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Featured I Is the multiverse fake physics?

  1. Feb 10, 2017 #61


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    Well, I put in my two cents. I think that Sean Carroll's work is worth every penny that is spent on it.

    I think that if you go down the road of blasting stuff as "fake science", you're treading very dangerous territory. Climate science is the first to go, as we have seen.

    It seemed to me that the tone of this thread was about whether it is legitimate science. It seems like a completely different thread to talk about how taxpayer research dollars should best be spent. For one thing, if you're worried about the money spent, that you have to take into account how much it costs. Theorizing about infinitely many universes is not more expensive than theorizing about just one.
  2. Feb 10, 2017 #62


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    The term fake science is too emotional and an obvious intent to associate it with contemporary caustic politics.

    You are correct, but I think overly harsh. If we applied that strictly, then discussion of MWI or string theory or QM interpretations and this very thread would not be allowed on PF because they aren't mainstream science.

    I suggest that a more sensible term would be "provisional physics" That implies speculative research that is on probation. It can be investigated for a finite time with finite resources in the hope that testable predictions will result. Speculative research is allowed provided that reasonable hope exists that it will produce real science in the near future. @astrobassist gives us an example of such hope. If we required a testable prediction as a precondition to spending the first $1, then we could shut down progress. Einstein worked on GR from 1907 to 1915 before producing testable predictions.
    But I also believe that we should be fully transparent and more systematic in public funding of provisional physics which is what @Dr. Courtney said.

    It would be quite proper for the President to order NSF to publish reports revealing provisional science expenditures, and to publish their process and criteria for cutting off funds when they determine that hope is no longer reasonable. If Congress wanted to put a cap on provisional science (such as 5% of NSF funds) that would be proper. It is also necessary to allow the public into debates about such policy about public spending.

    Finally, @stevendaryl makes a good point. We should permit such arguments on appeal of funds cutoff.
  3. Feb 10, 2017 #63
    It is foolish to argue that a standard to determine what is real science and what is fake science should never be applied.

    There will always be a need to blast stuff as "fake science." Or should we be silent on AIDS denialism, vaccine pseudoscience, and all the lastest snake oil and miracle cures?

    If you look in the Acknowledgement sections most of the papers, you'll see that the greater majority of this work is funded with taxpayer dollars. Curbing the enthusiasm for pseudoscience almost always requires curbing the funding.

    Both the Woit blog and a lot of Sean Carroll's blog posts speak loud and clear to the funding issues. When the bulk of support comes from taxes, the scientific merit of the work cannot really be separated from whether funding is warranted.

    Of course, the same physicists could always be more productively employed teaching or researching theories that are actually testable.

    Otherwise, we may as well spend taxpayer funds on art and music.
  4. Feb 10, 2017 #64


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    I think we just entered the demarcation problem.
  5. Feb 13, 2017 #65
    The average person, without a scientific background, is not able to judge whether something is science or pseudoscience. They have no way of telling the difference. They have to rely on experts to make that determination for them.

    This means the public can not be directly involved in deciding what science should be funded, based on its merits. This is not true for other subjects. An educated member of the public can form a reasoned opinion on the best use of tax payers regarding non-science spending, even if they are not an expert on those other subjects, such as whether we should fund a specific military jet, an oil pipeline, government health care, agricultural subsidies, a program to teach children to read, or any number of subjects. However, the same person would be incapable of forming any opinion whatsoever on whether we should spend money on the search for axions. When the debate about government spending on a fundamental physics project becomes a public political debate, it degenerates into a farcical charade. Think of the political debate about funding the Superconducting Super Collider. The public and the politicians did not have slightest clue what this machine was supposed to do, or look for, so the best argument that the proponents could come up with was that it would bring jobs to Texas, which played into the hands of critics, who claimed that it was just pork barrel spending. I remember watching the McLaughlin group on PBS, and Jack Germond was arguing in favor of the project by claiming that it would lead to technology that would improve our daily lives, which I knew was ludicrous. What this means is that the debate about government spending on physics can not, and should not be politicized. Instead, funding should be determined by experts similar to a referee or peer review process.
  6. Feb 13, 2017 #66
    Sixty years of fusion 'breakthroughs' promising unlimited energy 'just around the corner' make a good counter argument. When scientists benefit from public resources, they must also allow public scrutiny.
  7. Feb 13, 2017 #67


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    I agree that a layman can't have a specific opinion on something like axions. But as I suggested in #62, NSF should have written policies and procedures for determining what should be funded, and the public can and should have a voice in those policies and procedures.

    Among other things, we taxpayers must protect ourselves from "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. collusion between scientists." I would want to see participants in the decisions who have no skin in the science game or the research industry, and are thus free from real or apparent conflicts.

