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Thread: String Theory

  1. #1 String Theory 
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    this topic i propose today was guided by the article and the book i was reading called "hyperspace" and the "the fabric of the cosmos". though i already by now that many scientists are in fact skeptical about this theory and, i intend to know why?

    also if its seen so skeptical, why does string theorists and theoretical physicists continuously work on it? but one miraculous fact about this theory is that the number "26" spontaneously appears.. now i have no idea on what this symbolizes or means, but recent study shows that the modular functions of Ramanujan' s lost notebooks seems to uncover such concept.

    do branes and strings really exist? though we know with our current technology we will never be able to probe down and prove such theorem, curiosity still drives me in bringing out this topic.

    now i know my knowledge is very limited but can you try and explain this theory not in too detail but just the shell of it without criticism please? thank you

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  3. #2 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    this topic i propose today was guided by the article and the book i was reading called "hyperspace" and the "the fabric of the cosmos". though i already by now that many scientists are in fact skeptical about this theory and, i intend to know why?

    also if its seen so skeptical, why does string theorists and theoretical physicists continuously work on it? but one miraculous fact about this theory is that the number "26" spontaneously appears.. now i have no idea on what this symbolizes or means, but recent study shows that the modular functions of Ramanujan' s lost notebooks seems to uncover such concept.

    do branes and strings really exist? though we know with our current technology we will never be able to probe down and prove such theorem, curiosity still drives me in bringing out this topic.

    now i know my knowledge is very limited but can you try and explain this theory not in too detail but just the shell of it without criticism please? thank you

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."
    The skepticism with regard to string theory from the perspective of physics comes from the fact that there has yet to be a testable new prediction provided by string theory, and because the theory is not even completely and rigorously defined.

    On the other hand the pursuit of string theory has resulted in some spectacular new mathematics.

    One major problem with string theory is that some practitioners are so overcome with a perceived mathematical beauty that they think they have the ultimate answer to physical laws, but can produce no predictions. Nevertheless they present the status of string theory to the public as much more mature than it is. String theory has explained no physics as yet. There are only a bunch of half-formed, unproved conjectures.

    String theory may well mature and become a devastatingly powerful physical theory. But for now it is not a physical theory at all, but only a promising avenue for research.

    The existence of branes is not a theorem or even a potential theorem. A theorem is the result of the application of logic to a set of axioms that are accepted as true without proof. Theorems are a product of mathematics. Physics requires experimental evidence for confirmation of predictions and is the basis for the acceptance of a physical theory. String theory itself is currently not sufficiently well defined for a mathematical theory, although some of the insights and questions inspired by string theory have been made rigorous by mathematicians and some deep theorems have been proved. Neither has string theory made new predictions that can be addressed with physical experiments.

    One aspect of most string theories is supersymmetry. Supersymmetry is not unique to string theory, but is necessary for most if not all of the proposed string theories. Supersymmetry may be confirmed at least in part by experiments that are expected to be conducted at the LHC, when it starts operating in earnest. That will not confirm string theory, but a failure to confirm supersymmetry would be detrimental to string theory while the discovery of a supersymmetric partner to one of the known particles would be encouraging.

    I don't know anything about Ramanujan modular functions, but salsaonline might as it is closer to his specialty than to mine.


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    ah i see, so despite the new mathematics from the theory, no physical certainties could be concluded "Yet"

    and also, when we talk about "strings" here, what are we really referring to?
    for example if we are talking about an atom, we could refer to its composition e.g. electron, proton, neutron etc.... but how bout Strings?



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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    ah i see, so despite the new mathematics from the theory, no physical certainties could be concluded "Yet"

    and also, when we talk about "strings" here, what are we really referring to?
    for example if we are talking about an atom, we could refer to its composition e.g. electron, proton, neutron etc.... but how bout Strings?



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    The idea is that what we call elementary particles -- electrons, quarks, etc. are just different vibratory modes of strings.
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  6. #5  
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    vibratory modes of strings.
    are you referring to the "Dual resonance model" here?
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    vibratory modes of strings.
    are you referring to the "Dual resonance model" here?
    no
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  8. #7  
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    alright in that case,

    do you have any idea in which dimension these strings vibrate in?
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    alright in that case,

    do you have any idea in which dimension these strings vibrate in?
    all of them
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  10. #9  
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    Here is a recent and pertinent quote from Steven Weinberg

    "I can’t comment usefully on this, except to say that it wouldn’t hurt in this work if we knew what string theory is."
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  11. #10  
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    One of the really strong post-docs at my grad school commented on the importance of 26 in number theory. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this was related to the appearance of 26 in bosonic string theory--modular forms, after all, are fundamental to the mathematics of string theory.

