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Why is the unification assumption never questioned ?

  1. Aug 30, 2005 #1
    Physics is always trying to unify the forces and combine theories into one super theory. Why is this assumption always made and never questioned ? Why couldn't we indeed be in a world with 4 forces or maybe even 50 different forces governed by 50 different perfect theories that don't unite and are not one "unified theory" ? Why can't we just let go of this GROSSLY OVERESTIMATED ASSUMPTION every now and then ? What is wrong if the universe is made up of 50 distinct perfectly working theories and forces? Why must they absolutely unite ?

    Maybe we should seriously try to make a grand explosion of theories, and maybe we could reach something new. Granted 3 forces have been united successfully but are we really sure this is the right direction to proceed ?
     
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  3. Aug 30, 2005 #2
    You are correct to assume this. Many string theorists or unif-the-forces people have a kind of 'Einstein fanatic' response to the GUT i.e. they think there MUST be a unifying force.

    What they don't relise is that einstein isn't right about everything, and they are ONLY theoretically presuming there is one unifying force, which without much experimentation, is absolutely obsolete.

    Maybe it is better to say, 'string theorists are obsolete in this world'

    On a more pragmatic note, I'd like to ask seriously: what use will (if it exists) finding out string theory? What use is it to the overall society, other than brainstorming ideas that we will NEVER use in our daily lives?
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2005
  4. Aug 30, 2005 #3
    I don't think that is a question physicists ask themselves. As far as I can tell, they do research for the sake of research alone. Whether someone uses what they discover does not seem to concern them, that is left for engineers.

    Every age has its obsessions. There was a time when huge amounts of money were spent to build churches, then came a time when fortunes were spent in the creation of works of art, now we're living in the age of knowledge, and we spend billions and billions on it just because we like it.

    I wonder what the next obsession is going to be. If things continue as they are, most likely we'll obsess about personal and national safety. We already are, to a good extent.
     
  5. Aug 30, 2005 #4
    Who says it's never questioned?

    How many have you checked with? I know lots of physicists that ask themselves that all the time.

    These posts are based on stereotypes.
     
  6. Aug 30, 2005 #5

    selfAdjoint

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    Oersted showed a changing electric field could produce a pulse of magnetism. That showed electricity had SOMETHING to do with magnetism, and the research following this up eventually led to Maxwell's equations of the united electromagnetic field.

    And once people stopped thinking that the electron which comes out of a weak interaction where a neutron went in had pre-existed inside the neutron, then it became clear the weak force had SOMETHING to do with electromagnetism, and the subsequent research led to the electroweak unification.

    In no case did people decide ahead of time to unify forces that had nothing to do with each other. And the electromagnetic and electroweak unified theories have tremendous success to their credit that justifies them apart from any unification benefit.
     
  7. Aug 30, 2005 #6
    Einstein did, with no credible evidence to suggest that there were any relation between these forces.

    We really need more experimental physicists.
     
  8. Aug 30, 2005 #7

    Tom Mattson

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    I would think that it is because past experience teaches that this mindset has had big payoffs in terms of scientific knowledge. Optics was united with electricity and magnetism, and so we have Maxwellian electrodynamics. Special relativity was united with quantum theory, and so we have QFT. Quantum electrodynamics was unifed with the gauge theory of weak interactions, and so we have the electroweak theory. These are all positive advances, and they indicate a trend that many scientists view as worth pursuing further.
     
  9. Aug 30, 2005 #8

    Tom Mattson

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    No one could possibly know that. But then again, the pioneers of classical electrodynamics couldn't have known what practical applications there would be of their research either. But they did it anyway, just for the sake of knowing.

    "What use is a newborn baby?"
     
  10. Aug 30, 2005 #9
    Eh? There are an awful lot of experimental physicists. Are you getting numbers from somewhere suggesting there aren't enough, or do you just get a "feeling" there aren't?
     
  11. Aug 30, 2005 #10

    DaveC426913

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    You're reading too much into the assumption.

    It is not that all these force MUST be part of the exact same cause per se, it's that, until we have a model of a universe in which gravity and the other forces can be explained, we simply are not at the end of the road yet. We simply don't yet know how gravity fits into the picture of a working universe.

    We do know that everything in the universe ultimately comes down to the 4 forces - everything we see can be explained by those four - we just don't know how it all works together (even if they don't work together!).

    By definition, we still have a lot to discover.
     
  12. Aug 30, 2005 #11

    DaveC426913

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    Come on, you know the answer to this. Two hundred years ago they woukld have been asking the same question about gravity.

    Today's sci-fi exotica is tomorrow's household appliance.
     
  13. Aug 30, 2005 #12

    Pengwuino

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    I didnt know gravity is a household appliance :P

    But a good example would be flying at the speed of sound! People thought it was impossible but it was eventually surpassed.
     
  14. Aug 30, 2005 #13

    Tom Mattson

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    For some households, a water wheel is a household appliance smarty pants! :wink:
     
  15. Aug 31, 2005 #14
    No, I'm getting this from the fact that generally experimental physicists, while more accurate
     
  16. Aug 31, 2005 #15
    The suspense is killing me...
     
  17. Aug 31, 2005 #16

    selfAdjoint

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    Yes, but its design doesn't depend on the inverse square law! Conservation of momentum, maybe!

    On the other hand you can now get GPS navigation gizmos for your car. GR as home/auto appliance!
     
  18. Aug 31, 2005 #17
    Actually, today's sci-fi exotica more often than not turns into tomorrow's joke. The world in which we live is neither quantum nor relativistic; 99% of our technological problems can be solved with science that is at least 100 years old.

    As far as I can tell, the major use of modern physics is not to solve technological problems, but to excite people's imagination. These days, the major force behind innovation is information technology. The major difference between yesterday's and today's appliance is that the latter has a computer inside it.
     
  19. Aug 31, 2005 #18
    Hah, right. Excepting of course for semiconductors (including little things such as diodes, advanced electrical circuits and transistors), lasers (CD/DVD, spectroscopic methods, eye surgery, dentistry, distance determination, profilometery), crystal growth (thin films, novel materials, transistor substrates), microwave technology (cell phones, home food processing, industrial food processing, crystal growth, plasma physics), data storage, GPS, space exploration...

    Did you know your harddrive depends on quantum mechanical spin? How about that GPS would not operate without our understanding general relativity?

    Your world is both quantum and relativistic, you just aren't knowledgable enough to realize it.
     
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