Local Debates

I noticed that tomorrow (Tuesday, April 5) evening here in New York City there will be not one, but two debates involving theoretical physicists:

  • At 7 pm the American Museum of Natural History will host the 2016 Asimov Debate, with this year the topic Is the Universe a Simulation?. You can watch a livestream at that site.

    I confess that if this were a few days earlier, I would be convinced it was definitely a joke. But, it seems not, that instead this “has become a serious line of theoretical and experimental investigation among physicists, astrophysicists, and philosophers” and that it’s a “provocative and revolutionary idea”. One thing this is not is new. Nearly nine years ago it got a lot of media attention, and I wrote about it here (and here, where quite possibly my Message to Our Overlords kept them from turning us off). Sadly, the “blink” feature of html no longer seems to be supported, so the red text there won’t blink. Maybe it annoyed the overlords and they had it turned off.

  • Much further downtown, at the New York Academy of Sciences, at the same time there will be a panel discussion on a much more sensible and interesting topic What Does the Future Hold for Physics: Is There a Limit to Human Knowledge?. Also at 7 pm, livestream here.

    If I’d been asked (actually I was asked, and then unasked, a rather mystifying situation) for my views on this, I’d make the point that there’s no way to know what the limits will be to human understanding of physical laws. It has however become all too clear what the danger is of what will happen when we reach those limits. Instead of prominent theorists frankly admitting “we don’t know”, there will be an attempt to sell the story to the public that theorists have a wonderful, successful theory which describes everything, which sadly has the unfortunate feature of not making any falsifiable predictions. The string landscape/multiverse scenario now is being very aggressively sold as exactly this kind of endpoint to physics, to a large degree by people unwilling to admit the failure of string theory-based unification. There’s a very real danger that this will enter the textbooks, and that we will in our lifetimes see the end of fundamental physics as a human endeavor. The limit we will have hit will be due not to the nature of our minds, but instead the nature of our sociology.

    I suppose one other way of seeing if we’ve reached the end of physics would be if physicists started spending their time debating things like whether we live in a simulation. Oh, wait…

: At the NYAS evidently there was some discussion of the multiverse, with the audience told “The multiverse hypothesis is no more speculative than the universe hypothesis”.

Update: Clara Moskowitz at Scientific American has a report from the AMNH debate. At least there is one participant I agree with:

And the statistical argument that most minds in the future will turn out to be artificial rather than biological is also not a given, said Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University. “It’s just not based on well-defined probabilities. The argument says you’d have lots of things that want to simulate us. I actually have a problem with that. We mostly are interested in ourselves. I don’t know why this higher species would want to simulate us.” Randall admitted she did not quite understand why other scientists were even entertaining the notion that the universe is a simulation. “I actually am very interested in why so many people think it’s an interesting question.” She rated the chances that this idea turns out to be true “effectively zero.”

One thing I’ve noticed about these kinds of things: they often feature physicists going on about mathematics, but mathematicians are never invited…

Update: The Asimov debate is available here, the NYAS one here.

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66 Responses to Local Debates

  1. Peter says:

    Asimov was a serious scientist. I don’t think he’d like it.

  2. phil fogle says:

    I can’t understand people who have a block about saying “I don’t know”. To me, it’s the very foundation of our civilization, and kudos to those who say it, and are prepared to go out and actually do something about it!

    Sadly, it’s humans, not the overlords, who are addicted to entertainment and fantasy.

  3. Bee says:

    John Barrow wrote a whole book about the 2nd question “Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits”. The summary is basically: there either is a limit or there isn’t. We’ll either reach it or we won’t. And that, I think is pretty much all that sanely can be said. (In case someone is interested, it’s a good book, I reviewed it here).

  4. John Fredsted says:

    The first topic, that on simulation, made me immediately think of the science fiction crime thriller ‘The Thirteenth Floor’. I must admit that it made quite an impression on me, unscientifically of course :-).

  5. adrian says:

    Dear Peter,

    You wrote:
    ”Instead of prominent theorists frankly admitting “we don’t know”, there will be an attempt to sell the story to the public that theorists have a wonderful, successful theory which describes everything, which sadly has the unfortunate feature of not making any falsifiable predictions

    Given that the debate/conversation between Balasubramanian, Silverstein and Weiner did not happen yet, I believe it would be good not to have a prediction of what will be discussed ( that ”we do not know” will not be said, or to write that it will not be a useful debate).

    The three mentioned above are very good physicists, with a very strong record of research papers. Certainly able to give their views on the topic ”what is the future of Physics”. Of course, nobody knows the answer and they will voice ”opinions” or ”feelings” for how they see the things. But the three of them have the authority to voice these opinions.


