The Present Phase of Stagnation in the Foundations of Physics Is Not Normal?

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sciborg2

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« on: November 27, 2018, 09:32:33 pm »
The Present Phase of Stagnation in the Foundations of Physics Is Not Normal


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I have spelled out many times, very clearly, what theoretical physicists should do differently. Itís just that they donít like my answer. They should stop trying to solve problems that donít exist. That a theory isnít pretty is not a problem. Focus on mathematically well-defined problems, thatís what I am saying. And, for heavenís sake, stop rewarding scientists for working on what is popular with their colleagues.

I donít take this advice out of nowhere. If you look at the history of physics, it was working on the hard mathematical problems that led to breakthroughs. If you look at the sociology of science, bad incentives create substantial inefficiencies. If you look at the psychology of science, no one likes change.

Developing new methodologies is harder than inventing new particles in the dozens, which is why they donít like to hear my conclusions. Any change will reduce the paper output, and they donít want this. Itís not institutional pressure that creates this resistance, itís that scientists themselves donít want to move their butts.

How long can they go on with this, you ask? How long can they keep on spinning theory-tales?

I am afraid there is nothing that can stop them. They review each otherís papers. They review each otherís grant proposals. And they constantly tell each other that what they are doing is good science. Why should they stop? For them, all is going well. They hold conferences, they publish papers, they discuss their great new ideas. From the inside, it looks like business as usual, just that nothing comes out of it.

This is not a problem that will go away by itself.
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TLEILAXU

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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2018, 10:27:44 pm »
Interesting, check out one of Lubos Motl's many angry rants about Sabine Hossenfelder, e.g. https://motls.blogspot.com/2018/06/science-magazine-surprisingly-sane.html
On a personal level, I think Motl is definitely showing signs of mental illness/delusion, but I agree to a large extend with his point that if you disagree with the world's smartest physicists, chances are you're just too stupid to understand what they're talking about.

sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2018, 11:33:46 pm »
Interesting, check out one of Lubos Motl's many angry rants about Sabine Hossenfelder, e.g. https://motls.blogspot.com/2018/06/science-magazine-surprisingly-sane.html
On a personal level, I think Motl is definitely showing signs of mental illness/delusion, but I agree to a large extend with his point that if you disagree with the world's smartest physicists, chances are you're just too stupid to understand what they're talking about.

I mean...is Sabine lying? If there is progress people can show it right? If there have been experimental confirmations of theory it can be shown, if there isn't it seems to me this is a situation akin to a non-STEM manager wondering why the R&D team isn't adding value to company after X years?

She also seems to be a physicist herself, rather than a blogger who is "womansplaining" to physicists? :

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Sabine Hossenfelder is a Research Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies where she works on physics beyond the standard model, phenomenological quantum gravity, and modifications of general relativity.

Is Motl even employed as a physicist anymore?
« Last Edit: November 27, 2018, 11:37:19 pm by sciborg2 »
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TLEILAXU

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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2018, 12:42:14 am »
I mean...is Sabine lying? If there is progress people can show it right? If there have been experimental confirmations of theory it can be shown, if there isn't it seems to me this is a situation akin to a non-STEM manager wondering why the R&D team isn't adding value to company after X years?

I'm not saying she's lying, but we're all prone to certain biases in certain ways right? Regarding the R&D analogy, imagine you are the manager of an R&D team whose task it is to find a drug for some type of cancer. Many years pass and no result is available. Does it mean your R&D team is somehow stuck in some kind of wide-spread delusional ideology or that maybe the problem is just really damn hard?
She also seems to be a physicist herself, rather than a blogger who is "womansplaining" to physicists? :

Is Motl even employed as a physicist anymore?
True true, but as a non-physicist, do you trust the view of some outliers more than the (I assume) prevailing view of the physics community and geniuses such as Edward Witten, Nima Arkani etc? It's hard to even be qualified to make this decision, I certainly feel uneasy about it myself, but right now I to believe that if some of the smartest phycisists on earth think string theory is the best bet, there's probably something to it, and more importantly, I think they're probably aware of things such as cognitive bias etc., at least to some degree.
And regarding Motl, I have no idea, his blog shows obvious signs of mental issues so I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't, but even a stopped clock shows the correct time twice a day.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2018, 12:48:50 am by TLEILAXU »

sciborg2

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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2018, 12:54:13 am »
Good points ---> Honestly I don't know the answer as to whether the criticism is justified, but to respond:

I'm not saying she's lying, but we're all prone to certain biases in certain ways right?

True, but then aren't the physicists she complains about also subject to the same possibility of bias? And if there is a lack of experimental results this leads to an opening for fair - but not necessarily correct! - criticism.

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Regarding the R&D analogy, imagine you are the manager of an R&D team whose task it is to find a drug for some type of cancer. Many years pass and no result is available. Does it mean your R&D team is somehow stuck in some kind of wide-spread delusional ideology or that maybe the problem is just really damn hard?

Fair point, but I think this is where the criticism - if true! - seems applicable. Can we shift toward experimental results over mathematics that is more divorced from the lab (assuming I grasp her complaints).

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True true, but as a non-physicist, do you trust the view of a few outliers more than the (I assume) prevailing view of the physics community and geniuses such as Edward Witten, Nima Arkani etc? It's hard to even be qualified to make this decision, I certainly feel uneasy about it myself.

String theory and MWI, from what I recall, has been criticized on multiple fronts within the physics community? I think we can at least ask if there are alternatives where funding might go, in the vein of the analogy to a Business School grad overseeing an R&D departments...but as you say this is a major issue in general. We count on "elites" in varied spheres - especially Econ / STEM / Health - but how do we as a public judge their efficacy?

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And regarding Motl, I have no idea, his blog shows obvious signs of mental issues so I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't, but even a stopped clock shows the correct time twice a day.

Ah yeah not a big deal I just thought that was humorous - someone who's limited to blogging about physics accusing an actually employed physicist of just being a random sci-blogger.  ;D
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TLEILAXU

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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2018, 02:06:47 am »
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True, but then aren't the physicists she complains about also subject to the same possibility of bias?
Yes, but again, what do you trust based on your prior knowledge, such as numbers, importance of various people, your own limited understanding of physics etc.

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And if there is a lack of experimental results this leads to an opening for fair - but not necessarily correct! - criticism.
But how do you know to which degree this is due to failure of the model or "engineering challenges"?

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Fair point, but I think this is where the criticism - if true! - seems applicable. Can we shift toward experimental results over mathematics that is more divorced from the lab (assuming I grasp her complaints).
I would say no, because the lab is the best place(only?) to solve the problem.

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String theory and MWI, from what I recall, has been criticized on multiple fronts within the physics community?
I personally think MWI sounds stupid as hell so I hope it's wrong, but from what I know from various youtube talks and pop-science articles (e.g. quantamagazine is lovely), string theory is considered the best mathematical framework while MWI is just a popular /interpretation/ of things.

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I think we can at least ask if there are alternatives where funding might go, in the vein of the analogy to a Business School grad overseeing an R&D departments...but as you say this is a major issue in general. We count on "elites" in varied spheres - especially Econ / STEM / Health - but how do we as a public judge their efficacy?
Given our lack of prior knowledge, I think we just don't. The people working at these forefronts are vastly more knowledgeable than us and very likely also more intelligent, so we just trust that they'll be able to overcome whatever problems/cognitive biases current paradigms present, as has happened in the past.
If it were a business question though, the obvious answer would be to shut down the string theory R&D so you save money and let academia deal with it until more tangible results come up.