The latest New Scientist has a much larger dose of M-theory/multiverse hype than I’ve seen in one place in quite a while. There’s a four-part series on M-theory (here, here, here and here) by Mike Duff. It tells the story of the progress of modern physics over the past century according to the dominant ideology: general relativity, Kaluza-Klein extra dimensions, super-symmetry, superstrings, branes, ending in the apotheosis of M-theory more than fifteen years ago. For the current state of affairs, Duff describes his “M-theory” predictions about the real world (that 4 qubits can be entangled 31 different ways, something discussed here). He ends with the M-theory multiverse and the following comments on whether this can ever be tested:
So is M-theory the final theory of everything? In common with rival attempts, falsifiable predictions are hard to come by. Some generic features such as supersymmetry or extra dimensions might show up at collider experiments or in astrophysical observations, but the variety of possibilities offered by the multiverse makes precise predictions difficult.
Are all the laws of nature we observe derivable from fundamental theory? Or are some mere accidents? The jury is still out.
In my opinion, many of the key issues will remain unresolved for quite some time. Finding a theory of everything is perhaps the most ambitious scientific undertaking in history. No one said it would be easy.
Here he makes it clear that, at least while he’s still around and enjoying academic prominence because of M-theory, there’s no danger it will face any sort of test it might fail. He answers critics of M-theory by claiming that its failures don’t matter. It’s the dominant paradigm, and will reign as such until someone comes up with a different theory of everything that isn’t a failure.
TWO of the strangest ideas in modern physics – that the cosmos constantly splits into parallel universes in which every conceivable outcome of every event happens, and the notion that our universe is part of a larger multiverse – have been unified into a single theory. This solves a bizarre but fundamental problem in cosmology and has set physics circles buzzing with excitement, as well as some bewilderment.
No critics of the idea were located by the writer, with the discussion on blogs described as:
The paper has caused flurry of excitement on physics blogs and in the broader physics community. “It’s a very interesting paper that puts forward a lot of new ideas,” says Don Page, a theoretical physicist at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and author of the Cosmic Variance blog, thinks the idea has some merit. “I’ve gone from a confused skeptic to a tentative believer,” he wrote on his blog. “I realized that these ideas fit very well with other ideas I’ve been thinking about myself!”
Somehow Lubos’s “they’re on crack” take on the subject was missed.
Finally, the significance of all of this is summarized in an editorial which argues that Bousso-Susskind finally pulls the plug on religion and replaces it with science:
Cosmologists can now begin to take God seriously, precisely because they can explain him (or her) away.