefining what science is, all I ask is, in that case it’s all on the table whether the rest of us are expected to fund it. Any reasonable person ought to want to fund a war on polio. An effort to theorize that the universe has dozens of dimensions? Aw, there’s got to be a rich old lady somewhere who can be persuaded not to leave her entire fortune to her cat, only half of it … ?
See also: In search of a road to reality
The bill arrives for cosmology’s free lunch
If ID theorists are right, how should we study nature?
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