The difference between hard science

turak

Main Question or Discussion Point

and theoretical science: I have somebody I want to set straight about the difference between unproven theories: and proven hard science that is used daily. The answer coming from a real scientist or engineer will have more of an impact then coming from me.

Can anyone here give a lucid explanation as to the difference between these two kinds of science? I would much appreciate it. Thanks.

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turak
and theoretical science. I have somebody I want to set straight about the difference beteen unproven scientific theories, and hard science that has been tested and proven and is used daily. Coming from a real scientist will have more of an impact on this person. Can anyone here give a lucid explanation as to the difference between the two?

Thanks.

DaveC426913
Gold Member
I dunno, um...

GPS satellites need to be calibrated to account for general relativity (being at the bottom of a gravity well) or they would not work properly. Don't care how dubious you are about GR, it is used in day-to-day consumer technology.

Semiconducting transistors would not work if quantum mechanics was an invalid theory.

Danger
Gold Member
Welcome to PF, Turak.
I'm not sure what official definitions apply. To me, 'hard' science is anything with a physical basis, as opposed to 'social' science which is more along the lines of sociology, politics, economics, etc.. I'm not a scientist, though.

russ_watters
Mentor
I don't know if those are commonly-used terms, but I would agree with Dave's definition/deliniation. "Hard" science would be somethign so well established that engineers can use it without worrying at all about the theory breaking down in their domain of applicability.

turak

I'm not asking to give a list of science theories thatare hard tested, and theries that are not proven and not tested. I'm asking for a scientist to give a lucid explanation as to the difference between har science and theoretical science: As in definition: defining the two terms. Explaining what the differnece is.

I dunno, um...

GPS satellites need to be calibrated to account for general relativity (being at the bottom of a gravity well) or they would not work properly. Don't care how dubious you are about GR, it is used in day-to-day consumer technology.

Semiconducting transistors would not work if quantum mechanics was an invalid theory.

turak
I am not asking for examples of hard science and theoretical science: I am asking doe someone to explain the difference between the two: as in general basic explanation.

I am not sure they are so mutually exclusive.

D H
Staff Emeritus
I have somebody I want to set straight about the difference between unproven theories: and proven hard science that is used daily.
It appears you might be the one who needs to be set straight. "Unproven theory" is an oxymoron. Conjectures and hypotheses in science are called just that until sufficient evidence has been accumulated in their favor. Theory in science is as good as it gets.

What exactly do you mean by "hard science" and "theoretical science"? In most circles this term refers to physics, chemistry, geology, and biology, as opposed to psychology, archaeology, sociology -- the "soft sciences". I suspect you mean "established science" instead of "hard science" and, well, I dunno, instead of "theoretical science".

dst
Well, there's physics and there's... string theory.

*gets coat*

http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309064066&page=2

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

The atomic theory of matter is an unproven scientific theory, but it has a massive amount of evidence in its favor which support its fact claims, which of course, is all that counts.

Well, there's physics and there's... string theory.

*gets coat*
String theory makes testable predictions.

D H
Staff Emeritus
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String theory makes testable predictions.
But none of them are both new and testable.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
2018 Award
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and theoretical science: I have somebody I want to set straight about the difference between unproven theories: and proven hard science that is used daily. The answer coming from a real scientist or engineer will have more of an impact then coming from me.

Can anyone here give a lucid explanation as to the difference between these two kinds of science? I would much appreciate it. Thanks.
I'd say the answer to both your question is there probably isn't any real difference, in the same way there isn't between post#1 and post#2.

I tall depends on your perspective.

Post#1 is identicle to post#2, but in terms of html/vbcode they are very different. But at the end of the day, it's a matter of opinion whether they really differ in any real way.

and theoretical science. I have somebody I want to set straight about the difference beteen unproven scientific theories, and hard science that has been tested and proven and is used daily. Coming from a real scientist will have more of an impact on this person. Can anyone here give a lucid explanation as to the difference between the two?

Thanks.
Of course they are different but only in terms of applicability, difficult equally.

DaveC426913
Gold Member
I'm not asking to give a list of science theories thatare hard tested, and theries that are not proven and not tested. I'm asking for a scientist to give a lucid explanation as to the difference between har science and theoretical science: As in definition: defining the two terms. Explaining what the differnece is.
Perhaps you could give us a start? I've never heard of the terms used rigorously, in the sense that you seem to be looking for. Can you give some examples of disciplines you've heard called "hard" and disciplines you've heard called "theoretical"?

turak
You do not get it.

People who are not educated about science mix the two up. For instance... you will not believe this: but I know a person who believes that gravitrons actually exist! And what's more... now don't fall over laughing... but he thinks that the existence of gravitrons has been proven.... by... STRING THEORY!!

He thinks theoretical physics; is proven physics. The physics used to build the Hoover Dam is hard science. Engineering used hard science. Computer technology uses hard science. Anything that is used in a factory to produce chemicals. dergent, soap, floor wax: uses hard science. The formulas and theories they use have been proven and they work.

I am looking for a scientist who will give a lucid definition as the the DIFFERENCE between theories that have not been tested and proven: and theories that have been tested and proven. The atomic bomb is a PROOF of the existence of atoms. If the theory of atoms were wrong. there could be no atomic bombs.

