So we’d think from science writer K. C. Cole at Quanta:
And then physicists began to realize that the dream of one singular theory was an illusion. The complexities of string theory, all the possible permutations, refused to reduce to a single one that described our world. “After a certain point in the early ’90s, people gave up on trying to connect to the real world,” Gross said. “The last 20 years have really been a great extension of theoretical tools, but very little progress on understanding what’s actually out there.”
Many, in retrospect, realized they had raised the bar too high. Coming off the momentum of completing the solid and powerful “standard model” of particle physics in the 1970s, they hoped the story would repeat — only this time on a mammoth, all-embracing scale. “We’ve been trying to aim for the successes of the past where we had a very simple equation that captured everything,” said Robbert Dijkgraaf, the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. “But now we have this big mess.”
Like many a maturing beauty, string theory has gotten rich in relationships, complicated, hard to handle and widely influential. Its tentacles have reached so deeply into so many areas in theoretical physics, it’s become almost unrecognizable, even to string theorists. More.
We used to call that rubbish.
If string theory helps on the quest for a multiverse, it doesn’t matter whether it is rubbish or not in the eyes of many people, as this article demonstrates. That’s what the rest of us need to get used to.
At Not Even Wrong, Peter Woit hasn’t quite got used to it. He writes in response,
Quanta Magazine has over the past couple years been establishing a well-deserved reputation as the smartest and best science journalism around. At the opposite extreme, over many years of interacting with science journalists, the most embarrassingly incompetent one I’ve run across has been KC Cole, so I was surprised today to see that Quanta has published a piece by her.
Could he possibly share our unease that something entirely unsupported by evidence could nonetheless be useful in science?
The article has all sorts of interesting quotes from experts about the state of string theory these days, mostly indicating that people have given up on it and are trying to figure out how to move on. …
A serious journalist who talked to all the people Cole did would likely have noticed the obvious and framed the same material quite differently: string theory hasn’t worked out and theorists have moved on to other things, with the center of gravity of the subject now the deeper study of quantum field theory. More.
Woit, a mathematician at Columbia, may not have got used to this new mood yet: Evidence does not matter now. The main thing is to confirm the needed talking points.
Relax, it is just post-modernism hitting the sciences. Hard, yes we know it is hard.
See also: The war on falsifiability
The multiverse: Where everything turns out to be true, except philosophy and religion
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