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Sabine Hossenfelder tells us who’s killing physics


The theoretical physicst explains at Cosmos Magazine:

Nowadays, headlines covering the foundations of physics won’t tell you about new discoveries, but merely what “might be” or “could be”. The phrase “physicists say” is all too frequently followed by speculations about multiverses, non-existent particles, or fifth forces that we have no evidence of. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with this discipline.

But the worst part is that most of my colleagues think this situation perfectly okay.

For starters, they would probably disagree that we have a problem in the foundations of physics at all. They’d tell you about lots of exciting papers that have been published in recent years. At present the biggest fad is throwing artificial intelligence at everything, closely followed by claiming that quantum simulations or quantum computing is the way forward. About this I can only say that scientific progress isn’t measured by how many papers have been written.

But this illusion of progress is the minor problem. Worse is that they seem resigned to the idea that foundational work in physics is detached from experiment and technological application.

Sabine Hossenfelder, “Who’s killing physics?” at Cosmos Magazine (April 15, 2022)

We keep asking: To what extent has it become a sort of religion?

Sev, I think Lee Smolin sums up the problem with physics pretty well in his book "The Trouble with Physics." Biology has long been able to tell stories without the best evidence and have them accepted as science. Physics has always had a much higher standard based around strict experiments. His opinion is that physics has been getting away from experiments and also telling stories....mainly around string theory. He considers this to be a huge problem for the future of what physics will be able to discover. ellijacket
Thanks. JHolo
Bornagain77 or BA77 is a longstanding and prolific contributor to Uncommon Descent who has a strong interest in quantum theory. Seversky
Sev: I don’t think BA77 is going to be too happy about what she says about QM.
Forgive my ignorance, but who is BA77? JHolo
In my view, as long as we have unanswered questions about the Universe in which we find ourselves, science will not die and no one will be able to kill it. Seversky
>"About this I can only say that scientific progress isn’t measured by how many papers have been written." I don't think evolution fans, who partly base their certitude on the number of papers their field has produced compared with other paradigms, are going to be happy about what she says there. EDTA
I don't think BA77 is going to be too happy about what she says about QM. Seversky
In her article, Sabine gives a quick surmise of physics itself, noting that physics began with Aristotle. She points out that "Ph.D." is a doctorate in "philosophy," and she seems to rue the separation of physics from the philosophical that's been present in particle physics for more than a century. This is the "death of science." Absent philosophy, scientists stop asking the right questions. Quantum mechanics is rendered, "shut up, and calculate!" Sabine is troubled by the fact that very little fundamental physics has been accomplished since "before the 70's." But, more than that, I would add that if one bothers to pay attention, the whole chase after particles follows, more or less, Yukawa's suggestion that force fields operate via the exchange of "virtual" particles--particles that come into existence and quickly pass out of existence; that is, not fundamental. Yukawa postulated this in the mid 1930's. That's a long time. What I see is that Yukawa's was a conceptual view. Einstein's relativity was also a conceptual view, a revolutionary insight that would not have been permitted in the halls of academia, where Einstein then found himself. What we see happening in physics today is the slapping together of mathematical models in the hope of discovering something new. While this has worked in a limited sense (leading, though, to powerful new technology), I firmly hold that what science needs today is a more conceptual assault on the underpinnings of modern particle physics. I think this is exactly what Sabine is calling for. And, she expresses hope since she sees this as beginning to happen. That is, the "shut up, and calculate!" mode of quantum thinking is no longer dogma in the "halls of academia." PaV
This sounds like normal science to me. An academic furball from which eventually something useful might come flying out. Seversky
Physics was done in 1905. Should have called it a day and gone on to something less destructive, like basket-weaving. polistra

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