Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The future

  1. Jul 5, 2013 #1
    Is it possible that a future theory disproves quantum mechanics and relativity or one of them?
    People were convinced that Newtonian mechanics was correct and worked but relativity showed that it only works at low velocities etc...
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2013 #2
    We already know that relativity and QM are "incorrect". They contradict eachother in certain situations, so there must be a deeper theory that corrects this.
  4. Jul 5, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There is a difference between disproving a theory and showing that the theory only works in certain limiting cases; relativity never disproved classical mechanics it just showed that classical mechanics has a restricted domain of applicability. On the other hand we certainly disproved many of Aristotle's ridiculous "theories" of physics. QM makes brilliantly accurate predictions within its currently applicable domain so a replacement theory wouldn't disprove it but rather improve on it; whether or not that improvement comes with a paradigm shift is something that might be known in the future.
  5. Jul 6, 2013 #4
    It's important to keep in mind that ALL physical theories or theories in general are inventions of the human mind. They are attempts to formalize, largely through mathematics, the manner in which external sensory stimuli affect the sensory systems of the brain. The job of the brain is to take that those patterns of sensory stimulation and construct a mathematical model that relates the trajectory or evolution of a given sensory event with other sensory events. The better the model predicts how we experience future sensory events, the better the model is said to be. It is unlikely that there will ever be a patently "correct" model as all models are simply facsimiles of what we cannot know since all we can know is our interpretation of what our sensory systems tell our conscious mind. So that's the take home point.

    An old friend of mine, David Galin at UCSF, wrote an article once that has continued to resonate with me throughout the years. In this article, he mentions that people seek an explanation to phenomena only to a degree that satisfies their level of curiosity. That was really profound for me because at the time I thought in absolutes. Just like your question. There is an answer to this. Is this the "right" theory. What is the truth, etc. Unfortunately, its not that easy. We sit around PF talking about dark matter and gauge symmetry because that's the level of understanding we seek to sate our curiosity. However, all the guy at the pulpit needs to know is that God did it this way or that. That's fine for him. Who are we to say he's "wrong." Again, it's not that easy.

    We should take a poll and see how many PF-ers think that everything is now hunky dory cause we found the Higgs boson. Standard model's complete (except for gravity). I don't know. My curiosity isn't satisfied. I think I'll know when that time comes, but the Higgs boson didn't do it. The state of QM isn't doing it, GR is certainly close, but in the end for me it's gonna take a story, a story starting at the big bang, explaining dark energy, dark matter, unifying GR and QM, and taking the roll out of Bohr's dice. Other physicists may have their own criterion which differs from mine. But that's OK.

    Btw, here's the link to my friend's article:

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook