Theory of Everything going no where fast!

The non amateur stuff. Hawking, black holes, that sort of thing

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Cliff
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Theory of Everything going no where fast!

Post by Cliff »

A New Scientist (10 dec 2005) article summarised.We are in a period of confusion according to Nobel laureate (for work on the strong nuclear force) David Gross's summing up of the recent Solvay conference on quantum structure of space.
General relativity is incompatible with quantum yteory. Since the 1960's theorists have struggled with the problems to no avail. The great hope, string theory, has generated myriad mathematical descriptions limited to the dance of particles, but at best string theory depicts how particles might interact in a collection of hypothetical universes. For decades string theorists have been excused from testing their ideas against experimental results. When astronomers discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe which string theory completely fails to account for many string theorists took shelter in a remarkable excuse; that their equations describe all possible universes and should not be tied to matching data in just one. But when theory does not match the one data set we have, is it science?
There is a joke circulating on physics blogs; that we can after all call our universe unique. Why? Because it is the only one that string theory cannot describe.
There is a growing feeling that string theory has run into sand.
Gross thinks we are missing something fundanmental. we need a leap in understanding, though where it will come from is unclear.
The search for a Theory of Everything is apparently in a very sorry state.
Best of luck from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff SO IS THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER THE LAST CHANCE SALOON FOR STRING THEORY? My breath is BA(i)TED AGAIN.
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Post by joe »

We put our Xmas tree up tonight...and I've probably had one or two glasses of port too many and should not write much under the influence... but Cliff, why do I detect a feeling of joy or satisfaction that physicists might not (yet) have the answer?
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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Joe
I did read your 10th Dec. post.
Just to let you know that I did try to send a lengthy response but my message did not seem to get into the system. Perhaps the system is trying to tell me something?
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by joe »

