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Old 12-16-2012, 06:40 AM
 
Location: Vermont
10,305 posts, read 11,216,655 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kentmum View Post
Thank you. I guess what I'm saying is that I have a hard time believing anything unless there is hard physical evidence or at least something that can be tested and proven. I guess if the scientists themselves acknowledge that they are just theories, then I can go along with that. Thank you, your response was helpful.


I didn't mean really to compare theoretical physics with an actual 'church style' religion of any kind. I meant it as a metaphor and as way of explaining my thoughts on the human mind having to accept some pretty difficult new concepts.
You're spending too much time listening to the creationists if you think saying that something is "just a theory" is equivalent to saying it's unsupported by evidence or mere speculation. You need to spend more time reading and thinking about what science really is and what it takes for an idea to qualify to be a scientific theory.

Hint: even before we landed on the moon, the idea that the moon was made of green cheese was not a theory.
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Old 12-16-2012, 10:37 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
6,861 posts, read 3,783,816 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackmccullough View Post
You're spending too much time listening to the creationists if you think saying that something is "just a theory" is equivalent to saying it's unsupported by evidence or mere speculation. You need to spend more time reading and thinking about what science really is and what it takes for an idea to qualify to be a scientific theory.

Hint: even before we landed on the moon, the idea that the moon was made of green cheese was not a theory.
First of all, I would never spend even a nanosecond listening to anything a creationist would say so I don't know where you plucked that from. Secondly how do you know how much time I spend or have spent 'reading and thinking about what science really is'? Thirdly maybe you would like to tell me how string theory fits the conventional criteria of being 'a theory'?
String theory is currently only a mathematical framework. It is currently unsupported by evidence of any kind and there is nothing that can be tested or observed. There are so many variants of string theory with so few unique predictions, that scientists don’t even know what to look for. String theory requires any number of extra dimensions (guessing at 10 or 11) and deals with mass-less particles, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to test.
There are many eminent physicists who are critical of string theory. Richard Feynman himself was a critic. Peter Wolt has an ongoing blog on the subject and wrote this paper:
Is String Theory Even Wrong? American Scientist
I think what he says here is important:

Quote:
What can be done to inject more diversity of thought into this great quest of theoretical physics? Even granting that string theory is an idea that deserves to be developed, how can people be encouraged to come up with promising alternatives? I would argue that a good first step would be for string theorists to acknowledge publicly the problems and cease their tireless efforts to sell this questionable theory to secondary school teachers, science reporters and program officers.
String theory is currently so popular that in danger of being being believed by the public as if it is scientific fact.

Finally, I have never at any point said I'm not buying string theory, in fact it currently being the only unifying theory out there I'm all for for it being true, just that I'd like to see scientists coming up with at least a method of testing it first. For centuries people have believed in things which are intangable with no evidence and I'm not sure I'm ready for that just yet.
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Old 12-16-2012, 11:36 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
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Is your problem just with string theory or theoretical physics in general? If the former, then perhaps the thread title is misleading. If the latter, you appear to be letting this one particular area of theoretical physics represent the whole, whether or not that was your intention.

What is now classed as natural law began as theories.

And if focused just on the string theory, embracing it with be congruent with religious faith if the nature of the belief was..."This is the answer, there can be no other answer." Does that describe how science approaches things? Isn't it..."This seems very promising as the answer and until it is proven non viable, I shall lean toward it as the answer, but if it is established that it is not, then it never was the answer."
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:23 PM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
6,861 posts, read 3,783,816 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
Is your problem just with string theory or theoretical physics in general? If the former, then perhaps the thread title is misleading. If the latter, you appear to be letting this one particular area of theoretical physics represent the whole, whether or not that was your intention.

What is now classed as natural law began as theories.

And if focused just on the string theory, embracing it with be congruent with religious faith if the nature of the belief was..."This is the answer, there can be no other answer." Does that describe how science approaches things? Isn't it..."This seems very promising as the answer and until it is proven non viable, I shall lean toward it as the answer, but if it is established that it is not, then it never was the answer."
Well okay, I will concede that the title was perhaps slightly sensationalist. If all you had done was read the title then yes then maybe you could have misconstrued my intention. The title was there simply to emphasise a point. If you read past the title, you would have found I don't have any problem with theoretical physics, quite the opposite, I find it all endlessly fascinating. Maybe I didn't make this obvious enough. Yes I am picking on string theory, but I don't even have a 'problem' with the hypotheses string theory puts forward as such. I am open to the ideas put forward - it answers a lot of questions about the universe but at the same time throws up as many questions. And I very much hope someday scientists come up with some more tangible proof, otherwise it will all have been a huge waste of time and money. Its a very subtle point but its not the science as such I have a problem with.
Part of the job of science is to question, observe and find answers. What I am doing here is questioning an unproven, unobservable theory. If you had been working on string theory before 1995, you would have had to have chosen between 5 conflicting versions of string theory. Which one to choose? (do you see an atheist connection here?) Actually, it didn't matter which version because none of them were or are testable. Then Edward Witten comes up with M-theory which unifies all the theories. Still untestable. In which case is it any more relevant than the previous 5? I don't know, I am just asking questions here, something which currently few people are doing, no matter how outlandish the possibilities string theorists come up with.

I agree with the second part of your post, no problem with that.

