Column: Welcome to the Multiverse

Many of you may know that Discover is not only a web site that hosts a diverse collection of entertaining blogs, but also publishes a monthly “magazine” printed on paper. Wild, right? Just ask this baby, who can tell you that a magazine is kind of broken when compared to an iPad.

Nevertheless, people read these things like crazy. I have recently started contributing an occasional column to the print magazine, known as “Out There.” (Our blog neighbor Carl Zimmer has been columnizing about the brain for a while now.) My first column appeared in the October issue (which comes out in September), and is now online — check it out.

The issue I’m tackling, under the draconian word count limit of an actual print magazine, is whether it’s scientific to talk about the multiverse. (Spoiler: it is!) Let me know what you think.

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92 Responses to Column: Welcome to the Multiverse

  1. Navneeth says:

    Phil’s reply to Brian:

    Maybe it will take a million years, or a billion years, until some species comes up with the technology to find out what happens at the Planck scale. And then we (or they) will know if the theory that describes their observations is string theory or something else.

    But this sort of near-blind-faith is choking the resources out of other approaches in fundamental theory/theoretical physics. [Disclaimer: I’m not a physicsist, but I’m going with what I’ve read from reliable sources with regard to trends — for instance, Lee Smolin’s book.] Can you seriously justify funding string theory research with an unproportionate amount of money when one doesn’t even have the slightest idea when and if it could be tested at all?

  2. somebody says:

    If you can do Planck scale scattering, string theory is definitely testable. That doesn’t depend on the details of which solution (aka, which corner of the landscape) our world is in. The “stringiness” of matter at the Planck scale has distinct implications for scattering.

    So Dr. E, your suggestion that string theory is IN PRINCIPLE untestable is just the usual nonsense one hears against string theory. The real challenge is not that there are no experiments IN PRINCIPLE, but that the standard model is so amazingly successful that IN PRACTICE it is a huge challenge for us to do experiments that probe what lies beyond it.

    It boggles my mind that people geuinely think that there is some simple and easy way to rule out string theory as a theory of science. Really? You think people like Witten are sooooo stupid? The fact of the matter is that string theory remains both tantalizing and frustrating at the same time. And we do NOT have an easy way out of this quandary. Brain farts and opinionated garbage notwithstanding.

    You are not going to come up with a compelling two line argument why string theory is rubbish, not even science, etc. I for one would LOVE it, if it was that easy.

  3. I am not a physicist but I have to say I find it extremely disconcerting to hear arguments of the following kind:

    String theory predicts X. But to test X we will need accelerator/device/experiment Y which may or may not be possible to implement for about a thousand years. But until then we still need to accept string theory not only as a testable/verifiable theory but as our best bet for a unified theory.

    I understand that the fact that it may not be possible to test string theory any time soon does not rule it out. But neither should this make it the favorite contender for a theory of everything. The correct approach would be “Let’s wait and see”.

  4. Dear Phil,

    You answered your own question I believe: “As for solutions, aren’t there something like 10^500 solutions? If someone comes along and finds a solution that allows one to calculate SM parameters and agrees with the SM and GR at low energies, what then?”

    Yes if a theory predicts 10^500 different things, it predicts nothing.

    And, as there are 10^500 different solutions, it is rather embarrassing that none of them agree with the SM and GR at low energies, showing that String Theory is a joke that predicts 10^500 not ven wrong entities, but nothing that is right nor true nor good.

    You write, “But what do you mean by “no definitive equations, nor solutions”? What kind of equations are you talking about? As for solutions, aren’t there something like 10^500 solutions?” Yes! If there are something like 10^500 solutions, there are no DEFINITIVE SOLUTIONS.

    And yes–String Theory has no definitive equations. The elite non-theorists have been fooling the laymen, as Feynman warned the lesser physicists (non Nobel Laureates) would for cash gains from the trusting public. If you do not believe me, ask a String Theorist for the String Theory equation. They may call you names and hurl insults at you, but they will provide no equation as there are none. 🙂

    Also, String Theory is not a finite theory: The first page of String Theory in a Nutshell states in a footnoted sentence:

    String Theory has been the leading candidate … for a theory that consistently unifies all the fundamental forces of nature, including gravity. It gained popularity because it provides a theory that is UV finite.(1) . . . The footnote (1) reads: “Although there is no rigorous proof to all orders that the theory is UV finite…”[xxxviii] –STRING THEORY IN A NUTSHELL

    We don’t know what we are talking about[xxxix]. –Nobel Laureate David Gross on string theory

