Cosmologic philosophy: physics current dead end (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, June 18, 2018, 17:37 (789 days ago) @ David Turell

Current theoretical physics is going no where according to this new book. It has lost its way in over two generations of puzzling physicists chasing unprovable goals:

"The history of physics is filled with great ideas that you've heard of, like the Standard Model, the Big Bang, General Relativity, and so on. But it's also filled with brilliant ideas that you probably haven't heard of, like the Sakata Model, Technicolor theory, the Steady State Model, and Plasma Cosmology. Today, we have theories that are highly fashionable, but without any evidence for them: supersymmetry, grand unification, string theory, and the multiverse.

"Because of the way the field is structured, mired in a sycophancy of ideas, careers in theoretical high-energy physics that focus on these topics are often successful. On the other hand, choosing other topics means going it alone. The idea of "beauty" or "naturalness" has been a guiding principle in physics for a long time, and has led us to this point. In her new book, Lost In Math, Sabine Hossenfelder convincingly argues that continuing to adhere to this principle is exactly what's leading us astray.


"The electron, the lightest particle that makes up the atoms we find on Earth, is more than 300,000 times less massive than the top quark, the heaviest Standard Model particle. The neutrinos are at least four million times lighter than the electron, while the Planck mass — the so-called "natural" energy scale for the Universe — is some 10^17 (or 100,000,000,000,000,000) times heavier than the top quark.

"If you weren't aware of any underlying reason why these masses should be so different, you'd assume there was some reason for it. And maybe there is one. This type of thinking is known as a fine-tuning or "naturalness" argument. In its simplest form, it states that there ought to be some sort of physical explanation for why components of the Universe with very different properties ought to have those differences between them. (my bold)

"In the 20th century, physicists used naturalness arguments to great effect. ... The entire Standard Model was built on these types of symmetries and naturalness arguments, and nature happened to agree with our best theories.

"Another great success was cosmic inflation. The Universe needed to have been finely-tuned to a great degree in the early stages to produce the Universe we see today. The balance between the expansion rate, the spatial curvature, and the amount of matter-and-energy within it must have been extraordinary; it appears to be unnatural. Cosmic inflation was a proposed mechanism to explain it, and has since had many of its predictions confirmed, such as:
a nearly scale-invariant spectrum of fluctuations,
the existence of super-horizon overdensities and underdensities,
with density imperfections that are adiabatic in nature,
and an upper limit to the temperature reached in the early, post-Big Bang Universe.


"Yet unlike in the past, these dead-ends continue to represent the fields in which the leading theorists and experimentalists cluster to investigate. These blind alleys, which have borne no fruit for literally two generations of physicists, continue to attract funding and attention, despite possibly being disconnected from reality completely. In her new book, Lost In Math, Sabine Hossenfelder adroitly confronts this crisis head on, interviewing mainstream scientists, Nobel Laureates, and (non-crackpot) contrarians alike. You can feel her frustration, and also the desperation of many of the people she speaks with. The book answers the question of "have we let wishful thinking about what secrets nature holds cloud our judgment?" with a resounding "yes!"

" No one likes confronting the possibility of having wasted their lives chasing a phantasm of an idea, but that's what being a theorist is all about. You see a few pieces of an incomplete puzzle and guess what the full picture truly is; most times, you're wrong. Perhaps, in these cases, all our guesses have been wrong. In my favorite exchange, she interviews Steven Weinberg, who draws on his vast experience in physics to explain why naturalness arguments are good guides for theoretical physicists. But he only manages to convince us that they were good ideas for the classes of problems they previously succeeded at solving. There's no guarantee they'll be good guideposts for the current problems; in fact, they demonstrably have not been.

"If you are a theoretical particle physicist, a string theorist, or a phenomenologist — particularly if you suffer from cognitive dissonance — you will not like this book. If you are a true believer in naturalness as the guiding light of theoretical physics, this book will irritate you tremendously. But if you're someone who isn't afraid to ask that big question of "are we doing it all wrong," the answer might be a big, uncomfortable "yes." Those of us who are intellectually honest physicists have been living with this discomfort for many decades now. In Sabine's book, Lost In Math, this discomfort is now made accessible to the rest of us."

Comment: Fits all the negative thoughts I've presented. We need a new set of theories. Note my bold. We really don't know why the particles have the masses they have. The article shows all the particles in relationships.

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