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Oxford theoretical physicist laments discipline’s stalemate


We’re no closer to understanding the big questions, he says, than we were decades ago:

While physicists have been busily verifying ideas devised in the past century, we’ve made almost no progress in figuring out where to go in this one. In fact, we’re at a complete loss at how to explain some of the most fundamental but baffling observations of how our Universe behaves. There is a tremendous, even cosmic, chasm between the physics we know and love, and some of the phenomena that we observe, but simply can’t make head nor tail of. We have no idea how to bridge this chasm – yet we are proceeding, at pace, to construct ever more expensive experiments and observatories in the hope that we will…

I’ve spent most of my adult life staring at the cosmic chasm – the abyss between what we know and what we don’t. And while our knowledge of the Universe has improved dramatically in that time, our ignorance has become only more focused. We’re no closer to answering the big questions about dark matter, dark energy and the origins of the Universe than when I started out. This isn’t for lack of trying, and a titanic effort is now underway to try and figure out all these mysterious aspects of the Universe. But there’s no guarantee we’ll succeed, and we might end up never really grasping how the Universe works. That’s why we need to be creative and to explore. As Einstein once said: ‘Let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.’ While bridging the cosmic chasm might not be a matter of survival, undoubtedly it’s one of the most pressing challenges of modern science.

Pedro G Ferreira, “The cosmic chasm” at Aeon

But now, a question arises: What answers would theoretical physicists accept? Sometimes, the problem is not a lack of answers but a lack of acceptable answers.

See also: Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence

Bureaucracies hamper freedom, which prevents innovation to exist. Innovation does not exist in a bureaucratic state, which is what universities are. BobRyan
If he had been reading Parkinson instead of the chasm, he'd understand what's going on. Bureaucracies grow. When they run out of real questions they start "solving" fake questions or committing crimes in order to keep growing. polistra
If cosmology is right, the Universe has been around for around 13.8 bn years. Isn't it a wee bit optimistic to expect us to have cracked it in just two or three hundred years? Seversky

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