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A practical test for string theory?

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5 dimensions in 2

From Towson U, unveiled yesterday, according to

String theory is infamous as an eloquent theoretical framework to understand all forces in the universe —- a so-called “theory of everything” —- that can’t be tested with current instrumentation because the energy level and size scale to see the effects of string theory are too extreme.

Yet inspired by Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton, Towson University scientists say that precise measurements of the positions of solar-system bodies could reveal very slight discrepancies in what is predicted by the theory of general relativity and the equivalence principle, or establish new upper limits for measuring the effects of string theory. More.

Interesting, because researchers have been saying things like

“No part of it has been proven, and no one knows how to prove it,” laments lapsed string theorist Lee Smolin. And “because we can’t falsify the idea, … it isn’t science,” says physicist David Gross.

Will this test change their minds? Skeptical mathematician Peter Woit notes at Not Even Wrong,

What’s actually in the paper is a proposal for a test (and not a very good one, as far as I can tell…) of the equivalence principle. The claim is then that a violation of the equivalence principle would be evidence for string theory. I’ve written about this kind of claim before (see here), pointing out that string theorists sometimes argue that the equivalence principle is a prediction of string theory. So, string theory can be tested, and the test is even “practical”, but since the prediction is that either the equivalence principle will be violated or not, it’s pretty likely to pass the test.

Revealing discussion from physicists in the comments. This test doesn’t sound like it’s all its cracked up to be. We’ll see.

Hat tip:

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One Reply to “A practical test for string theory?

  1. 1
    selvaRajan says:

    The authors are testing for violation of Equivalence principle by studying position of solar system bodies, the Nordtvedt effect (since this effect is not present in General relativity as n_N = 0) and migration of Lagrange points. To be precise, they are setting the limits of violation of Equivalence principle of solar system bodies.

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