- I’ve always thought more philosophers of science should be weighing in on the debate over “falsifiability” and the “demarcation problem” surrounding string theory and the multiverse (i.e. are these really science?). This is a complex and tricky subject that they have a long tradition of exploring, and it would be great to have this inform some of the debate instead of the often very naive arguments that dominate the discussion. Massimo Pigliucci does a nice job here, responding to Sean Carroll’s attack on falsifiability (see here, more discussion here). Pigliucci’s posting is great, giving a concise explanation of the way philosophers of science have found to think about these issues. It does though show that much of what needs to be examined are technical scientific issues (what exactly does “string theory” say or not say? What exactly are the conceivable things one could expect to measure and compare to theoretical predictions? What exactly is the state of efforts by string theorists to make predictions: how deadly are the obstructions they have run into?). In any case, here’s Pigliucci’s conclusion:
But at some point the fundamental physics community might want to ask itself whether it has crossed into territory that begins to look a lot more like metaphysics than physics. And this comes from someone who doesn’t think metaphysics is a dirty word…
- This evening at ASU there will be a program on Parallel Realities: Probing Fundamental Physics, you may be able to watch it live here. With David Gross there, at least it won’t be the usual “Isn’t the Multiverse cool?”-fest that this sort of thing recently often has turned into. Yesterday on Science Friday, Krauss, Wilczek and Brian Schmidt discussed Could There be a Crisis in Physics?
- In case you’re wondering why there’s been no discussion here of Hawking’s recent claims about black holes, the reason is that I’m in agreement with Wilczek’s wise characterization of this on the Science Friday program:
I think the kind thing to do is to pass this over in silence.
If you really need some Hawking material, there’s The Top 10 Science Jokes, As Told by Stephen Hawking. Warning: safe for work, but not very funny…
- Quite a bit funnier (although some might say, also kind of tired and sad..) is this “debate” between Bousso and Rovelli at the latest FQXi conference: String theory vs. loop quantum gravity.
Update: Video of the ASU talks can be found here. Wilczek is still sticking with SUSY, but says “no more excuses… these particles have to materialize [at the full LHC energy]”. According to Twitter, this really was a rock-star event, with the local ladies “getting dolled up” and ready “to throw our panties onstage.”