    The fact is that this book is about physics, and this implies that the
    theoretical ideas must be supported by experimental facts. Neither
    supersymmetry nor string theory satisfy this criterion. They are
    figments of the theoretical mind. To quote Pauli:
    They are not even wrong. They have no place here. –Nobel Laureate Martinus Veltman

    Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, an heroic physicists who married commonsense to his mathematical genius, stated in 1987, a year before his death:

    “…I think all this superstring stuff is crazy and it is in the wrong direction. … I don’t like that they’re not calculating anything. I don’t like that they don’t check their ideas. I don’t like that for anything that disagrees with an experiment, they cook up an explanation—a fix-up to say “Well, it still might be true.”” –Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman

    String theory has no credibility as a candidate theory of physics. Recognizing failure is a userful part of the scientific strategy. Only when failure is recognized can dead ends be abandoned and useable pieces of failed programs be recycled. Aside from possible utility, there is a responsibility to recognize failure. Recognizing failure is an essential part of the scientific ethos. Complete scientific failure must be recognized eventually.” –Dan Friedan, early Rutgers String Theorist

    This book is about physics, and this implies that theoretical ideas must be supported by experimental facts. Neither supersymmtry nor string theory satisfy this crieterion. They are figments of the theoretical mind. –Dan Friedan

  5. Dear Somebody Says,

    String Theory has no equations, and thus it does not, and cannot predict anything. If you believe otherwise, please share with me 1. String Theory’s equations and 2. the masses of the particles it predicts.

    Einstein and the Greats stated that physics begins and ends in experience and physical reality, but there is no physical instance of a string (no beginning in physical reality), nor is there any way to test for one (not ending in physical reality either.)

    Please do not take my word for this, but listen to the Nobel Laureates and revered experts:

    Nobel Laureate Max Planck: Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the starting-point of every science, must be our own personal experience.[xiv] (All physicists have personally experienced the double-slit experiment, and as relativity tells us that photons remain stationary in x4, x4 must thus be propagating at c with both a wavelike and quantum nature!)

    Nobel Laureate Einstein: Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose.[xv]

    Einstein: The theory must not contradict empirical facts. . . The second point of view is not concerned with the relation to the material of observation but with the premises of the theory itself, with what may briefly but vaguely be characterized as the “naturalness” or “logical simplicity” of the premises of the basic concepts and of the relations between these which are taken as a basis. [xvi]

    Planck: That we do not construct the external world (String Theory) to suit our own ends in the pursuit of science, but that vice versa the external world forces itself upon our recognition with its own elemental power, is a point which ought to be categorically asserted again and again . . . From the fact that in studying the happenings of nature . . . it is clear that we always look for the basic thing behind the dependent thing, for what is absolute behind what is relative, for the reality behind the appearance and for what abides behind what is transitory. . this is characteristic not only of physical science but of all science.[xvii] (dx4/dt=ic is the “basic, abiding thing” behind all relativity, entropy, and QM!)

    Einstein: Truth is what stands the test of experience.[xviii]

    Nobel Laureate Werner Heisenberg: Science. . . is based on personal experience, or on the experience of others, reliably reported. . . Even today we can still learn from Goethe . . . trusting that this reality will then also reflect the essence of things, the ‘one, the good, and the true (no multiverse!).[xix]

    The great irony of string theory, however, is that the theory itself is not unified. . . For a theory that makes the claim of providing a unifying framework for all physical laws, it is the supreme irony that the theory itself appears so disunited!![xlvi] Introduction to Superstrings & M-Theory –Kaku

    Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow: “Is string theory a futile exercise as physics, as I believe it to be? It is an interesting mathematical specialty and has produced and will produce mathematics useful in other contexts, but it seems no more vital as mathematics than other areas of very abstract or specialized math, and doesn’t on that basis justify the incredible amount of effort expended on it.

    Until string people can interpret perceived properties of the real world they simply are not doing physics. Should they be paid by universities and be permitted to pervert impressionable students? Will young Ph.D’s, whose expertise is limited to superstring theory, be employable if, and when, the string snaps? Are string thoughts more appropriate to departments of mathematics, or even to schools of divinity, than to physics departments? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How many dimensions are there in a compacted manifold, 30 powers of ten smaller than a pinhead? ” –Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow

  6. Dear Curious Wavefunction,

    You write, “I am not a physicist but I have to say I find it extremely disconcerting to hear arguments of the following kind: String theory predicts X. But to test X we will need accelerator/device/experiment Y which may or may not be possible to implement for about a thousand years.”

