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Peter Woit contemplates the end of physics

soap bubbles/Timothy Pilgrim

Commenting on recent theoretical physics debates in New York City, Columbia mathematician Peter Woit writes at Not even Wrong about what happens when multiverse theory is just assumed to be true:

At 7 pm the American Museum of Natural History will host the 2016 Asimov Debate, with this year the topic Is the Universe a Simulation?. You can watch a livestream at that site.

I confess that if this were a few days earlier, I would be convinced it was definitely a joke. But, it seems not, that instead this “has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers” and that it’s a “provocative and revolutionary idea”. One thing this is not is new. Nearly nine years ago it got a lot of media attention, and I wrote about it here More.

We hazard a guess that the non-joke will go on until someone asks whose simulation it could possibly be. Can’t be God’s or anything, so maybe an infinite regress of simulations? But then they aren’t simulations, right? The point of a simulation is that someone is non-regressively simulating it.

He’d also been invited, then uninvited (“a rather mystifying situation”), to a conference on the limits to human knowledge, and gives his view for readers,

I’d make the point that there’s no way to know what the limits will be to human understanding of physical laws. It has however become all too clear what the danger is of what will happen when we reach those limits. Instead of prominent theorists frankly admitting “we don’t know”, there will be an attempt to sell the story to the public that theorists have a wonderful, successful theory which describes everything, which sadly has the unfortunate feature of not making any falsifiable predictions. The string landscape/multiverse scenario now is being very aggressively sold as exactly this kind of endpoint to physics, to a large degree by people unwilling to admit the failure of string theory-based unification. There’s a very real danger that this will enter the textbooks, and that we will in our lifetimes see the end of fundamental physics as a human endeavor. The limit we will have hit will be due not to the nature of our minds, but instead the nature of our sociology. More.

We fear he is right, and his update  on what people are saying is telling: “The multiverse hypothesis is no more speculative than the universe hypothesis.”

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Consider the fact that few heeded George Ellis’s warning about the fantasy element that dominates fundamental physics; it’s as cool and rewarding as ever. Especially if all that matters is what the Cool people think, not what Newton, Planck, Bohr, or Einstein would think.

Yes, that’s because of the times we live in. But the outcome looms all the same.

See also: Multiverse cosmology: Assuming that evidence still mattered, what does it say?

In search of a road to reality (the road not taken)


The war on falsifiability

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There is always an end to everything, including Physics. Once humanity ends in near future, all knowledge gained by us ends too. Me_Think
Scientists are human beings, and human beings are subject to the head vs heart struggle. This is the reason scientists fail to explore the relevance of freedom in the universe, because freedom is closely related to the emotions in the heart, and emotions are the target in the struggle. mohammadnursyamsu
@6 hehe mike1962
I just contemplated the end of Peter Woit. weird Mung
PaV@3 You hit the nail on the head by seeing that materialism is destroying science. They simply cannot and will not consider the most plausible explanation. The Universe is a created entity and all their physics point to there being a beginning. The wild speculations, I won't even call them hypothesis, are ridiculous. The Universe is a simulation it's like the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. One character said that maybe the Universe is a big hologram. This is the same and science has gone Hollywood. I'm of the opinion that society is past the point of no return. Thinking my grandchildren don't have a decent future. Only tyrants can control an anarchist society and it's coming down to that I'm afraid. Just look at academia, what the heck is that? jimmontg
I know nothing about multi universe but a origin point can be drawn. Just as creationists etc complain that evolution has not proven its scientific methodology credibility SO likewise another subject in another field seemingly has bumped into this equation. A hard conclusion has been made without credibility in methodology. AHA. Its there too. If its in physics, with all its proveness nature as they say, then it can be in other subjects. IT is. Its in biological origins. Yes thats why evolution can be wrong. its not proven because its accepted by the right people or numbers in the field of inquiry. This is a prediction of creationism or should of been. Robert Byers
What modern trends in science demonstrate is that the assumption of objectivity in science is false. There is no objectivity. It is humans who 'do' science, and we are subjective creatures, and ideology can always, and does, trump objectivity. Another way of putting this is: one does not enter the arena of science without presuppositions. While the presuppositions of natural philosophy and the metaphysics of religion are now routinely rejected and denigrated, the reality is that in bracketing out such presuppositions, this does not mean an 'absence' of presuppositions, but only the 'presence' of other such presuppositions; for example, atheism. Let's be quite upfront about it: this drive towards the multiverse has at bottom the desire to get beyond "creatio ex nihilo" that the current "Big Bang" scenario seems to corroborate. If science is "dying," then what is "killing" it is the desire to distance the world from the 'idea' of God. Think of Galileo, whose daughters were Catholic nuns; think of Newton, who sang the praises of God; think of de Maupertuis whose religious sensitivities led him to the principle of least action, fundamental to particle physics, or Faraday, and others. Science was built on religion--the Christian religion. Isn't this obvious? So, if it were built on the thinking of religious persons, the thinking of irreligious persons will end up destroying it. And this is exactly what is playing itself out before our eyes. The only good thing that will come from this is that we, as humans, will have to revisit the whole notion of what 'truth' is, and how we arrive at it. That will be good for us. But in the meantime, the Father of Lies is at work. PaV
I figured the end was near a couple years back, when I noticed that the kinds of theories getting traction were just the stuff a mystic could have thunk up on a prayer mat 15 thousand years ago. No objection from here except that it isn't science; it merely uses the trappings of science. And to the extent that it does so, it changes what people expect from science. Then we are disappointed when actual science can't do what we expect. News
Woit argues that sociology has triumphed over physics. Let me rephrase that. We are the society, the reality that sociology describes. Physics is the externality, the reality that the universe obeys. So we, the people, the society, the subject triumph over the externality, the object, the universe that God creates. We have become God, creator of our purpose, creator of ourselves, creator of our universe. Yes, that would be the end of physics. And chemistry. And justice. And righteousness. And meaning. And purpose. Why? Because in a positive feedback amplifier, in a system that allows you to define your goals and then funds you to seek the goals you have defined--it is always the most unstable mode that grows the fastest. There are many fine goals out there, but the easiest, the quickest, the fastest are the ones that win. There were many fine Bolsheviks who could have brought utopia to Russia, but the race went to the dumbest, the fastest, the most brutal dictator of all. An old Romanian joke had a revolutionary asking the question, "If the Iron curtain were to fall today, what would be the first thing you would do?" The wise old man said, "Climb a tree." "What!" the young revolutionary asked, "why would you do that?" "So I won't get trampled by the mobs running for the border." was his reply. As we open up physics to sociology, as we allow the evolutionary biologists to guard the henhouse, what will be the outcome? Utter chaos. Not because there will be too many theories to judge between them. But because there will a mad rush for the funding as the pigs trample the pearls into the mud. It will be the dumbest, the stupidest, the fastest, the muddiest most infantile theories that survive. So find you a big tree, I hear squealing in the distance. Robert Sheldon

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