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Theoretical physics like a fly hitting a window pane?

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From Peter Woit at Not Even Wrong:

Sabine Hossenfelder is on a tear this week, with two excellent and highly provocative pieces about research practice in theoretical physics, a topic on which she has become the field’s most perceptive critic.

The first is in this month’s Nature Physics, entitled Science needs reason to be trusted. I’ll quote fairly extensively so that you get the gist of her argument:

But we have a crisis of an entirely different sort: we produce a huge amount of new theories and yet none of them is ever empirically confirmed. Let’s call it the overproduction crisis. We use the approved methods of our field, see they don’t work, but don’t draw consequences. Like a fly hitting the window pane, we repeat ourselves over and over again, expecting different results. More.

Hossenfelder is right about the situation, surely. But physicists are not flies. They don’t keep hitting the pane just hoping it will somehow work. At this point, they know it probably won’t work. But no one wants to say we are on the wrong track. The right tract may not be Correct. Hitting the pane is painful but safer.

See also: 2016 worst year ever for “fake physics”?

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One Reply to “Theoretical physics like a fly hitting a window pane?

  1. 1
    jstanley01 says:

    In my view, there is nothing wrong with science. Within its proper compass, the scientific method is alive and well and doing just fine. The problem is with this generation’s cohort of scientists. It appears to me that they don’t like where the method is leading them, because of personal philosophical commitments that they refuse to admit, in behalf of which nevertheless, they are willing to fudge the method from here to sundown.

    About the perception that the scientific method is hitting some kind of permanent hard limit, my hypothesis is that this is a misperception caused by an overpopulation of scientists in this generation’s cohort. An overpopulation which is wholly a function of the politicos in government subsidizing the education and research of this generation’s cohort with “other people’s money.” The taxpayer’s, that is.

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