    But String Theory has no equations, and thus it does not, and cannot predict anything. If you believe otherwise, please share with me 1. String Theory’s equations and 2. the masses of the particles it predicts.

    String Theory violates Einstein et al.’s definition of science:

    Einstein: Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought without any empirical foundations (string theory has no equations nor empirical foundations)—in short, by metaphysics.[xxiii] (MDT begins and ends with empirical foundations!)

    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex (String Theory’s 10^500 “solutions”), and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.[xxiv] –Einstein

    Nobel Laureate: “Actually, I would not even be prepared to call string theory a “theory” rather a “model” or not even that: just a hunch. After all, a theory should come together with instructions on how to deal with it to identify the things one wishes to describe, in our case the elementary particles, and one should, at least in principle, be able to formulate the rules for calculating the properties of these particles, and how to make new predictions for them. Imagine that I give you a chair, while explaining that the legs are still missing, and that the seat, back and armrest will perhaps be delivered soon; whatever I did give you, can I still call it a chair?” [xlii] –‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate

    Nobel Laureate: “It is tragic, but now, we have the string theorists, thousands of them, that also dream of explaining all the features of nature. They just celebrated the 20th anniversary of superstring theory. So when one person spends 30 years, it’s a waste, but when thousands waste 20 years in modern day, they celebrate with champagne. I find that curious.[xliii]” –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate

    Nobel Laureate Max Born: Max Born wrote, “All great discoveries in experimental physics have been made due to the intuition of men who made free use of models which for them were not products of the imagination but representations of real things (strings aren’t real things).”

    Albert Einstein: Before I enter upon a critique of mechanics as a foundation of physics, something of a broadly general nature will first have to be said concerning the points of view according to which it is possible to criticize physical theories at all. The first point of view is obvious: The theory must not contradict empirical facts (there are not 10 or twenty dimensions in empirical reality). . . The second point of view is not concerned with the relation to the material of observation but with the premises of the theory itself, with what may briefly but vaguely be characterized as the “naturalness” or “logical simplicity” of the premises (of the basic concepts and of the relations between these which are taken as a basis) (string theory is not simple nor natural). This point of view, an exact formulation of which meets with great difficulties, has played an important role in the selection and evaluation of theories since time immemorial.

    Best,

    Dr. E 🙂

  7. Joel Rice says:

    Dr Elliot – a number of these esteemed gents also decry the fact that fermion generations are a complete mystery. I think it makes more sense to go after that problem than speculate about strings. To put it crudely, which makes more sense – strings or something more tetrahedral ? Space and SpaceTime are defined combinatorially in Clifford Algebra, and one might expect that particles are also defined in a combinatorial fashion, just so all this stuff fits together, but it can not be Clifford – it would have to be complex octonions – without the supersymmetry. So the real issue is not whether ST is testable or a nice theory – but whether there is a structure that manifestly sheds light on the Generation Puzzle. If so, I would think it more likely to lead to results than ST. Yes, I know that Streater regards octonions as a Lost Cause, but he was not talking about complex octonions defining all the particles, but rather using octonions in the mechanics – eg octonions instead of Dirac algebra, which would blow up a methodology that works very well. One can get something that looks like generations of oscillators simply with “o(a(bc))” and all permutations and associations – just because ‘o’ can be in slot 0,1,2,3. The oscillators in slots 1,2,3 look fermionic. No group theory, no PDEs – just elementary combinatoric type stuff. No Theory either, but at least it looks intersting and relevant to the generation puzzle. Oh, and every oscillator can be taken as pointlike with a complex phase, which looks like it might fit very well with Feynman’s approach in QED: the strange theory … So it might not be so hopeless after all. In which case, strings might well be superfluous, along with multiverses.

  8. Dear Joel,

    You write, “A number of these esteemed gents also decry the fact that fermion generations are a complete mystery.”

    Who? Where do they do this? Could you please provide quotes/references?

    Thanks!

  9. somebody says:

    Curious Wavefunction says: “I understand that the fact that it may not be possible to test string theory any time soon does not rule it out. But neither should this make it the favorite contender for a theory of everything. The correct approach would be “Let’s wait and see”.”

    I think the correct standpoint is to work on your theory (whatever it might be) while waiting. Unlike what you seem to think (which is okay, since you say you are not a physicist), there are not many “contenders” for consistent Planck scale physics. The one that we have, we don’t understand very well. Thats pretty much the state of the art. What do you suggest we do? Call off curiosity and not try to fully figure out the half-cooked candidate (i.e., string theory) that seems to be both very tantalizing and very infuriating at the same time?

