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  1. #1
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    Default Theoretical Physics: Close to an Answer or Off in Left Field



    A while back, a friend and I were discussing the current drive to find the one theory that explains everything, meshes gravitational physics with quantum physics, yada, yada, yada. I kind of feel we are headed down a dead end road. Many physicists are inside a box and ignoring and dismissing revolutionary work being done by "rogue" scientists. The direction the main group of physicists is working in will never get them where they want to go. The answer lies elsewhere.

    Gut reaction on my part. I am no expert, I'm not even a theoretical physics geek, but it interests me enough and I watch/read what I can when its available. I know enough to be dangerous, so to speak.

    Watching Through the Wormhole the other night reminded me of that conversation. The last episode was about that equation for everything and they presented some really compelling theories that try and get there, many which are outside accepted scientific theory. Real crackpot stuff, or at least that is how it was presented. I would guess they are like Congress, bash each other to bloody pulps arguing, then go have drinks.

    So, what do you think? Are they headed in the right direction, on the verge of a monumental discovery or are they on a wild goose chase that will come to an end when some 20-something whizkid comes along with a wild theory or some crazy mad scientist finally proves his crackpot ideas are right and physics will be turned on it's head? I suppose the third option is yes to both. Current work will mix with some crazy, out of the box stuff to yield an answer, but what fun is that?

    Not a poll, just wondering your thoughts.
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  3. #2
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    I think that theoretical physicists need to pay more attention to alternatives to String Theory such as Loop Quantum Gravity. With String Theory I feel like theoretical physics has been stuck in a rut for decades with no obvious progress. Compare the rate of progress in fundamental physics in the past 40 years compared to any other 40-year period since the start of the 20th century. I note that there *has* been progress (e.g. neutrino masses) but these have not come from work in string theory. Maybe string theory will yet turn out to be right, but I think it is about time to put effort into pursuing alternative ideas.
    Last edited by DanielC; 07-19-2011 at 09:06 AM.
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  5. #3
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    I think that problem not in theory. There are a lot of crazy theories now, and may be some theory are crazy enough to be right. But we don't know what theory is right, we don't have enough experiments or observational data to choose what theory is correct. And this is major problem.

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  7. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by astroval View Post
    I think that problem not in theory. There are a lot of crazy theories now, and may be some theory are crazy enough to be right. But we don't know what theory is right, we don't have enough experiments or observational data to choose what theory is correct. And this is major problem.
    I disagree. The problem is not that we have too many theories. Can you name five current theories? I would say that the problems are:

    1) There is no theory of quantum gravity developed enough to actually merge GR and QFT at all.

    2) Theoretical physicists should be exploring a variety of ideas but instead they all study string theory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by flyfishnevada View Post
    Are they headed in the right direction, on the verge of a monumental discovery or are they on a wild goose chase that will come to an end when some 20-something whizkid comes along with a wild theory or some crazy mad scientist finally proves his crackpot ideas are right and physics will be turned on it's head? I suppose the third option is yes to both.
    Or perhaps No to both.

    Are they headed in the right direction? Perhaps Daniel can convince me otherwise, but they don't seem to be headed in any direction at all at the moment. There are several ideas, but none of them work terribly well yet.

    Will some whiz-kid with a crackpot theory solve it? No. There is an alarming excess of kids with crackpot ideas, none of whom have the slightest idea how science is done, and none of whom, therefore will solve anything.

    No one will "prove" a new theory right, because that's not how it works. Theories are accepted provisionally until someone comes along with a better one. Physics will not be "turned on its head", because the theories we have now work too well. They will simply be modified as new data and new explanations come along.

    I am not ruling out the possibility that a true genius will come up with a revolutionary theory that will solve some of the outstanding questions. But that person will be working within the framework of existing theory, and the true work of genius will be his explanation of how the new theory integrates with the old, not in overthrowing it.
    Last edited by KathyNS; 07-19-2011 at 04:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KeithBC View Post
    No one will "prove" a new theory right, because that's not how it works. Theories are accepted provisionally until someone comes along with a better one. Physics will not be "turned on its head", because the theories we have now work too well. They will simply be modified as new data and new explanations come along.
    Good points, playing fast and loose with the terms there, but you got my drift I hope.

    The major theories, gravitational and quantum physics, don't work together well at all. The work by themselves at describing how things work, but not with each other. I don't quibble with those, only how they might be reconciled. That's where I think they are on the wrong track, or on many wrong tracks.

    Again, what do I know?
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanielC View Post
    The problem is not that we have too many theories. Can you name five current theories?
    No problem - there are 5 candidates for Theory of everything:

    1) String theory and M-theory
    2) Loop quantum gravity
    3) Causal dynamical triangulation
    4) E8 Theory
    5) Entropic gravity

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    Quote Originally Posted by astroval View Post
    No problem - there are 5 candidates for Theory of everything:

    1) String theory and M-theory
    2) Loop quantum gravity
    3) Causal dynamical triangulation
    4) E8 Theory
    5) Entropic gravity

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    From this list, only String Theory and E8 hope to be a theory of everything (the others are only gravity), and only String Theory, QLG and CDT are reasonably developed. E8 is just a preprint, and Etronpic gravity is similarly just a recent hypothesis, though interesting ones.
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    Has any of these theories yet explained gravity?

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    I vote for the String Theory. Not for the explanation of gravity necessarily but it is the most plausible for the whole shebang! Sort of anyway. Hard and fast rules of Science disappear like wisps of smoke in sunlight. Debate finds the truth.

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