    As I understand it, the way strings give rise to particles is as follows: You start with an action-Lagrangian for the world sheet of a string propagating in space-time. The Euler-Lagrange equations give rise to a wave-like equation for the string. Since the spatial part of the string is periodic, you can decompose a solution to the wave equation into a sum of Fourier modes. You quantize these Fourier modes, and end up with a bunch of creation and annihilation operators. Finally, you notice that various natural combinations of these creation and annihilation operators transform under a change of coordinates just like you'd expect, for example, a photon to transform. So string theory contains photons, and by extension, electromagnetism. That should give you some idea of how particles arise in string theory.
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    The skepticism with regard to string theory from the perspective of physics comes from the fact that there has yet to be a testable new prediction provided by string theory, and because the theory is not even completely and rigorously defined.
    What about proton decay? It hasn't been observed yet AFAIK, but if they do, would that count as strong supporting evidence or not?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  13. #12  
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    bosonic string theory--modular forms
    what is the difference between bosonic string theory and heterotic string theory?
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    Bosonic string theory contains only bosonic strings, which means all the particles predicted by the theory are bosons.

    Heterotic string theory contains both bosons and fermions, and is, moreover, a super-symmetric theory.

    Bear in mind that heterotic string theory is a particular type of super-symmetric theory. There are others, for example, Type IIA and IIB.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by salsaonline
    Bosonic string theory contains only bosonic strings, which means all the particles predicted by the theory are bosons.

    Heterotic string theory contains both bosons and fermions, and is, moreover, a super-symmetric theory.

    Bear in mind that heterotic string theory is a particular type of super-symmetric theory. There are others, for example, Type IIA and IIB.
    The answer to this question may be "go read vol 1 of Polchinski's book", but I will ask anyway.

    How do you get, in principle, a theory that includes only bosons (force carriers), without including the fermions on which the particles act? That strikes me as theory of ketchup without hamburgers or hot dogs. I know that it is just a "practice theory", a mathematical warm-up for the real thing, but I have not been through the details and don't quite understand how one would go qbout constructing such a thing. Did someone just put together an abstract model and then observe that some of the constructs resemble known bosons ?
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    It's very easy to write down a quantum theory that just has one photon and no other particles. The Lagrangian is, modulo some constant,



    where A is a connection 1-form field on a Lorentzian 4-manifold.

    The Euler Lagrange equations are d*F = dF = 0, where F = dA is the curvature of the line bundle with connection 1-form A. Write this down in local coordinates in R^4, and notice that this is Maxwell's equations.

    Upon quantizing the solutions to the equation of motion, you get a quantum field theory for a non-self-interacting boson. This field theory already contains nontrivial physics. In fact, it is this field theory that Feynman is talking about in the beginning part of his QED lectures.
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  17. #16  
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    bosons.
    are we talking about the subatomic particle that follows the Bose-Einstein Condensate? the Gauge Bosons? that are meant to carry fundamental forces of nature?
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    bosons.
    are we talking about the subatomic particle that follows the Bose-Einstein Condensate? the Gauge Bosons? that are meant to carry fundamental forces of nature?
    A Bose-Einstein condensate has little to do with bosons.

    Bosons are the carriers of the fundamental forces.
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  19. #18  
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    does the force carrier of gravity (graviton) also come under the gauge bosons?
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    does the force carrier of gravity (graviton) also come under the gauge bosons?
    If it exists it is a boson.

    There is no current valid quantum theory of gravitation, so the graviton is hypothetical. If and when there is a quantum theory of gravity and if and when the force carrier is discovered, we already have a name for it -- the gravition.