    String theory is not more expensive to fund than pure mathematics (which is even more “useless”, arguably), so that argument seems weak to me. It would be great if someone comes up with another theory that is better than string theory, but revolutions don’t appear by orchestration, so its hard to do anything with that thought. The only thing that we can really do is to encourage work on what seems promising – we don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Revolutions are by definition going to be outliers. String theory itself was an outlier for the longest time until Green and Schwarz found a remarkable result in 1984.

  10. Dear Monte,

    Sure! No problem. 🙂

    It is important that the laymen understand that the Multiverse/String Theory is *not* science as defined by the Greats & Nobel Laureates!:

    Einstein: Truth is what stands the test of experience.[xviii] (Nobody has experienced a Multiverse nor Strings!)

    Heisenberg: Science. . . is based on personal experience, or on the experience of others, reliably reported. . . Even today we can still learn from Goethe . . . trusting that this reality will then also reflect the essence of things, the ‘one, the good, and the true. (There is but one–not a multiverse!) [xix]

    Schrodinger: The world is given but once (no multiverse!). . . The world extended in space and time is but our representation. Experience does not give us the slightest clue of its being anything besides that.

    Einstein: Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought without any empirical foundations—in short, by metaphysics.[xxiii] (MDT begins and ends with empirical foundations! There are no empirical foundations for the Multiverse!)

    It is anomalous to replace the four-dimensional continuum by a five-dimensional one and then subsequently to tie up artificially one of those five dimensions in order to account for the fact that it does not manifest itself. -Einstein to Ehrenfest (Imagine doing this for 10-30+ dimensions and multiple universes!)

    The fact is that this book is about physics, and this implies that the
    theoretical ideas must be supported by experimental facts. Neither
    supersymmetry nor string theory satisfy this criterion. They are
    figments of the theoretical mind. To quote Pauli:
    They are not even wrong. They have no place here. –Nobel Laureate Martinus Veltman

  11. Dear somebody Says:

    What is your real name? I would like to interview you for a documentary.

    Actually physics comes from individuals, not groupthink bureaucracies, which is what string theory is.

    Please stop ignoring the Nobel Laureate physicists, somebody says (Sean Carroll perhaps?):

    Nobel Laurete Sheldon Glashow:

    Why is the smart money all tied up in strings? Why is so much theoretical capital
    expended upon the properties of supersymmetric systems of quantum strings propagating
    in ten-dimensional space-time? . . . years of intense effort by dozens
    of the best and the brightest have yielded not one verifiable prediction, nor should any
    soon be expected. Called “the new physics” by its promoters, it is not even known to
    encompass the old and established standard model. –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate & Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D.
    In lieu of the traditional confrontation between theory and experiment, superstring
    theorists pursue an inner harmony where elegance, uniqueness and beauty define truth.
    The theory depends for its existence upon magical coincidences, miraculous cancellations
    and relations among seemingly unrelated (and possibly undiscovered) fields of mathemat-
    ics. Are these properties reasons to accept the reality of superstrings? Do mathematics
    and aesthetics supplant and transcend mere experiment? Will the mundane phenomeno-
    logical problems that we know as physics simply come out in the wash in some distant
    tomorrow? Is further experimental endeavor not only difficult and expensive but unneces-
    sary and irrelevant? Contemplation of superstrings may evolve into an activity as remote
    from conventional particle physics as particle physics is from chemistry, to be conducted
    at schools of divinity by future equivalents of medieval theologians. For the first time since
    the Dark Ages, we can see how our noble search may end, with faith replacing science once
    again. Superstring sentiments eerily recall “arguments from design” for the existence of a
    supreme being. Was it only in jest that a leading string theorist suggested that “super-
    strings may prove as successful as God, Who has after all lasted for millennia and is still
    invoked in some quarters as a Theory of Nature”? –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate & Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D.

    The trouble is that most of superstring physics lies up at the Planck mass — about
    10 GeV – and it is a long and treacherous road down to where we can see the light of
    day. A naive comparison of length scales suggests that to calculate the electron mass from
    superstrings would be a trillion times more difficult than to explain human behavior in
    terms of atomic physics. Superstring theory, unless it allows an approximation scheme for
    yielding useful and testable physical information, might be the sort of thing that Wolfgang
    Pauli would have said is “not even wrong.” It would continue to attract newcomers to the
    field simply because it is the only obvious alternative to explaining why certain detectors
    light up like video games near the end of every funding cycle.
    –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate & Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D., Desperately Seeking Superstrings

