Recently, we looked at a conflict between theoretical physicists Chad Orzel and Sabine Hossenfelder on whether the crisis in particle physics is a moral imperative.
We were rather hoping our physics color commentator, experimental physicist Rob Sheldon, would weigh in—and here he is:
Chad Orzel is an establishment voice, just as Ethan Siegel “Starts with a Bang” is an establishment voice. That is why they are always defending the status quo, though neither of them can defend how we arrived at the status quo. That is, certain assumptions were made in 1950, 1970, 1990 and 2010 that led to particular subfields getting money while others were defunded. When the chosen fields did not produce results, as Sabine reminds us, we did not go back to try the other alternatives, instead, we gave more funds to add “new physics”: bells, whistles and above all adjustable dials to those barren theories. This is why we are stuck today, with billions invested in high-energy colliders and dark-matter detectors that have returned a fat zero for 30+ years.
Sabine says this is abnormal. Chad says it’s the new normal, get used to it. Ethan waffles between multiverse solutions and forbidding multiverse solutions, flitting from one wild metaphysic to another.
My own view is that we need to go back to 1950 and revisit the alternatives. Because solving today’s impasse doesn’t require any new physics, but old physics done differently.
See also: Particle physics is a mess but Hossenfelder should chill, fellow physicist says Hmmm. He’s not giving fellow physicists much of an incentive to sort out the mess. On the other hand, civilized theoretical physicists fight so politely that you can learn a lot just by listening.
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