    Most physicists think that there will eventually be a quantum theory of gravity and that the graviton will be found to exist. But we are not there yet.
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  21. #20  
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    oh okay, thank you for that brief but sound explanation
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  22. #21 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    this topic i propose today was guided by the article and the book i was reading called "hyperspace" and the "the fabric of the cosmos". though i already by now that many scientists are in fact skeptical about this theory and, i intend to know why?

    also if its seen so skeptical, why does string theorists and theoretical physicists continuously work on it? but one miraculous fact about this theory is that the number "26" spontaneously appears.. now i have no idea on what this symbolizes or means, but recent study shows that the modular functions of Ramanujan' s lost notebooks seems to uncover such concept.

    do branes and strings really exist? though we know with our current technology we will never be able to probe down and prove such theorem, curiosity still drives me in bringing out this topic.

    now i know my knowledge is very limited but can you try and explain this theory not in too detail but just the shell of it without criticism please? thank you

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."

    The String theory is not real science, it is pseudoscience

    The reason why it gets a free pass is because a lot of scientists favor it, but from a strict view, since it lacks empirical testability and falsifiability it is not science

    The supposed String "theorists" are not really scientific theorists, they are really hypothesizers, word theory and hypothesis are often misused

    It's just mathematical speculation with no testable predictions

    Some critics like Peter Woit say its worse than wrong

    The reason why empirical testability is important to science is because in order to determine if something is true or false it has to be empirically testable, otherwise it's just pure speculation
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  23. #22 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    this topic i propose today was guided by the article and the book i was reading called "hyperspace" and the "the fabric of the cosmos". though i already by now that many scientists are in fact skeptical about this theory and, i intend to know why?

    also if its seen so skeptical, why does string theorists and theoretical physicists continuously work on it? but one miraculous fact about this theory is that the number "26" spontaneously appears.. now i have no idea on what this symbolizes or means, but recent study shows that the modular functions of Ramanujan' s lost notebooks seems to uncover such concept.

    do branes and strings really exist? though we know with our current technology we will never be able to probe down and prove such theorem, curiosity still drives me in bringing out this topic.

    now i know my knowledge is very limited but can you try and explain this theory not in too detail but just the shell of it without criticism please? thank you

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."

    The String theory is not real science, it is pseudoscience

    The reason why it gets a free pass is because a lot of scientists favor it, but from a strict view, since it lacks empirical testability and falsifiability it is not science

    The supposed String "theorists" are not really scientific theorists, they are really hypothesizers, word theory and hypothesis are often misused

    It's just mathematical speculation with no testable predictions

    Some critics like Peter Woit say its worse than wrong

    The reason why empirical testability is important to science is because in order to determine if something is true or false it has to be empirically testable, otherwise it's just pure speculation
    That is a wild overstatement.

    I am personally critical of some of the representations of string theory in the popular literature. There is way too much speculative work being presented as established science.

    But that does not mean that string theory is pseudoscience. Far from it. It is a perfectly valid avenue of current research in theoretical physics. It may or may not ever bear fruit, make testable predictions and be validated by experiment.

    But in the meantime is perfectly valid research. It should not be considered as the only viable avenue or research or as the last word in anything. But pseudoscience ? Hardly.

    You ought to read the piece by Woit to which you provided a link. It is rather perceptive, and it most certainly does not categorize string theory as pseudoscience.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    bosons.
    are we talking about the subatomic particle that follows the Bose-Einstein Condensate? the Gauge Bosons? that are meant to carry fundamental forces of nature?
    A Bose-Einstein condensate has little to do with bosons.

    Bosons are the carriers of the fundamental forces.
    Sorry, but this is only half true. Bosons are particles that have a spin of an integer number. In that way, even compound atomic nuclei having an integer sum spin are bosons.

    Example:
    is a fermion
    (Deuterium) is a boson
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    In fairness, the original question that DrRocket asked was about gauge bosons.
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  26. #25 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by Heinsbergrelatz
    this topic i propose today was guided by the article and the book i was reading called "hyperspace" and the "the fabric of the cosmos". though i already by now that many scientists are in fact skeptical about this theory and, i intend to know why?

    also if its seen so skeptical, why does string theorists and theoretical physicists continuously work on it? but one miraculous fact about this theory is that the number "26" spontaneously appears.. now i have no idea on what this symbolizes or means, but recent study shows that the modular functions of Ramanujan' s lost notebooks seems to uncover such concept.

    do branes and strings really exist? though we know with our current technology we will never be able to probe down and prove such theorem, curiosity still drives me in bringing out this topic.

    now i know my knowledge is very limited but can you try and explain this theory not in too detail but just the shell of it without criticism please? thank you

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."