    In the old days we moved up in energy step by step, seeing smaller and smaller struc-
    tures. Observations led to theories or models that suggested further experiments. The
    going is getting rougher; Colliders are inordinately expensive, detectors have grown im-
    mense, and interesting collisions are rare. Not even a politically popular “Superstring
    Detection Initiative” with a catchy name like “String Wars” could get us to energies where
    superstrings are relevant. We are stuck with a gap of 16 orders of magnitude between
    theoretical strings and observable particles, unbridgeable by any currently envisioned ex-
    periment. Conventional grand unified theories, which also depend on a remote fundamental
    energy scale (albeit one extrapolated upward from known phenomena rather than down-
    ward from abstract principle), retain the grand virtue that, at least in their simplest form,
    they were predictive enough to be excluded — by our failure to observe proton decay.
    –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate & Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D., Desperately Seeking Superstrings

    How tempting is the top-down approach! How satisfying and economical to explain
    everything in one bold stroke of our aesthetic, mathematical or intuitive sensibilities, thus
    displaying the power of positive thinking without requiring tedious experimentation! But
    a priori arguments have deluded us from ancient Greece on. Without benefit of the
    experimental provocation that led to Maxwell’s equations and, inevitably, to the special
    theory of relativity, great philosophers pondering for millennia failed even to suspect the
    basic kinematical structure of space-time. Pure thought could not anticipate the quantum.
    And even had Albert Einstein succeeded in the quest that consumed the latter half of his
    life, somehow finding a framework for unifying electromagnetism and gravity, we would by now have discarded his theory in the light of experimental data to which he had no access. He had to fail, simply because he didn’t know enough physics. Today we can’t exclude the
    possibility that micro-unicorns might be thriving at a length scale of 10−18 cm. Einstein’s
    path, the search for unification now, is likely to remain fruitless.
    –Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate & Paul Ginsparg, Ph.D., Desperately Seeking Sup

  12. Joel Rice says:

    33 Dr Elliot – sure.
    1) Feynman QED strange theory … p 145 “This repetition of particles with the same properties but heavier masses is a complete mystery.”
    2) M. Veltman – Facts and Mysteries … passim … in about a dozen places !
    also remarks about strings you quoted above.
    3) Weinberg Dreams of a Final Theory p 26 quoting David Gross “… why is the pattern of matter replicated in three generations of quarks and leptons …”
    I’m sure Glashow and others have made similar remarks.
    I should make a file of such references, but thought it “well known” as a central mystery.
    Anyway I agree with your remarks, and it is nice to see the quotes you provide all in one place.

  13. Thanks Joel,

    Could you please provide the exact quotes and places where M. Veltman and Glashow state what you say they stated? Thanks!

    I’m not sure this counts as a scholarly reference: “2) M. Veltman – Facts and Mysteries … passim … in about a dozen places ! also remarks about strings you quoted above.” And I’m not sure what you mean by “also remarks about strings you quoted above.”? Seems like sloppy/careless scholarship on your behalf?

    Also, this mystery and natural phenomena has nothing to do with multiverses nor strings, so I’m not sure it is appropriate to this thread?

    Dr. E 🙂

  14. Charlie says:

    Boy, there sure is a lot of appealing to higher authority here. I do wonder if Einstein, Feynman and others would really appreciate being used this way, or if they spent much time on these kind of appeals in their time.

  15. Dear Charlie,

    I am not appealing to Sean Carroll’s authority nor the dominant authority of the multiversers/string theorists who neglect physical reality alongside logic and reason, so as to hawk magazines.

    “In questions of science, the authority of thousands of string theorists is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual.[viii]” –Galileo

    I am appealing to the authority of physical reality and those who exalted it in science, as well as to the authority of logic and reason.

    What do you have against the higher authority of the world’s greatest scientists and physical reality, and the authority of logic and reason?

    I mean whose authority do you think we should appeal to?

    Do you not like logic and reason? Do you have something against the Great Scientists? Do you not like physical reality?

    What is driving you?

    Who/what must we all appeal to and kneel before in your multiverse?

  16. Joel Rice says:

    38 Dr Elliot … I did not say that they had anything to say about octonions or any resolution of the Generation mystery – only that they regard generations as an outstanding mystery, and leave it at that. My point is simply that if Generations are resolved without resorting to supersymmetry then the rationale for strings falls apart, and then where is the rationale for Multiverse ? I offer an algebraically based argument to think we do not need supersymmetry or strings, and neither does Mother Nature. The whole point of strings was to define particles. It appears that the quest has led them into a swamp. It seems useful to have a different perspective from which to consider whether strings are ‘the only game in town’. Back in the 80s I thought strings would be a fad, and that Glashow’s remarks in Physics Today ( i think) would have dampened enthusiasm, but apparently not. I think it appropriate to argue that there is no multiverse, in a thread that claims there is.

