To start the new decade there’s an article very much worth reading by Misha Shifman, entitled Musings on the Current State of HEP. It’s somewhat of an update of something he wrote back in 2012, which I wrote about here. He starts off with:
Now, seven years later, I will risk to offer my musings on the same subject.The seven years that have elapsed since  brought new perspectives: the tendencies which were rather foggy at that time became pronounced. My humble musings do not pretend to be more than they are: just a personal opinion of a theoretical physicist… For obvious reasons I will focus mostly on HEP, making a few marginal remarks on related areas. I would say that the most important message we have received is the absence of dramatic or surprising new results. In HEP no significant experimental findings were reported, old ideas concerning Beyond the Standard Model (BSM) physics hit dead-ends one after another and were not replaced by novel ideas. Hopes for key discoveries at the LHC (such as superpartners) which I mentioned in 2012 are fading away. Some may even say that these hopes are already dead. Low energy supersymmetry is ruled out, and gone with it is the concept of naturalness, a basic principle which theorists cherished and followed for decades. Nothing has replaced it so far…
HEP, “my” branch of theoretical physics since the beginning of my career, seems to be shrinking. A change of priorities in HEP in the near future is likely as business as usual is not sustainable. The current time is formative.
I encourage you to take a look at the rest, there’s a lot more detailed discussion of the state of HEP and allied fields, especially about the central role of quantum field theory.
Shifman also includes a section very critical of Richard Dawid, the “non-empirical confirmation” business and talks given at the “Why Trust a Theory?” conference (discussed here):
With all due respect I strongly disagree with Richard Dawid and all supporting speakers at the conference and beyond… I object against applying the term “non-empirically confirmed” to science (the more so, the term “postempiric science”). Of course, we live in liberal times and everybody is entitled to study and discuss whatever he or she wants. But the word science is already taken. Sorry, colleagues. For “postempiric science,” please, use another word, for instance, iScience, xScience, or something else.
As for David Gross’s attempt to claim that string theory is, like quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, not testable just because it is a framework, not a theory, Shifman is having none of it:
David Gross is a great theoretical physicist, whose discovery of asymptotic freedom made him immortal, but I respectfully disagree with him. Framework or not, both QM and QFT have absolutely solid confirmations in all their aspects in thousands of experiments.
As for the once popular idea that string theory could provide a “theory of everything”, he writes:
Well… it never happened and – I will risk to say – never will.
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