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The difference between hard science

  1. Apr 15, 2008 #1
    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.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2008 #2
    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?

  4. Apr 15, 2008 #3


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    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.
  5. Apr 15, 2008 #4


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    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.
  6. Apr 15, 2008 #5


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    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.
  7. Apr 15, 2008 #6
    that doesn't answer my question

    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.

  8. Apr 15, 2008 #7
    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.
  9. Apr 16, 2008 #8
    I am not sure they are so mutually exclusive.
  10. Apr 16, 2008 #9

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    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".
  11. Apr 16, 2008 #10


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

    *gets coat*
  12. Apr 16, 2008 #11
    Semantic Alert!


    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.
  13. Apr 16, 2008 #12
    String theory makes testable predictions.
  14. Apr 16, 2008 #13

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Another thread by the same OP, same title, and same subject is here.
  15. Apr 16, 2008 #14
    But none of them are both new and testable.
  16. Apr 16, 2008 #15


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    Thanks for the heads-up. I've merged the two. So if the "flow" makes no sense......

  17. Apr 16, 2008 #16
    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.

    Of course they are different but only in terms of applicability, difficult equally.
  18. Apr 16, 2008 #17


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    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"?
  19. Apr 16, 2008 #18
    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.
  20. Apr 16, 2008 #19

    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.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2008
  21. Apr 16, 2008 #20
    Never heard of gravitrons. I expect that gravitons exist however.
    That is quite stupid indeed :rofl:
    Have you been reading Smolin or Woit recently ? :smile:

    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 :smile:
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2008
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