  17. Thanks Joel!

    I better understand what you are saying now! I agree!

    Simply put, there is no physical evidence for multiverses nor strings, and thus they are not science, in the eyes of all the great physicists, as seen in all the quotes above, as well as in my upcoming book: Why String Theory, M-Theory, LQG, Multiverses, and Parallel Universes are NOT Physics, and why Moving Dimensions Theory (MDT’s dx4/dt=ic) IS

    Thanks again Joel,

    Best,

    Dr. E 🙂

  18. Dear Charlie,

    You write, “Boy, there sure is a lot of appealing to higher authority here. I do wonder if Einstein, Feynman and others would really appreciate being used this way, or if they spent much time on these kind of appeals in their time.”

    How do you think Einstein, Feynman, and others would prefer to be used? Or should we ignore them? What are you saying exactly? That we should only appeal to “lower authorities” such as Sean Carroll and the physics-free, non-empirical, unscientific, groupthink-hype, illogical, non-physical mutiverse/string theory, as opposed to the higher authority of Nobel Laureate physicists, physical reality, logic, and reason?

    Einstein humbly appealed to the greatness of Newton, calling him “the Master.” Einstein also humbly appealed to the greatness of Galileo and Copernicus:

    “But before mankind could be ripe for a science which takes in the whole of reality, a second fundamental truth was needed, which only became common property among philosophers with the advent of Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics–indeed, of modern science altogether.” -Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions. MDT’s dx4/dt=ic honors Galileo and Einstein, as it both “starts and ends” in experience!

    “Once it was recognised that the earth was not the center of the world, but only one of the smaller planets, the illusion of the central significance of man himself became untenable. Hence, Nicolaus Copernicus, through his work and the greatness of his personality, taught man to be honest.” -Albert Einstein, Message on the 410th Anniversary of the Death of Copernicus, 1953

    Do you think it was a sin for Einstein to appeal to the greatness of Copernicus, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and Galileo, as well as to logic, reason, and physical reality?

    Who, in your view, should have Einstein appealed to?

  19. Charlie says:

    I’m speaking from the point of view of a scientist in an unrelated field. Hence, a lot of ignorance. That is (and should be) a position of weakness in any scientific debate. Nevertheless, the style of argument presented here does not seem likely to sway many of the young folks thinking of entering the field. You should make your case, of course, using logic and evidence (what else do we have?), and some appeal to the old guard is fine.

    If, indeed, it is true that no part of string theory can be tested under any context (a point that seems to be somewhat uncertain at this time, if I understand correctly), then it will die a natural death, or become an interesting branch of math, which isn’t so bad. This process will be hastened greatly if someone provides an alternative that doesn’t suffer the same problem. Though I’m working in another field entirely, I have absolute confidence that physicists will jump all over such an alternative, if it is provided. (Until this time, science will fumble on in a process that is not nearly as “neat” as many would like it to be…)

  20. Thanks Charlie,

    You write, “I’m speaking from the point of view of a scientist in an unrelated field. Hence, a lot of ignorance. That is (and should be) a position of weakness in any scientific debate.”

    So, as you are ignorant in the realm of physics, why should we hold your authority over the authority of Newton, Einstein, Galileo, Feynman, Copernicus, Nobel Laureate physicists, and physical reality?

    I’m not sure why you attacked the authority of logic, reason, the Great Physicists, and physical reality, as truly, it are these entities which attract young physicists to the field–not the purely political non-physics of the multiverse and string theory. What motivated your attack?

    Again–that would be great if you could please answer my below questions:

    You write, “Boy, there sure is a lot of appealing to higher authority here. I do wonder if Einstein, Feynman and others would really appreciate being used this way, or if they spent much time on these kind of appeals in their time.”

    How do you think Einstein, Feynman, and others would prefer to be used? Or should we ignore them? What are you saying exactly? That we should only appeal to “lower authorities” such as Sean Carroll and the physics-free, non-empirical, unscientific, groupthink-hype, illogical, non-physical mutiverse/string theory, as opposed to the higher authority of Nobel Laureate physicists, physical reality, logic, and reason?

    Einstein humbly appealed to the greatness of Newton, calling him “the Master.” Einstein also humbly appealed to the greatness of Galileo and Copernicus:

    “But before mankind could be ripe for a science which takes in the whole of reality, a second fundamental truth was needed, which only became common property among philosophers with the advent of Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics–indeed, of modern science altogether.” -Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions. MDT’s dx4/dt=ic honors Galileo and Einstein, as it both “starts and ends” in experience!