    The String theory is not real science, it is pseudoscience

    The reason why it gets a free pass is because a lot of scientists favor it, but from a strict view, since it lacks empirical testability and falsifiability it is not science

    The supposed String "theorists" are not really scientific theorists, they are really hypothesizers, word theory and hypothesis are often misused

    It's just mathematical speculation with no testable predictions

    Some critics like Peter Woit say its worse than wrong

    The reason why empirical testability is important to science is because in order to determine if something is true or false it has to be empirically testable, otherwise it's just pure speculation
    That is a wild overstatement.

    I am personally critical of some of the representations of string theory in the popular literature. There is way too much speculative work being presented as established science.

    But that does not mean that string theory is pseudoscience. Far from it. It is a perfectly valid avenue of current research in theoretical physics. It may or may not ever bear fruit, make testable predictions and be validated by experiment.

    But in the meantime is perfectly valid research. It should not be considered as the only viable avenue or research or as the last word in anything. But pseudoscience ? Hardly.

    You ought to read the piece by Woit to which you provided a link. It is rather perceptive, and it most certainly does not categorize string theory as pseudoscience.
    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience or "fake science" since it does not meet the criteria of being science

    A hypothesis must have empirical testability and falsifiability in order to be considered scientific

    So the string theory is pseudoscience by definition
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  27. #26  
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    If you assume it to be a hypothesis, then yes, it'd probably have to be labeled as pseudoscience since it'd be an untestable hypothesis, but I don't think string theory has made it as far as that yet. In other words, it can still be considered science since it's still in the stages before what would be called a hypothesis and so doesn't need to meet as strict of standards (yet). Most psuedoscience tends to throw the whole scientific process out the window, which I don't think has happened to string theory yet.
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  28. #27 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne

    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience or "fake science" since it does not meet the criteria of being science

    A hypothesis must have empirical testability and falsifiability in order to be considered scientific

    So the string theory is pseudoscience by definition
    That is utter nonsense.

    You have your own private defintiion. A bogus one.
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  29. #28 Re: String Theory 
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience or "fake science" since it does not meet the criteria of being science

    Every science theory has a pre-hypothesis stage, doesn't it? Until string theory actually makes some predictions, it's not a "fake" anything. In order to be a fake, you have to claim something about yourself.

    A hypothesis must have empirical testability and falsifiability in order to be considered scientific

    So the string theory is pseudoscience by definition
    It's given us all an "IOU" for that part. We'll have to wait and see whether it's good for it or not. True pseudo-science doesn't bother to give out "IOU"'s, because true pseudo-science doesn't think it needs one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    If you assume it to be a hypothesis, then yes, it'd probably have to be labeled as pseudoscience since it'd be an untestable hypothesis, but I don't think string theory has made it as far as that yet. In other words, it can still be considered science since it's still in the stages before what would be called a hypothesis and so doesn't need to meet as strict of standards (yet). Most psuedoscience tends to throw the whole scientific process out the window, which I don't think has happened to string theory yet.
    So you're saying the string theory is even worse than pseudoscience? It hasn't even made it to the level of being a hypothesis?


    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne

    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience or "fake science" since it does not meet the criteria of being science

    A hypothesis must have empirical testability and falsifiability in order to be considered scientific

    So the string theory is pseudoscience by definition
    That is utter nonsense.

    You have your own private defintiion. A bogus one.
    No it's not nonsense, it's the truth, and many physicists agree that the string theory should not be considered science.

    "Pseudoscience is a methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific, or that is made to appear to be scientific, but which does not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology,lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status."

    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience, I don't know why people keep giving the string theory special treatment

    Using your reasoning maybe Intelligent Design can be science too

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    By definition the string theory is pseudoscience or "fake science" since it does not meet the criteria of being science

    Every science theory has a pre-hypothesis stage, doesn't it? Until string theory actually makes some predictions, it's not a "fake" anything. In order to be a fake, you have to claim something about yourself.
    Right, and in the past nearly everything was non-scientific like atoms, only after meeting the scientific criteria did they become scientific.

    The string theory has no testable predictions, which is definitely non-scientific, this means it doesn't tell you anything

    A hypothesis must have empirical testability and falsifiability in order to be considered scientific

    So the string theory is pseudoscience by definition
    It's given us all an "IOU" for that part. We'll have to wait and see whether it's good for it or not. True pseudo-science doesn't bother to give out "IOU"'s, because true pseudo-science doesn't think it needs one.
    So then by your reasoning anything can be science?

