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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 10/20/2006 :  10:45:08  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
I read a really nice op-ed in today's New York times by Brian Greene (of Elegant Universe fame). It's a nice summary of the challenge to find a GUT (that's Grand University Theory), and how string theory may find an answer.

There's been much discussed lately by some who think it's time to abandon all of string theory because "string theory makes no predictions, there isn't a complete theory yet after more than 20 years of intense effort and a monolithic tribe of arrogant string advocates are hogging resources."

But Greene makes it clear that this isn't the case. I look forward to seeing the results of some of these tests in the near future...

BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 10/20/2006 :  11:01:06   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message
The problem is the obsession with finding the GUT which is possibly a pipe dream and very bad science. I dont think we should abondon ST but it certainly needs to be discussed with a pile of salt.

I want to find the 'smokin' hottie nympho gene', yet If I start with the assumption that the SHNG exists I may drive myself mad trying to find what doesnt exist.

Why do we need things to fit perfectly with our biased view of the universe?

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 10/20/2006 :  12:31:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:

Why do we need things to fit perfectly with our biased view of the universe?


It's not so much our world view as it is pattern recognition.

Who would have ever thought the mountains in the western United States had anything to do with a line of volcanoes in the middle of the Atlantic? That birds have scales for the same reason that we have opposable thumbs? That cosmic background radiation exists for the same reason that our sun is made of of hydrogen?

Geology has plate tectonics, biology has evolution, and astronomy has the big bang. It only seems to make perfect sense that physics would have a unifying theory as well.

Now of course, our world view may be shapped by patterns. But it certainly isn't the case that we just want there to be a unifying theory of physics. We see it happening in all other sciences.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 10/20/2006 :  14:49:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by BigPapaSmurf

The problem is the obsession with finding the GUT which is possibly a pipe dream and very bad science. I dont think we should abondon ST but it certainly needs to be discussed with a pile of salt.

I want to find the 'smokin' hottie nympho gene', yet If I start with the assumption that the SHNG exists I may drive myself mad trying to find what doesnt exist.

Why do we need things to fit perfectly with our biased view of the universe?

Greene tries to address this, BPS:
quote:
First, some context. For nearly 300 years, science has been on a path of consolidation. In the 17th century, Isaac Newton discovered laws of motion that apply equally to a planet moving through space and to an apple falling earthward, revealing that the physics of the heavens and the earth are one. Two hundred years later, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell showed that electric currents produce magnetic fields, and moving magnets can produce electric currents, establishing that these two forces are as united as Midas' touch and gold. And in the 20th century, Einstein's work proved that space, time and gravity are so entwined that you can't speak sensibly about one without the others.

This striking pattern of convergence, linking concepts once thought unrelated, inspired Einstein to dream of the next and possibly final move: merging gravity and electromagnetism into a single, overarching theory of nature's forces.
In other words, trying to unify the four forces of the universe is the next logical step since (presumably) three of the four have been linked. You're right that this may simply not be. But I think Greene makes a compelling case that we should keep looking!
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/20/2006 :  16:11:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Interesting article. The author admits that string theory is as yet incomplete, and as yet cannot make verifiable predictions testable by experiment.

I'm glad Brian Greene accepts that String Theory should be subject to the same evidentiary standards as the rest of science. I don't reject string theory, or call for its halt. I do agree that the search for a grand unified theory is justified and important. Once there really is a String Theory (a complete theory, not dozens or hundreds of incomplete ones), and if it then can then be tested, fine. But in the meantime I won't take it too seriously. And I do think it is a good idea not to put all our Theory of Everything eggs into the same string basket.

Now, if you want to talk about physicists spending billions each year on research for far longer, the search for commercially practical hydrogen fusion reactors comes to mind.

Since 1946, almost all my long life, the hope of reaching and exceeding the "break-even" point with controlled fusion has been right around the corner. Even if a lot of time and money is being wasted on String Theory, the Stingfellows are pikers compared to the controlled fusion lot.



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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