You people are ALOS mixed up about htis I see... There is a definite difference between string theory: and the theory of atoms in scince. One has no only been tested; it has been 'seen' and observed. the other is a pure figment of human imagination. Imagination is not actually real. Theoretical models are just guesses. Hard science is not a guess. The Hoover dam was not built by guesswork.

Do you understand?

I was looking for an authority on this subject... Unfortunately I see now that I have come to the wrong place. Any science forum that goes 'gee... I dunno'... is not a science forum. it is a forum of people that would LIKE to know about science, with NO PROFFESIONAL SCIENTISTS are here to answer any questions by anyboy. So all you people guessing about what I mean: Forget I asked anything. I can see that I have come to the wrong place. Goodby all.

The word theory has a number of distinct meanings in different fields of knowledge, depending on their methodologies and the context of discussion.

In science, a theory is a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation. It follows from this that for scientists "theory" and "fact" do not necessarily stand in opposition. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behavior are Newton's theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and the theory of general relativity.

In common usage, the word theory is often used to signify a conjecture, an opinion, or a speculation. In this usage, a theory is not necessarily based on facts; in other words, it is not required to be consistent with true descriptions of reality. This usage of theory leads to the common incorrect statements. True descriptions of reality are more reflectively understood as statements which would be true independently of what people think about them.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory" [Broken]

The problem is the question is vague, theoretical physics means physics with scientific evidence.

Theory in popular terms, or outside of science = something that is only a hypothesis or conjecture

Theory in science = an appreciable system of experiments and papers subject to peer review that have produced quantifiable and empirical evidence to show they have merit.

So yes there really is no difference between theory and real science, they are one and the same thing.

What you are talking about is hypothetical "theories" such as strings which are not theories at all and in that case they are much much different.

You see we are well aware of our subject, but I think maybe you weren't aware of what the term means to scientists.

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you will not believe this: but I know a person who believes that gravitrons actually exist!
Never heard of gravitrons. I expect that gravitons exist however.
but he thinks that the existence of gravitrons has been proven.... by... STRING THEORY!!
That is quite stupid indeed :rofl:
Do you understand?
Have you been reading Smolin or Woit recently ?

Look, don't take it too bad. As a physicist, 99.99% of the people outside I meet and who happen to be interested in science ask me what I think about string theory. Your concerns are real, and we are well aware of them.

String theory is still extremely useful, even if it is not fundamentally true, for plenty of reasons. For one thing, it produces a lot of pure mathematical results of uttermost beauty and probably very important. For another thing, there are good reasons to expect that one day or the other it will fulfill its original design goal : an effective theory for strongly interacting particles. I could keep going like this for a while, but I think both Woit and Smolin are aware of those, and maybe they did not make it clear enough in their book that a sociological issue is not the same as a scientific issue. Or maybe they assumed readers could tell the difference

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My sisters are home schooled, and I teach them "science" over the summer when Im home. I remember trying to explain gravity, and then this whole debate over theories came up. I had such a hard time explaining (they are 10) that a theory in science means that it can be backed up by laws and experimental evidence. My brother got really into physics in grade 11 and was all excited about this string theory. I had to sit him down and explain, that unless you can back something up with math, laws, and experimental evidence AND you can not disprove it with any math, laws or experimental evidence, then it is not a theory, its a hypothesis. I dont know anything about the string theory, but the a lot of people get tripped up over the terminology with these things. Its hard to witness people try to debate things they know nothing about, like your friend who has all these ideas which you claim are incorrect, but I find in these situations its best to just let it go.

jim mcnamara
Mentor
You do not get it.
...... Goodby all.
Hurry back.

It's possible you didn't get the idea that "regular" people's definitions do not match those used by scientists. Theory is one.

"regular" theory definition: some wild idea I just had

scientific version of theory definition - thoroughly tested and accepted concept

Hard and soft science is in the same category - plus scientists don't tend to use those terms very often - the media uses 'em all the time. In science they don't have a great deal of meaning - other than for differentiating discplines like Math and Physics from others like Sociology. Media uses them to differentiate experimental from theoretical science - because they don't get what theory means.

For you they do appear to have great meaning. Ergo, maybe you are not a scientist?
So, Astrology is a soft science in your view?

My two cents.

I think that in scence there is a hierarchy of truths:

Hard physical laws
Soft physical laws
Long time reliable theory
not yet falsified theory
sound hypotheses
new unchallenged hypotheses
wild idea
unfounded speculation

The top part is good for sound techical applications. The bottom half is shaky terrain, basically governed by the logical affirming-the-consequent fallacy: when it snows, the fields are white. The fields are white, hence it snows.

Apart from that science seems to be harrassed by technically debunked but not forgotten ideas, hypotheses and theories.

But none of them are both new and testable.
True, but lacks relevance.

Andre said:
I think that in scence there is a hierarchy of truths:
I agree that truth-value is hierarchical, but disagree with parts of it. Laws are not above theories, theories are above laws, given the definition of theory in its scientific context.

10:Absolute truths, or just things that are true independently
9ard physical laws
8:Soft physical laws
7:Long time reliable theory
6:not yet falsified theory
5:sound hypotheses
4:new unchallenged hypotheses
3:wild idea
2:unfounded speculation
1:Crackpottery (ie ether theories, cold fusion, antigravity, time machines, perpetual motion devices, 9-11 conspiracies etc)
0:Utter and irrefutable lies and things that are always untrue independently

That makes ten and a $\log_{10}$ scale. I think that's not too bad a scale for scientists.

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