    I learned to be skeptical by witnessing many cases of misspent research grants given by organizations whose performance was measured by how much money they spent, rather than by the benefits produced to the public. Some taxpayers may be satisfied that GAO says that they audited NSF. I am not one of them.
  8. Feb 13, 2017 #68


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    But fusion is clearly not fake physics. Consider the time from first serious experiments with human gliding to commercially viable flight. That was centuries. The always wrong predictions were a problem, but what if no predictions were ever made? Since, at each point, the next major hurdle was unknown, there really was no basis for predictions.
  9. Feb 13, 2017 #69
    Cold fusion may not have been fake, but it was wrong. Fake suggests intent to deceive. But wrong is wrong, and the funding sources should have an honest assessment on the potential for valid and promising results on the timelines of interest.

    But the issue with aspects of string theory and multiverses is that it is not even wrong. Testable hypotheses like cold fusion can be wrong.

  10. Feb 13, 2017 #70
    Most scientific theories were at one time just hypothetical speculations.
    Controlled nuclear fusion power experiments is expensive and have been ongoing for a long time, but the benefits that it could produce is exceptional....
    Many many other issues also, alternative propulsion methods to take us further, validation of QGT's like string and its derivitives, would give us knowledge and where that knowledge could lead to is extraordinary.
    Is there anything really that science should not try to explain?
    Without science, without reasonable speculation, and hypotheticals, and subsequently scientific theories, we would still be swinging in the trees.
    Think how much money would be available if all nations ceased their militaristic endeavours..Yeah OK, perhaps I have watched to much Star Trek, and perhaps that maybe wishful thinking, still wouldn't it be great? :smile:
  11. Feb 13, 2017 #71


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    Who said anything about cold fusion? The post I replied to was clearly referring to the mainline fusion research program.
  12. Feb 13, 2017 #72


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    It would be hard to be more extreme than that. Your arguments are so open-ended that they call for an indefinite amount of money for an indefinite number of years, without any promise of advancing the state of the art ever.

    Look, some science is more speculative than other science, but they all compete for the same dollars. How would you slice the money pie between things promising near term benefits as opposed to far in the future long shots?
  13. Feb 13, 2017 #73
    It is not fake news, just not well enough defined yet. A breakthrough description will help.
  14. Feb 13, 2017 #74


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    I admire your optimism but not your grasp of reality.
  15. Feb 13, 2017 #75
    Obviously I do not agree. Controlled nuclear fusion certainly is worth it.
    I also remember some arguing about the benefits from the space age in general, and particularly putting men in orbit, the ISS and Moon landings.
    The space race started with Sputnik and Satellites. There is now not too many areas of science and human endeavour that does not benefit from Satellites....meteorology, agriculture GPS just to name three that immediately come to mind.

    Certainly some are more speculative then others, and possibly more beneficial also if success is achieved.
    Slicing available funds up is and probably always will be a problem, unless we achieve what I suggested, but at this time that is a long shot.
    And yes, probably also funds have been directed to useless endeavours no matter which way one choses to look at it.
  16. Feb 13, 2017 #76
    Obviously, we can't fund everything in physics. There has to be a selection process. You should make the decision? Should it be based on opinion polls of the public? I think the decision should be made by physicists. Most physicists would say that cold fusion is "fake physics" but mainstream physics research is legitimate, and worth funding. If you left it up to opinion polls, the public might decide to fund cold fusion but not mainstream fusion research! It is ridiculous to suggest that to much of the tax payer's money is spent on speculating about the multiverse. I don't think any money is spent on that, or virtually none.

    Physics is different than other subjects, including other fields of natural science.

    A member of the public who is not a biologist can form a well informed opinion about whether the government should fund a program to identify specific genes within the human genome.

    A member of the public who is not a physicist can not form any opinion whatsoever about whether the government should fund a program to look for neutrinoless double beta decay.

    Physics is uniquely inaccessible to the public which can not evaluate the relative merit of various physics programs. The public should support government spending on physics in general but should not be involved in picking and choosing which specific physics proposals should receive what funding.
  17. Feb 13, 2017 #77
    I basically agree with most of what you have said......Note, I have not entertained "cold fusion" but I certainly go along with the position that the general public is generally not really qualified to make a decision, and yes, that decision should be made by a panel of scientists represented from all disciplines.
  18. Feb 13, 2017 #78


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    Are you sure? There are stable orbits inside the ergoregion, but that's still outside the outer horizon. I was not aware that there were stable orbits inside the outer horizon.
  19. Feb 13, 2017 #79


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    Thread locked for possible moderation.
  20. Feb 15, 2017 #80


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    After discussing the issue, it has been decided that the thread will remain closed.
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