    Can Intelligent Design be science? Can ghosts be science? Maybe in the future they'll find a way to test it , so it could be scientific
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    If you assume it to be a hypothesis, then yes, it'd probably have to be labeled as pseudoscience since it'd be an untestable hypothesis, but I don't think string theory has made it as far as that yet. In other words, it can still be considered science since it's still in the stages before what would be called a hypothesis and so doesn't need to meet as strict of standards (yet). Most psuedoscience tends to throw the whole scientific process out the window, which I don't think has happened to string theory yet.
    So you're saying the string theory is even worse than pseudoscience? It hasn't even made it to the level of being a hypothesis?
    Why would that make it worse? It's on its way to that level. It just hasn't made it there yet.

    Science goes like this:
    - An idea
    - Work to formalize that idea
    - Make predictions from the formalism
    - Test those predictions
    - Throw away the idea if the predictions fail

    Crank psuedoscience goes like this:
    - An idea
    - Make assertions
    - Fight anything that would contradict the idea (up to and including reality in most cases)

    There are probably some in between cases, but string theory is clearly science that's been stuck at step 2 for quite a while. Formalising string theory has been a challenge. Psuedoscience tends to skip the formalisms all together.

    As an example of psuedoscience, consider ID. They have an idea (Life needs an Intellegent Designer to exist). They make assertions (such as: information cannot be created). They fight anything that would contradict their idea (such as: examples of processes that increase information for any reasonable definition of information).
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    If you assume it to be a hypothesis, then yes, it'd probably have to be labeled as pseudoscience since it'd be an untestable hypothesis, but I don't think string theory has made it as far as that yet. In other words, it can still be considered science since it's still in the stages before what would be called a hypothesis and so doesn't need to meet as strict of standards (yet). Most psuedoscience tends to throw the whole scientific process out the window, which I don't think has happened to string theory yet.
    So you're saying the string theory is even worse than pseudoscience? It hasn't even made it to the level of being a hypothesis?
    Why would that make it worse? It's on its way to that level. It just hasn't made it there yet.

    Science goes like this:
    - An idea
    - Work to formalize that idea
    - Make predictions from the formalism
    - Test those predictions
    - Throw away the idea if the predictions fail

    Crank psuedoscience goes like this:
    - An idea
    - Make assertions
    - Fight anything that would contradict the idea (up to and including reality in most cases)

    There are probably some in between cases, but string theory is clearly science that's been stuck at step 2 for quite a while. Formalising string theory has been a challenge. Psuedoscience tends to skip the formalisms all together.

    As an example of psuedoscience, consider ID. They have an idea (Life needs an Intellegent Designer to exist). They make assertions (such as: information cannot be created). They fight anything that would contradict their idea (such as: examples of processes that increase information for any reasonable definition of information).
    So then doesn't the string theory fit into pseudoscience as you've defined it?

    The string theory has been proposed since the 1970s...30 years have passed and there's not even one testable prediction, no testable results in peer-reviewed literature. String "theorists" fight against any opposition in viewing the string theory as pseudo-scientific.

    Since the string theory is not testable, it can't test predictions and can't throw away anything. So it seems to fit your idea of pseudoscience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    So then doesn't the string theory fit into pseudoscience as you've defined it?

    The string theory has been proposed since the 1970s...30 years have passed and there's not even one testable prediction, no testable results in peer-reviewed literature. String "theorists" fight against any opposition in viewing the string theory as pseudo-scientific.

    Science the string theory is not testable, it can't test predictions and can't throw away anything. So it seems to fit your idea of pseudoscience.
    A problem with string theory is that some pseudoscientists try to use it as arguments in their assertions. It's not because some people abuse an unfinished idea that there is absolutely no value in the idea.
    You can't blame J.K.Rowling for anything Barry Trotter does.

    ID-fighters start with the premise that god exists and want to prove that.
    other pseudoscientists start with premises that dolphins are a spacefaring race, or homoeopathy works, or telepathy is possible, or ghosts exist, or any other silly belief. Then they want to prove it using whatever they can think of.