    “Once it was recognised that the earth was not the center of the world, but only one of the smaller planets, the illusion of the central significance of man himself became untenable. Hence, Nicolaus Copernicus, through his work and the greatness of his personality, taught man to be honest.” -Albert Einstein, Message on the 410th Anniversary of the Death of Copernicus, 1953

    Do you think it was a sin for Einstein to appeal to the greatness of Copernicus, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and Galileo, as well as to logic, reason, and physical reality?
    Who, in your view, should have Einstein appealed to?

    Thanks in advance for answering these questions, Charlie. We’re just trying to understand who told you/taught you to attack the Great Physicists, science, physical reality, Nobel Laureates, logic, and reason, so as to bolster the non-science, non-reality of multiverses and string theory, so that we can perhaps help. 🙂

    Whose authority are you appealing to in your attack? By whose authority are you attacking the authority of the Great Physicists, science, physical reality, Nobel Laureates, logic, and reason?

    Best,

    Dr. E 🙂

  21. @Somebody: What do you suggest we do? Call off curiosity and not try to fully figure out the half-cooked candidate (i.e., string theory) that seems to be both very tantalizing and very infuriating at the same time?

    Of course not. But at the same time there’s no use touting it as the best candidate for a TOE. Instead treat it for what it is; a set of mathematically elegant ideas that may or may not have any connection to reality (and by “reality” I mean stringent experimental testing). The problem seems to be the almost evangelical enthusiasm with which practitioners of string theory seem to pitch their discipline, as if it’s a done deal simply waiting for experiment to catch up. In science experiment takes precedence over everything else and the standards of science (call them cruel if you will) cannot consider ideas unsupported by experimental evidence as anything more than interesting speculation, no matter how mathematically elegant. Any intelligent person can see that it is unreasonable at the very least to cheerfully pitch a theory that is not supported by a shred of hard experiment. Of course nobody should stop you from working on string theory but it should be treated as no more than an interesting idea, and certainly not one that should dictate faculty appointments or media coverage of physics.

  22. Thanks Curious Wavefunction,

    You write, ” Of course nobody should stop you from working on string theory but it should be treated as no more than an elegant and interesting idea.”

    I was not aware that that String Theory was elegant? With no equations, and literally billions upon billions of solutions, and no concrete formalisms, where is the elegance?

    Even Michio Kaku admits ST lacks elegance: The great irony of string theory, however, is that the theory itself is not unified. . . For a theory that makes the claim of providing a unifying framework for all physical laws, it is the supreme irony that the theory itself appears so disunited!![xlvi] Introduction to Superstrings & M-Theory –Kaku

    Nobel Laureate Physicist: “Actually, I would not even be prepared to call string theory a “theory” rather a “model” or not even that: just a hunch. After all, a theory should come together with instructions on how to deal with it to identify the things one wishes to describe, in our case the elementary particles, and one should, at least in principle, be able to formulate the rules for calculating the properties of these particles, and how to make new predictions for them. Imagine that I give you a chair, while explaining that the legs are still missing, and that the seat, back and armrest will perhaps be delivered soon; whatever I did give you, can I still call it a chair?[xlii]” –‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate

    “With all the years that String Theory has been studied, no one has ever found a single defining equation! The number at present count is zero. We know neither what the fundamental equations of the theory are or even if it has any.” (p. 204) –The Cosmic Landscape, Leonard Susskind

    Nobel Laureate Physicist: If Einstein were alive today, he would be horrified at this state of affairs. He would upbraid the profession for allowing this mess to develop and fly into a blind rage over the transformation of his beautiful creations into ideologies and the resulting proliferation of logical inconsistencies. Einstein was an artist and a scholar but above all he was a revolutionary. His approach to physics might be summarized as hypothesizing minimally. Never arguing with experiment, demanding total logical consistency, and mistrusting unsubstantiated beliefs. The unsubstantial belief of his day was ether, or more precisely the naïve version of ether that preceded relativity. The unsubstantiated belief of our day is relativity itself. It would be perfectly in character for him to reexamine the facts, toss them over in his mind, and conclude that his beloved principle of relativity was not fundamental at all but emergent (emergent from MDT!) . . . It would mean that the fabric of space-time was not simply the stage on which life played out but an organizational phenomenon, and that there might be something beyond.[xlvii] (MDT!) -A Different Universe, Laughlin, Nobel Laureate