Hi Cliff,

Now that I've re-read your post sober, for some reason the feelings of "joy" and "satisfaction" don't seem quite so prominent. Maybe it was for the best that your post got lost :shock:
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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Joe
Thanks again!
I am glad you said that.
Although needless to say I will say that I am not a fan of String theory, but I do like to think I am reasonably fair minded.
So if anything comes along in my lifetime to suggest String Theory is on the right track I will hold my hands up. On the other hand just because I do not fully understand something as far as I am concerned that does not mean to say I have to think it is right. Indeed from what I gather even ardent String Theorists do not properly understand String Theory yet. The question is will they ever dol?
As I have said before (long windedly no doubt) some years ago I attended an Aetherius Society (I possibly spelt that organisation's name wrongly by the way). Aetherians believe their leader was beamed up into a space craft from Venus which was cruising over London sometime in the 1950s and he had a discussion with Venusians. In the lecture question time when asked by someone in the audience (not me!) how could anyone survive on Venus where the temperature was so high? The answer given was that Venusians could live in an extra dimension.
I personally cannot stomach the idea of there being extra dimensions (although arguably I might be going into one in the not too distant future).
So String Theory with its 9, 10 or whatever extra number of dimensions it might want to have is a nonsense to me.
As far as I am concerned if string theory proves to be right, it may be very difficult to say the aetherians are wrong and as far as I know the Aetherians may only need one extra dimension, nothing like as many as string theory.
I suppose the fate of String Theory will probably hang in the balance at least until the Large Hadron Collider springs into action. If that does not come up with anything in support of support of String Theory then I suspect Strings will go away.
Best of luck from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
PS by the way I am struggling a bit with the Lisa Randall "Warped Passages" book. I am now about half way through its 400 or so pages. I am determined to finish reading it although it may take me a few weeks yet. I will reserve making a judgement until I have finished reading it.
I do not think a one liner will do!
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:As far as I am concerned if string theory proves to be right, it may be very difficult to say the aetherians are wrong and as far as I know the Aetherians may only need one extra dimension, nothing like as many as string theory.
Like I've said before -- there's a well in my garden, I can offer photographic proof that it exists and there's two eyewitnesses to the fact that it exists on this BB. If I told you there was an alien being living in the well would you take the existence of the well to be enough evidence of the my claim about the alien being?
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
Speaking as a theoretical science layman, but having an some leaning towards science, having worked as an engineer using old fashioned scientific methods as far as I am concerned personally the idea of needing several extra dimemsions is a cop out. If anyone actually proves there to be just one extra dimension I might have some sympathy for the Aetherians but it seems even then there will still be several more to go before string theory is acceptable.
Incidentally, if I read a fairly recent Scientific American article correctly, Lisa Randall who has written the Warped Passages book that I am currently reading, is not strictly a string theory believer.
As for your well, perhaps it would depend on the depth as to what the answer might be.
However, from what New Scientist says I should not be joking about the matter, because it seems that physics is in deep trouble at the moment. What with no kids wanting to do physics, not enough physics teachers, and on top of that amateur astronomers are becoming an old aged lot (me being one of them). As things stand string theory seems to noe be haning by its last thread. I am afraid it rather reminds me of the bloke who wrote to the RAF during the war with what he thought was a good idea. He suggested placing a special capsule in aircraft fuel tanks. His idea being that when the plane got hit the capsule burst open and fluid ran out renering the fuel un-inflamable. However, when the Raf asked for moere details the chap said he did not know what to put in the capsule or make the capsule out of.
I think it will be interesting what the Large Hadron Collider eventually does come up with. However, I will be pleasantly surprised if it solves the origin of the Universe issue. My own opinion is that solving the origin of the universe is beyond humankind's ability.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Spewmaster Old Codger Cliff.
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:Speaking as a theoretical science layman, but having an some leaning towards science, having worked as an engineer using old fashioned scientific methods as far as I am concerned personally the idea of needing several extra dimemsions is a cop out.
Why? You've said this many times over but you've never really said why it's a "cop out".
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
This is a difficult one. I am reasonably comfortable with newtonian mechanics and the like. The mathematical niceities of serious relativity are probably beyond me and quantum mechanics is in the main an interesting mystery. However, I worked as a civil engineer, though in a lowly capacity all my working life, except my Army national service when I was actually a radio mechanic in the army. When we got demobbed one of the lads actually got a job in electronics apparently working on transistors which were really hot stuff then just off the press so as to speak. I mention that because although it is pretty ancient I do have some general grounding in scientific things. I like to think i have both a feel for science and some considerable sympathy for science (what I consider real science). By the same token I have virtually no interest in science fiction. Although there are a few examples of science fiction I have liked, but in the main I find it boring. I find real things interesting enough eg the stars I can observe. I am not for stretching the immagination too far. I do not attribute Leonardo with the invention of the helicopter (although I like to give credit to Aristarchus for his ideas about the Earth and planets going round the Sun). - although even Aristarchus might not have been first with the idea.
It all boils down to me having gut feelings what is right and wrong.
For example I used to be quite a keen model aircraft enthusiast and even had ambitions to be a pilot in my youth, but I was never a fan of Concorde. Now my ideas about aviation are even more extreme. I think air travel is far too cheap and now becoming a very serious environmental problem. All part of my theory (or rather conjecture that humankind may have already gone beyond the point of no return and now be doomed!).
As usual I am long winded but give all that background to indicate how I come to some judgements even if I cannot provide what might be called definitive reasons.
However, from what I read about string theory (which I must confess until recently was very much a mystery to me, I have now come to the feeling that string theory is on extremely shakey ground. It has been given a reasonable chance to prove itself or be proved but seems to be going nowhere. Indeed some reputable scientists are saying that string theory does not even qualify as a scientific theory, but is really nothing more than conjecture (perhaps no more valid than my doomed Earth idea).