    The real scientists working on string theory don't want to prove anything and are curious where it will lead and hopeful that they'll one day be able to get some measurable predictions.
    Regretfully, I've also seen pseudoscientists use string theory to prove things like telepathy, which doesn't really help the public image.
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    I'll just add that fighting against being labeled as psuedoscience is not the same thing as fighting against evidence contradictory to the main idea. There's no evidence to contradict string theory (nor support it). There is evidence that contradicts ID, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    I'll just add that fighting against being labeled as psuedoscience is not the same thing as fighting against evidence contradictory to the main idea. There's no evidence to contradict string theory (nor support it). There is evidence that contradicts ID, etc.
    String theory is still formative. It is not even well defined. That makes it difficult to contradict.

    Some day it may develop into a truly formidable physical theory. That day has not arrived.

    String theory is neither pseudoscience, nor really science. It is a promising avenue of research and is not sufficiently mature to have made testable predictions. It is neither right nor wrong.

    It is a serious attempt to understand nature. Whether or not it succeeds only time will tell. To call it pseudoscience is wrong.

    A good deal of what appears in the popular literature is pure hype. There are a bunch of "physicists" out there who deserve to be horse whipped for just plain lying to the public. They present string theory as though it was established physics. In so doing they do a disservice to both the public and to the discipline. The public gets an impression of science, which it is not yet, and a level of maturity and understanding that simply does not exist. That does a disservice to string theorists because they now come under fire for failure to produce meaningful physical predictcions. They are in no position to make predictions and deserve to be allowed to conduct research that could lead to a theory capable of predictions.

    The better string theorists seem to avoid over-hyping th discipline. I have seen nothing from Witten that is not honest. I have no personal use for Kaku whatever.

    The other piece of the sorry picture is an overemphasis on string theory as "the only game in town", which tends to stifle overall research. What is needed is for good research to be performed within normal scientific bounds. That means following a number of potential paths. It also means reporting honestly on results and partial results. It probably also means not publishing a bunch of popular distortions for the sole purpose of making money by selling books.

    I strongly urge people to read only popularizations written by first-rank researchers whose reputation depends on their honesty. Better yet, read the real thing, but that does require a lot of background.

    Here are some authors that I generally trust to be honest, even with regard to issues on which I disagree with them:

    Richard Feynman
    Steven Weinberg
    Gordon Kane
    Ed Witten (his articles are good but he doesn't write popular books)
    Stephen Hawking
    Roger Penrose
    Kip Thorne
    John Archibald Wheeler
    Robert Wald
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    What about Sheldon Katz? Has he written any digestible articles? I think he's written an undergraduate book on the subject (whatever that means).

    By the way, I notice your list has hardly any string theorists on it. In addition to Edward Witten and the above-mentioned Sheldon Katz, those interested in string theory might check out

    Kentaro Hori
    Cumrun Vafa

    And it would be foolish not to include Brian Greene. He is well-regarded even within his field for his expository skills. My advisor held him up as an example of how to give a good research talk. He noted that even other string theorists liked to show up to his general audience talks because his presentation of the subject was so clear and beautiful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by salsaonline
    What about Sheldon Katz? Has he written any digestible articles? I think he's written an undergraduate book on the subject (whatever that means).

    By the way, I notice your list has hardly any string theorists on it. In addition to Edward Witten and the above-mentioned Sheldon Katz, those interested in string theory might check out

    Kentaro Hori
    Cumrun Vafa

    And it would be foolish not to include Brian Greene. He is well-regarded even within his field for his expository skills. My advisor held him up as an example of how to give a good research talk. He noted that even other string theorists liked to show up to his general audience talks because his presentation of the subject was so clear and beautiful.
    Katz has two books that I can find:

    Enumerative Geometry and String Theory

    Mirror Symmetry and Algebraic Geometry.

    Hori has one book:

    Mirror Symmetry

    Vafa also has one book:

    Winter School on Mirror Symmetry, Vector Bundles, and Lagrangian Submanifolds


    They all strike me as a bit intense for mass consumption.


    I like Brian Greene's books very much, and own two of them, but I also find a good deal of the value comes from reading the footnotes (which are numerous and detailed). I am somewhat afraid that a non-critical reader will get the impression that string theory is a more mature physical theory than what is justified. He is an advocate for string theory, but certainly not as wild as Kaku.

    In a nutshell my impression of string theory is that it has generated some deep and beautiful mathematics. I have no idea if it has anything to do with physics. I don't think anyone else does either, but that is not what is being told to the general public.

    I like Greene's style very much. I an not surprised at the recommendation from your adviser. But neither he nor you are representative of a popular and non-critical audience.