    Nobel Laureate Physicist: [String Theory] has no practical utility, however, other than to sustain the myth of the ultimate theory. There is no experimental evidence for the existence of strings in nature, nor does the special mathematics of string theory enable known experimental behavior to be calculated or predicted more easily. . . String theory is, in fact, a textbook case of Deceitful Turkey, a beautiful set of ideas that will always remain just barely out of reach. Far from a wonderful technological hope for a greater tomorrow, it is instead the tragic consequence of an obsolete belief system-in which emergence plays no role and dark law does not exist.[xlviii] —A Different Universe, Laughlin

  23. Wil says:

    Sean Carroll’s article in Discover draws an analogy between Giordano Bruni’s multi-sun and multi-planet cosmology (derived on philosophical grounds) and today’s multiverse cosmology (derived from string theory plus inflation). Could not one also choose as an analogy the world view of the geographers who, a century before Bruni, constructed maps of the earth that showed all the explored territory more or less accurately and, in the “unexplored” parts labeled simply “terra incognita”, added the annotations “Here there be dragons”? After all, they were led to that conclusion by the “theory of dragons” which posited that dragons exist, and since none were to be found in the explored territory, then they must reside in the unseen parts. This “theory of dragons” was not unreasonable; after all, snakes were of course well understood, and it is easy to extrapolate from that evidence to deduce what a much larger serpent would be like, and surely a much smaller number of hypothetical species than 10^500 would suffice for some of them to assume dragon-sized dimensions. Surely the existence of snakes (to say nothing of the very large reptilian bones that were routinely dug up in China) is much better experimental evidence for the existence of dragons than can has been found to date for the existence of strings. So is the multiverse akin to Bruni’s cosmology (which turned out to be right, but which had no actual experimental data underlying it), or is it more nearly akin to a map of spacetime that labels the “pocket universes incognita” with the annotation “Here there be strings”?

  24. Dear Wil,

    The problem with basing anything on String “Theory,” is that String “Theory” has no equations and it neither begins nor ends in physical reality, as nobody has ever seen a string, and there is no way to test for one. String Theory is *not* a physical theory. Basing the multiverse on String Theory is like basing a phantasm upon a falsehood that is founded upon the shifting sands of Sean Carrollonian fried-egg fantasies, which in turn are found only within the non-physical M-theory multiverse fallacy, where nobody knows what the M stands for.

    “With all the years that String Theory has been studied, no one has ever found a single defining equation! The number at present count is zero. We know neither what the fundamental equations of the theory are or even if it has any.” (p. 204) –The Cosmic Landscape, Leonard Susskind

    “But before mankind could be ripe for a science which takes in the whole of reality, a second fundamental truth was needed, which only became common property among philosophers with the advent of Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. (Yes! Moving dimensions theory begins in experience–the double slit experiment, entropy, relativity, nonlocality, time and all it arrows and asymmetries, and it ends in experience, by providing a physical model predicting all these entities!) Propositions arrived at by purely logical means (String theory, loop quantum gravity (which might not even use logic)) are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics—indeed, of modern science altogether. -Einstein[i], Ideas and Opinions

    Einstein’s above quote is quite prominent in its complete absence from today’s leading “physics” books and blogs, as are many of the Greats’ quotes below, wherein the Greats define what science is and ought to be–wherein they define what science has ever been. Einstein states that, “all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it,” and a glaring problem with string theory is that nobody has ever seen a tiny little string (and thus ST does not begin in experience), nor measured one, nor conceived of an experiment that would allow us to see strings (and thus ST does not, and cannot end in experience either). Nor has anyone ever seen a multiverse, nor come up with a way of measuring or detecting multiverses. Nor has anyone ever come across any of the tiny, little loops of loop quantum gravity, nor any way to detect nor measure tiny little loops. So it is that all these non-theories begin in the imagination, and end in it. One will hear their proponents singing of the great beauty of their theories, but then, when one asks them for the fundamental equation, they are unable to produce any. Indeed, it turns out there are millions of equivalent non-theories with various amounts of dimensions, with ever-changing math which never adds up to predict anything we see in physical reality. In that sense, the theories are actually quite ugly.

  25. Steve Turrentine says:

    People here should be aware of the fact that this fakey “Dr.” McGucken” is a nutball that also uses other names & is the ostensible author of the crackpot “moving dimensions” theory, a well-known quack theory. As can be seen by his entries here, he has almost nothing of his own to say, but merely quotes various other physicists is a lame attempt to bolster his crackpot ideas. Everything he’s said here can be ignored.