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  1. Mar 6, 2004 #1
    Hey guys

    Just curious - this forum's description makes it sound like special and general relativity are theories. I know the difference between what most people think a theory is, and a scientific theory, but ho does it become a proof?

    I mean, isn't special or general (??) relativity proved by the whole muon experiment thing? Or is that just a proof of it, but it can never be proved? How does law / theory work? :)

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2004 #2


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    AFAIK there are no observations or results of experiments which are inconsistent with SR or GR. In this sense, GR (which subsumes SR) is a successful theory. What makes it particularly powerful is its scope - the whole universe and everything in it, down to the smallest particle.

    However, the other successful theory in physics (actually more like a set of theories) - quantum mechanics - is inconsistent with GR, and its scope is also universal!

    How will this be resolved? Please visit the Strings, Branes, & LQG sub-forum for a small window into some of the main efforts to do just that!

    Proof? The consensus today is that a theory in science cannot be 'proved' (unlike in maths); the best that you can do is 'consistent with all observations, across the entire range of its scope, to 1 part in n' (where n is a large number). In this respect, QED (Quantum Electro-dynamics) is pretty darn good, IIRC, n ~>1012. GR is also good, but n is 'only' ~10,000 to 100,000.
  4. Mar 7, 2004 #3


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    A scientific theory is never proven, period. No matter how many succesful predictions a theory makes, the latest experimental evidence can still potentially reveal that the model is incomplete.
  5. Mar 7, 2004 #4


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    This may be of help: http://phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node5.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  6. Mar 8, 2004 #5


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    Welcome to Physics Forums, aychamo! :smile:

    Theories are the ultimate goal of science. Theories are explanations....explanations based on well-supported, peer-reviewed. verifiable evidences. The more evidence, the stronger the theory. But there is always some degree of uncertainty involved. SR/GR remain very well-proven, but research goes on for even more accurate/encompassing theories.

    Scientific ideas go from speculation to hypothesis to theory. A scientific law is something different altogether. It's a description, not an explanation. Take gravity for example. The law of gravity will you at what rate the apple will fall from the tree. But the law doesn't tell you how/why. The theory of gravity does that.
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