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The trouble with physics

  1. Jun 30, 2011 #1
    The Science of the pioneers, the science of the ones who took the first steps in the development of a systematic observation of the world. They were, first and foremost, individuals with a certain sense of sacredness, they were believers: Newton, Kepler... they were the ones who delivered the very first blows to the Aristotelian view of the world.

    Many of these scientists were born within the tenets of the Catholic faith, and obviously so. This was the church that had the exclusive possession of the world view at the time. For some centuries science maintained itself as a non-profit enterprise.

    Today, however, under the current economic system, the scientific establishment is focused on the development of technologies and they now rely on lines of investigation promoted by governments and corporations.

    It is not the science that was... nor does it maintain the original spirit that motivated the great advances of the past. It has transformed into a kaleidoscope of investigations with economic interest in between.

    The general retardation of the sciences comes to ridiculous levels in the case of theoretical physics for example, in which we have not had any advances since the seventies. Don't think so? Then you probably haven't read Lee Smolin's book, "The Trouble with Physics."

    Of course, you would expect such a book to be harshly criticized by a community of physicists. But... what would you expect? Nobody likes to have their candy taken away. There are so many questionable things about string theory, to the degree that Smolin has made his fellow peers all but happy about his take on physics.

    These are the type of things that lead one to ask several questions about the way in which these gentlemen do their science. But the truth is, all of these puny atheist physicists with their puny theoretical physics are all about in-fighting and internal inconsistencies. But when they go to the public to talk about their purportedly consistent, unquestionable theories of reality which are ultimately untestable, it just makes me sick.

    What scientist is not tripping when he claims to know what happened in the first seconds after the Big Bang when he was never there and never will be? What kind of cheap science is this?

    A dose of reality, of untestable theoretical physics sold to the public as unquestionable realities to those who are disingenuous enough to believe them. It's been 40 years of not having any substantial progress in these fields, just as Smolin mentions in the book. I could not believe it when I first found out, I could not figure out how was it that they can speak with such confidence of these things that can't be scientifically replicated nor verified with experimentation.

    Maybe science is beginning to show the first signs of a real dogma, at least when it comes to theoretical physics. Try your best to refute this.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2011 #2
    Are governments and corporations funding the development of string theory? (Honest question. I don't know.)
  4. Jul 1, 2011 #3
    String theory is popular among the general public, because the very idea of a unifying theory sounds attractive and it has attracted a lot of investment in research. Other fields of investigation have been neglected while string theory has clearly failed to live up to its claims.
  5. Jul 1, 2011 #4
    What I'm asking, specifically, though is whether governments and corporations are the investors.
  6. Jul 1, 2011 #5
    Who do you think funds the scientific establishment?
  7. Jul 1, 2011 #6


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    You're basing your whole criticism of decades worth of a work in an entire field of study based off 0 personal experience and 1 persons book? Please.

    Governments do directly fund the development of string theory either through grants or through supporting universities that employ people who study it. Corporations indirectly could support it by supporting grad students, but typically they money is given for work related to what the corporation does or aims to do. I can imagine some overrun though.
  8. Jul 1, 2011 #7
    I don't know. Where are the headquarters of The Scientific Establishment? I'll google and see if they have a website. Maybe they have a list of funders.
  9. Jul 1, 2011 #8
    Thanks Penguino. This makes sense.
  10. Jul 1, 2011 #9


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    If you look at some papers (published or not), you'll see some of them mention at the very end something to the effect of 'This work was done under NSF Grant 1002458' which is an acknowledgment that they were directly funded by a government (NSF = National Science Foundation) organization.
  11. Jul 1, 2011 #10
    So, in the case of a grant like this, there's no implication the government is directly fostering research in string theory, correct? Anyone with any grant application writing skills could get a one of these government grants to do research in any academically acceptable field of physics. Say, Chaos Theory, for instance.
  12. Jul 1, 2011 #11


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    Uhm, yes it is directly fostering research in string theory. Do you mean is it trying to push funding at a preferred direction as opposed to fostering all fields of study equally?
  13. Jul 1, 2011 #12
    This is what I meant to ask, yes.
  14. Jul 1, 2011 #13

    Chi Meson

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    Funny you should mention...

    I just came back from vacation in Virginia, and we happened to drive right past the Scientific Establishment. They have a visitor's center and gift shop and everything. I got an Einstein wig, a Heisenburg game, and some Feynman bongos for the kids. Then started to look around.

    The big, ornate doors to the "inner circle" were heavily guarded, though. I made it past the first barrier by correctly pronouncing "deBroglie," and "Max Plank," but they barred me from entry when I couldn't correctly answer the question "What is the purpose of Science?" I said "To discover the truth," but the guard scowled and pushed me back to the gift shop.
  15. Jul 1, 2011 #14
    HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Best ever!!!!!
  16. Jul 1, 2011 #15


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    Whenever I see whining like this, I can only draw one conclusion: the person writing it isn't really in physics, and only sees it on a SUPERFICIAL level based on 2nd, 3rd, even 4th hand news! It calls into question on the validity of the "data" being used to draw up such a conclusion.

    The major reason for this is that there is a very faulty picture being used to make broad characterization of the field of physics. You make it sound as IF the whole of physics, or theoretical physics, is made up predominantly of string theory and other untestable ideas. This is patently FALSE, and it is how I can refute the nonsense that you are spewing. My evidence? Just look at the percentage of practicing physicists that actually work in such a field of study. They make up less than 10% of the physicists population!! Don't believe me, look at the membership distribution of the APS, for example!

    So how come what is being done by less than 10% of the group somehow reflects what is being done in physics as a whole? This is an utterly faulty conclusion!

    Thus, the impetus for this whole thread is based on a faulty conclusion, which makes the entire rant rather moot and thoroughly misplaced. Rather than worrying about the "trouble" with physics, if I were you, I'd be more concerned about the trouble with my conclusion based on faulty data.

  17. Jul 1, 2011 #16
    Other fields have been neglected? Tell that to the endless parade of condensed matter experimentalists and zero string theorists that applied for an open tenure-track position at my university.
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