    The thing that I find striking about most of the popular books on modern physics that have been written recently is that essentially none of the forecasts have been even close to what has happened. I an just finishing Gordon Kane's book on supersymmetry (received yesterday) (written about 1999) and his predictions for what would be found at Fermilab and the LEP collider at Cern (by about 2005 and certainly by now) have all been completely wrong (we should have seen at least one of the supersymmetric Higgs bosons years ago as well as other superpartners). Hawking's anticipation of a theory of everything by 2000 was way off. Susskind recent Cosmic Landscape is just nonsense. So I an very leery of recommending popularizations that over-hype conjectural particle physics, including string theory (especially string theory), to any other than a very sophisticated reader. Kane is very responsible in clearly labeling conjectural notions as "RIP" (Research In Progress), but some others tend to present conjecture as fact (Susskind's is very bad about this), and I find that very common with the string theory crowd -- Witten being a notable exception, but he doesn't write popular books.

    I very much like Feynman's stuff, which is factual and insightful, as are books by Weinberg, but they are somewhat older than some of the books that are popular at the moment. Feynman's QED is a masterpiece, as is The Character of Physical Law.

    I would very much like to see something by Witten. He seems to be extremely honest as well as brilliant. I have seen some rather candid interviews, and if he wrote a book in that same vein it would be a great service. In the interviews he basically said that string theory has shown great promise, but the mathematics is just too hard, a lot harder than he originally anticipated, to reach any conclusions. He is quite clear that we need new mathematics to make any progress. To me that says that we need to support more and deeper research in the area, and also we ought to encourage other avenues of research and not put all our eggs in the string theory basket.
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    Steven weinberg, i indeed think he is an interesting physicist , after watching a long one hour or so interview with richard dawkins, and of course his work with one of the finest minds of the 21st century edward witten.

    also as i was going through some articles on string theory, i heard constant repetitions of conclusions saying that the mathematics of string theory is a mistake that accidentally hurled in to the 21st century, as what physicists thought of the mathematics and theoy of einstein's general and special relativity in the 20th century.
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    I agree with your assessments DrRocket. In the end, it may have been a mistake for physicists to bring string theory to the attention of the general public while it was still a work in progress. In fairness to them, I think this reflected an honest belief on their part that a complete theory was just around the corner.

    Critics of string theory should be reminded that it took people roughly 40 years to sort out the theoretical difficulties of quantum electrodynamics (the big stumbling block being renormalization). And string theory is vastly more complicated.

    There is no question that string theory is an important area of research. The more interesting question is what area of research will string theory ultimately belong to. I think there is a good chance that string theory will evolve into an area of mathematics. We may never know what the ultimate theory of the universe is, but to the extent that string theory continues to operate as a mathematical conjecture machine, people will have ample reason to study it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bender
    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    So then doesn't the string theory fit into pseudoscience as you've defined it?

    The string theory has been proposed since the 1970s...30 years have passed and there's not even one testable prediction, no testable results in peer-reviewed literature. String "theorists" fight against any opposition in viewing the string theory as pseudo-scientific.

    Science the string theory is not testable, it can't test predictions and can't throw away anything. So it seems to fit your idea of pseudoscience.
    A problem with string theory is that some pseudoscientists try to use it as arguments in their assertions. It's not because some people abuse an unfinished idea that there is absolutely no value in the idea.
    You can't blame J.K.Rowling for anything Barry Trotter does.

    ID-fighters start with the premise that god exists and want to prove that.
    other pseudoscientists start with premises that dolphins are a spacefaring race, or homoeopathy works, or telepathy is possible, or ghosts exist, or any other silly belief. Then they want to prove it using whatever they can think of.

    The real scientists working on string theory don't want to prove anything and are curious where it will lead and hopeful that they'll one day be able to get some measurable predictions.
    Regretfully, I've also seen pseudoscientists use string theory to prove things like telepathy, which doesn't really help the public image.
    I disagree some scientists really do want to prove the string theory. They also start with the premise that the string theory is true, then try to prove it, but cannot because it lacks empirical testability

    Also pseudo-scientists are just scientists working outside of scientific principles.