Interestingly I came across this website today:

http://www.phys.ens.fr/~troost/beyon...ry/index2.html in which the author states:


Quote:
Unfortunately, to this day, following me into chapter IV, String Theory, and onward, indeed still requires a leap of faith. Although there are extremely strong theoretical reasons to doubt the Standard Model and the theory of General Relativity, there are no clear cut experiments yet that contradict them, nor are there experiments that verify predictions made by String Theory. Nevertheless, the technical and theoretical arguments for String Theory seem so strong to me, that I have no trouble taking the leap.
which kind of gives me the answer to my original question.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:02 PM
 
Location: Somewhere out there
9,616 posts, read 11,369,507 times
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Default Theory, Schmee-oh-ree!

But...I personally do prefer that we of The Critically Open-Minded & Inquisitive Set do proceed unabated and un-fettered by some illogical laws or Christian mandates and limits to such thought. With our "theoretical investigations", at least we are trying to get somewhere, to tinker with all the possible permutations and options until, voila, like with Darwin's insights and those of other luminaries, the truth is indeed found out. To move the human needle of knowledge ever forward.

Or at least... a plausible and potentially working version of pretty much anything we are still in need of understanding on, supported by lots of supporting observations! And thus it all swings from an hypothesis into the beginnings of a working "theory" in the scientific sense, not the "Let's write it off as just another damned scientists' "theory [or bad guess, as we call them!]"

This is exactly how progress, not stultified anti-progress, is achieved. Too bad it ruffles the establishment feathers so much, eh? But again, one does understand why the truth would do that..
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:11 AM
 
Location: New Mexico
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Lightbulb Is Theoretical Physics the new religion?

No.

Religion is an article of faith.

Physics isn't.
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:32 AM
 
16,596 posts, read 14,066,182 times
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1. Modern cosmology due to a general lack of ability to test empirically for some or even most of its ideas is becoming more and more a philosophy than a science.

2. String theory is not an apt term as it does not meet the criteria to be a theory. String hypothesis would be a much better name.
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:51 AM
 
Location: Hyrule
8,398 posts, read 9,885,877 times
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[quote=Kentmum;27339961]Is Theoretical Physics the new religion?

Only if you want it to be.

People are religious about all kinds of things. Doesn't make it a religion.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:10 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
3,334 posts, read 5,259,559 times
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The whole world of theoretical physics is way beyond the total understanding of the layman. Being an engineer myself and a person who had to take an awful lot of math and physics in college, theoritical physics makes my head hurt. I have tried to read books on string theory and, while I get the basic premise, I get totally lost when it comes to the math of it. It is way beyond my comprehension. When I watch "The Big Bang Theory" and see Sheldon (the theoretical physicist) taking pot shots at Howard (the engineer with "only" a Masters degree), I laugh because I get it.

Many, if not most, aspects of theoretical physics are just that: theoretical. Many of the sub-atomic particles described only exist in the math. These physicists often disagree with each other, some of them end up tossing out their own theories and postulates and come up with new ones, just to toss those aside and start over. Some of them spend entire life-times chasing down the math of their theories and never finding it let alone any type of observable evidence. They are, to use a cliche, way above my pay grade. In the end, all I can do is just try to understand as best I can and end up taking their word for it.

All that being said, this does not mean that someday they won't be able to observe some of those things. If you would have told physicists just some 60 or 70 years ago that we could literally observe atoms, they would have scofffed. But here we are now being able to do so using the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). Since the invention of the STM in 1981, these instruments have become so sophisticated that physicists have been able to observe electrons being ejected from their valence shell and observe spin orientations. These things can see at the subangstrom resolution now. It's crazy and exciting all at the same time. Scientists and engineers are also working on quantum computers and related instruments to be able to observe that world. It was estimated that it would 25 to 40 years for the quantum computer to become reality, but recent developments have reduced that timeline to a decade.

The point of all that is that who knows what will be observable in the future? Relgion...no. For those of us outside the world of theoretical physics (meaning we don't have the background or, dare I say, the intelligence for it), we do have to simply take their word for it to a degree making it seem like a matter of faith. But when we understand how those people go about doing their business, it is clearly not a religious issue.

Last edited by Fullback32; 12-27-2012 at 11:32 AM..
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:45 AM
 
Location: The Pacific Northwest
283 posts, read 434,326 times
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Firstly: don't get too enamored with the whole String Theory concept. It has fallen out of favor with most of the prominent particle physicists these days. (It was Brian Green and his great--but controversial book, "The Elegant Universe" which garnered this theory national attention several years ago. A TV series was also made from it.)
In fact, just last month scientists at the huge atom-smasher (LHC) in Geneva announced they finally found the elusive "God Particle" which they feel ties in quantam physics and Eisntein's Theory of Relativity & gravity. And if I recall correctly, the particle was not of the "string" variety.
As far as science and religion? Many scientists believe in a God of some sort, and indeeed the theoretical physicists seem to have the largest percentage who believe in God of any of the hard science fields. True, most of these guys believe in a "deist" rather than a "theist" God, that is, more of a "Universal Guiding Intelligence" rather than a personal, biblical sort of Creator.
Francis Crick, who won a Nobel Prize and helped finish the Human Genome project wrote a book on his belief in God, called "The Language of God." It was written in response to biologist Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion."
You should do what I did and read both, back-to-back for a nice spectrum of the types of belief or dis-belief.

Eisntein also believed in God, as evidenced by his famous quote (which, btw was in annoyed response to the confusion and uncertainty principles of quantum physics):

"God does not play dice with the Universe!"
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