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Theoretical physicist: My field is not going to the dogs

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In recent years, a number of theoretical physicists have raised concerns about stagnation and cool-sounding programs that produce little but TED talks.

Now one replies, pointing out that if we leave the wild world of string theory out of the picture, theoretical physicists work with experimentalists more than ever before:

In one example, theorists teamed with experimentalists to probe quantum correlations spread across space and time. In another example, theorists posited a mechanism by which superconducting qubits interact with a hot environment. Other illustrations from the past five years include discrete time crystals, many–body scars, magic-angle materials, and quantum chaos.

These collaborations even offer hope for steering quantum gravity with experiments. Certain quantum-gravity systems share properties with certain many-particle quantum systems. This similarity, we call “the AdS/CFT duality.” Experimentalists have many-particle quantum systems and are stretching those systems toward the AdS/CFT regime. Experimental results, with the duality, might illuminate where quantum-gravity theorists should and shouldn’t search. Perhaps no such experiments will take place for decades. Perhaps AdS/CFT can’t shed light on our universe. But theorists and experimentalists are partnering to try.

These illustrations demonstrate that theoretical physics, on the whole, remains healthy, grounded, and thriving. This thriving is failing to register with part of the public. Nicole Yunger Halpern, “Theoretical physics has not gone to the dogs.” at Quantum Frontiers

Fair enough. But when you need a press agent, Madam Physicist, you need one. Why are you letting crackpots control the news stream from your field?

It’s no use blaming the public for what we assume. We assume that what you and like-minded theoretical physicists don’t challenge IS the news from your field. If it’s not, good for you for speaking up!

You write, “John Horgan wrote that ‘physics, which should serve as the bedrock of science, is in some respects the most troubled field of’ science. The evidence presented consists of one neighborhood in the theoretical fraction of the metropolis of physics: string and multiverse models.”

Well, Horgan gets the same news feed as we do. You have to change the flow of water from the source, not from downstream.

Are you prepared to challenge the string theorists hogging the coverage? It starts there.

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See also: Is cosmology in crisis over how to measure the universe? One wonders how much of the problem stems from the need for a different universe from the one we have.

Theoretical physicist: Present phase of physics “not normal” – stagnation, not crisis Sabine Hossenfelder notes that working on the hard mathematical problems led to breakthroughs in physics but fears that, once again, the continued organization of conferences and production of papers will be the choice. Oh, and nonsense: “blathering about naturalness and multiverses and shifting their ‘predictions,’ once again, to the next larger particle collider.”


Physicist: The ultimate theory will be “geometrically natural” Garrett Lisi at Sabine Hossenfelder’s blog: “The high energy physics community has spent far too much time following the bandwagon of superstring theory, long after the music has stopped playing. It’s time for theorists to spread out into the vast realm of theoretical possibilities and explore different ideas.” He also thinks that the “naturalness” aesthetic that the fundamental constants should be near 1 is a “red herring” because “the universe doesn’t seem to care about that.” Many will likely welcome the freedom to explore new ideas.

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