    Quote Originally Posted by MagiMaster
    I'll just add that fighting against being labeled as psuedoscience is not the same thing as fighting against evidence contradictory to the main idea. There's no evidence to contradict string theory (nor support it). There is evidence that contradicts ID, etc.
    There can't be evidence against something that's unfalsifiable, that's why empirical testability is important
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    Quote Originally Posted by VitalOne
    I disagree some scientists really do want to prove the string theory. They also start with the premise that the string theory is true, then try to prove it, but cannot because it lacks empirical testability

    Also pseudo-scientists are just scientists working outside of scientific principles.
    So our disagreement is based on a definition. My definition of a scientist includes strict adherence to scientific principles
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket



    I strongly urge people to read only popularizations written by first-rank researchers whose reputation depends on their honesty. Better yet, read the real thing, but that does require a lot of background.

    Here are some authors that I generally trust to be honest, even with regard to issues on which I disagree with them:

    Richard Feynman
    Steven Weinberg
    Gordon Kane
    Ed Witten (his articles are good but he doesn't write popular books)
    Stephen Hawking
    Roger Penrose
    Kip Thorne
    John Archibald Wheeler
    Robert Wald
    It's difficult, for the non-scientist, to decide which writers are the best popularizers.
    In sport, the best performers do not necessarily make the best coaches and one could argue that, in science, the best researchers do not necessarily make the best writers.
    Any opinions on Paul Davies as a scientist and writer?
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  43. #42  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday
    Quote Originally Posted by DrRocket



    I strongly urge people to read only popularizations written by first-rank researchers whose reputation depends on their honesty. Better yet, read the real thing, but that does require a lot of background.

    Here are some authors that I generally trust to be honest, even with regard to issues on which I disagree with them:

    Richard Feynman
    Steven Weinberg
    Gordon Kane
    Ed Witten (his articles are good but he doesn't write popular books)
    Stephen Hawking
    Roger Penrose
    Kip Thorne
    John Archibald Wheeler
    Robert Wald
    It's difficult, for the non-scientist, to decide which writers are the best popularizers.
    In sport, the best performers do not necessarily make the best coaches and one could argue that, in science, the best researchers do not necessarily make the best writers.
    Any opinions on Paul Davies as a scientist and writer?
    I have found that the best and most reliable popularizations are written by first-tier researchers. I have been very disappointed with others, who write solely only to sell books. The first-tier scientists of course do make some money, but I think their real motivation is to tell the story correctly.

    Davies has a good book called Super Strings. It is good because it is a series of interviews with first-tier researchers. Davies himself is not in that category.

    The list of writers that I gave consists only of serious researchers, and I have read their stuff and can recommend it. They get plenty of editorial help in making the books readable, but it is their deep insight and understanding that carries the day.

    I argue that in science it is only the best researchers that make good popularizers. Some of the others may write books that are more entertaining, but they are also deceptive. If you want to learn, read the masters.

    There is so much distorted nonsense in the popular literature that I think it is very risky for a non-specialist to use it as a source. It is just too easy to start to believe as fact ideas that are wild conjectures. Unfortunately even some established physicists have written books that present conjectural ideas as facts. I personally find Leonard Susskind's books to fall in that category. They are interesting but you need to be very critical and a bit sophisticated to not fall into the trap of believing that which is not established.

    If you really want to learn, read their serious stuff and not just the popularizations. Every one of the writers that I listed also produced classic serious texts, which are extremely good. One that is reasonably accessible is The Feynman Lectures on Physics, which is a freshman level book that is sometimes used by graduate students preparing for their qualifying examinations for the PhD.

    Just for the record here are some serious books by the named authors

    Richard Feynman -- The Feynman Lectures on Physics
    Quantum Electrodynamics
    Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics, the 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures (with Weinberg)
    Photon Hadron Interactions
    Theory of Fundamental Processes
    Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals

    Steven Weinberg --- Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics, the 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures (with Feynman)
    The Quantum Theory of Fields (3 vols)
    Gravitation and Cosmology:Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity

    Gordon Kane -- Modern Elementary Particle Physics

    Ed Witten -- Superstring Theory ( 2 vol with Green and Schwarz)

    Stephen Hawking -- The large-scale structure of spacetime (with Ellis)

    Roger Penrose -- Techniques of Differential Topology in Relativity

    Kip Thorne -- Gravitation (with Misner and Wheeler)

    John Archibald Wheeler -- Gravitation (with Misner and Thorne)
    Gravitation and Inertia (with Ciufolini)

    Robert Wald -- General Relativity
    Quantum Theory in Curved Spacetime and Blackhole Thermodynamics
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