Now obviously I personally cannot disprove string theory. As far as I am concerned personally I have no need to disprove it even if I could. Until someone comes up with something really concrete to show that string theory has real merit, then it has no great serious interest to me.
At the moment I am reading Lisa Randall's book "Warped Passages" because although I do not feel string theory has much merit since I do have a general interest in anything related to cosmology I am prepared to give it some of my time and give it more consideration. In any case by reading about string theory, I might just get some interesting ideas in other directions which I find more fruitful.
However, as regards to there being more dimensions I will need some convincing that they exist. Although as I get older I cannot help wondering if there is an extra spiritual dimension.
I recall not long before my Dad died, he once said to me
"What's it all about?"
I never offered my Dad an answer, I felt sure he was not asking for one, and he never pursued the issue fany further. As far as I am concerned he was not asking a question, he was making a statement.
As far as I am concerned if my Dad did not know the answer, no one (not humans anyway) ever will.
As I think I have said. from what I gather the Large Hadron Collider may get humans a bit closer to knowing about the origins of the universe. The LHC might even help confirm string theory (MIGHT). Most scientists seem to think the LHC will find some new particles. However, I sometimes wonder if some of the many particles that get discovered realy are completely new or sometimes possibly different manifestations of the the same things. But that is pure conjecture and I might be guilty of delving into science fiction.
I can only say that I am trying to keep an open mind about string theory, but my gut feeling is it is wrong. I will even go further and say that my gut feeling is that solving the ultimate mysteries of the universe is also way beyond the Large Hadron Collider.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:It all boils down to me having gut feelings what is right and wrong.
But, presumably, as someone who has a general interest in "scientific things", you'll recognise that this doesn't really count for anything.
Cliff wrote:Indeed some reputable scientists are saying that string theory does not even qualify as a scientific theory, but is really nothing more than conjecture (perhaps no more valid than my doomed Earth idea).
This I can understand. As I understand it it's more of a working hypothesis than an actual theory.
Cliff wrote:from what I gather the Large Hadron Collider may get humans a bit closer to knowing about the origins of the universe. The LHC might even help confirm string theory (MIGHT). Most scientists seem to think the LHC will find some new particles. However, I sometimes wonder if some of the many particles that get discovered realy are completely new or sometimes possibly different manifestations of the the same things.
Isn't that the central idea of strings?
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
In the world of real theoretical scientists what I might say or think counts for absolutely "zilch". I do not expect them to take any notice of my opinions about string theory, and you have every right to say what you want about my opinions on the matter.
I do not know enough about the issues to give a definitive answer about string theory. However, I think from what you say some sientists and yourself take the view that string theory is an hypothesis not a proper theory. So until the string theory gets put on a proper footing there seems little point trying to extoll its merits yet - baring in mind it has been around for 20 years some sources even say 50 years.
Presumably the Large Hadron Collider will come up with some very interesting results. From what I gather if the LHC does not come up with something pretty positive in support of string theory then ?
As for me I think I have every right to have a hunch based on my own appraisals. I mentioned Concorde previously, I had hunch (based on my own simplistic engineering ideas that Concorde was not the thing to build).
There are still many supporters of Concorde, but as far as i am concerned my ancient hunch was right.
I will not be losing any sleep over string theory but I intend to follow its progress, or lack of it with interest. Its up to the string theory supporters to prove it is right , not me that it is wrong.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:However, I think from what you say some sientists and yourself take the view that string theory is an hypothesis not a proper theory.
Yes, it's my understanding that it's more of a hypothesis than a theory.
Cliff wrote:So until the string theory gets put on a proper footing there seems little point trying to extoll its merits yet - baring in mind it has been around for 20 years some sources even say 50 years.
What do you mean by "extoll its merits"? What sort of thing do you have in mind?
Cliff wrote:As for me I think I have every right to have a hunch based on my own appraisals.
Did I suggest that you couldn't have a "hunch"?
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
From what you say I think we seem to be very much in agreement.
With regards to "extol", I think extol can mean praise and such likes.
As it happens there is yet another article referring to string theory in this weeks "New scientist" (an interview with Professor Leonard Susskind). One of the various things that the article seems to hint at is that the way things are going with respect to string theory developments (or lack of development?) could possibly play into the hands of the intelligent design enthusiasts. I think it might be worth your while to read the article.
Meanwhile I am struggling with Lisa Randall's "Warped Passages". When I have eventually finished reading that may be I will be a liitle wiser (I hope!).
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by joe »

Cliff wrote:As it happens there is yet another article referring to string theory in this weeks "New scientist" (an interview with Professor Leonard Susskind).
Being one of the pioneers of String Theory his new book is on my "must have" Xmas List.
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:With regards to "extol", I think extol can mean praise and such likes.
I know what the word "extol" means, I was wondering about examples of people "trying to extol its merits" in an untimely fashion.
Cliff wrote:As it happens there is yet another article referring to string theory in this weeks "New scientist" (an interview with Professor Leonard Susskind). One of the various things that the article seems to hint at is that the way things are going with respect to string theory developments (or lack of development?) could possibly play into the hands of the intelligent design enthusiasts.
That wouldn't surprise me in the least. The ID anti-scientists work hard to pretend to follow the scientific method but, for the most part, employ its strenghts against science as a whole (cf: the ID "wedge strategy"). In other words, it's not that it plays into their hands, you can do the best science possible and the ID crew will still use it against you.

Still, in a way, I'm almost pleased to hear this. It's long been said that this would be a case of "first they came for the biologist, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a biologist"...
Cliff wrote:I think it might be worth your while to read the article.
If I get near a town this weekend I'll try and grab a copy. Thanks for the heads-up.
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