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

This forums description

  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


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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


    User Avatar

    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


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  6. Mar 8, 2004 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?