  6. Richard J. Gaylord says:

    “we will in our lifetimes see the end of fundamental physics as a human endeavor.” while i agree with your comments and dissatisfaction with the current state of theoretical physics, i disagree with your apparent view of what is fundamental (perhaps it should be called foundational). There are a great many (perhaps endless) still unexplained phenomena that physics has yet to solve. As Nobel prize winner P.W. Anderson has observed (see his article “More in Different”
    “The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe. At each new level of complexity entirely new properties appear. The understanding of the new behaviors requires research which is as fundamental in its nature as any other. It requires entirely new laws, concepts and generalizations that necessitate inspiration and creativity to just as great a degree as in the less complex one.”

  7. oliver knill says:

    Wittgenstein once said it adequately: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.” (“Whereof one can not speak about, thereof one better must be silent”).
    While such debates could also stimulate the interest in science. A bit more than 200 years ago, 1812, Michael Faraday got tickets for public lectures of Humphry Davy and shortly after revolutionized physics. But what a difference it is: at the time of Faraday, public lectures for which tickets for the public were sold, actually featured live experiments about new findings. But maybe we compare wrong things: today, the arena for new findings is much larger and the entire world notices and follows great experiments in our time: instruments on Mars finding evidence for water, accelerators detecting the Higgs Boson or detectors finding gravitational waves or neutrino oscillations, telescopes seeing further and further back in time, the discovery of exciting new materials like graphene or nano technology advances etc. We actually live in a very successful and exciting time in physics. Such discussion events could help to wake interest in science. Maybe a young “Faraday” will attend and leave with an important insight: “mumbling about the end of human knowledge is not what science is about”.

  8. Peter Woit says:

    You misread what I wrote. I was discussing my own view of what the danger is of how the “end of physics” will happen, not predicting anything at all about what the panelists will have to say.

  9. anon. says:

    “Instead of prominent theorists frankly admitting “we don’t know”, there will be an attempt to sell the story to the public that theorists have a wonderful, successful theory which describes everything, which sadly has the unfortunate feature of not making any falsifiable predictions.”

    Nature abhores a vacuum, as does politics: “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!” Any admission of ignorance is used by “critics” of modern physics as an excuse to ignore the whole subject as being incomplete. Please also avoid tying yourself to Popper, who ignores the very sensible idea of doing experiments before formulating a theory. Popper’s basic premise is that theories should be speculative but falsifiable. That’s not science. Really useful theories begin with empirical evidence and make some predictions that are wrong, that are labelled anomalies or issues, requiring further work. Most real world theories are modified or expanded, not falsified, after tests.

    Superstring theory is supposed to be doing just that in three ways; 1. by achieving unification by incorporating spin-2 gravitons into a framework that might also include a standard model, 2. by making extrapolations of empiricalrunning couplings meet at a common value near the Planck energy, and finally 3. by possibly allowing for the observed positive dark energy with the immense anthropic landscape of metastable vacua, and dark matter possibly with sparticles. I personally think that all of these pro-string arguments are simplistic and hype as you argue, but I don’t like the Popperian argument about “falsifiability” that you keep bringing into this blog! There is so much experimental data waiting for theoretical explanation that it’s a red-herring or strawman to ask for more experiments. The key problem is that superstring theory doesn’t really quantitatively interrelate existing experimental data very well for the number of ad hoc assumptions and extra parameters it introduces, not that we need falsifiability. We need theories that better correlate existing data. Before you are annoyed at this, please realise that it is not just your blog when it’s the leading opposition to string. If you use weak arguments, the blog caters to mainstream dogma.

  10. Dom says:

    I don’t recognise the person you describe as the views I read of Peter’s here. It would be interesting however to see a theory in the true sense of the word that meets your criteria but is not falsifiable.

  11. Peter Woit says:

    You’re arguing against things I’m not saying (where did I “ask for more experiments”?).

    My argument is with the string landscape/multiverse “theory” which is now in the process of being institutionalized as canonical textbook science. The problem with this “theory” is that there is no plausible way to ever show that it is wrong. It’s pseudo-science with exactly the problem that “lack of falsifiability” conventionally refers to. If you have a better term that I can use in sentences where I refer to the problem I’m open to suggestions, but obviously I can’t everytime I mention this issue engage in a long disquisition on the subtleties of the demarcation problem.

  12. Apostolos Syropoulos says:

    A few years ago I attended a workshop somewhere in England. In a discussion, I dared (!) to say that I find stupid the idea that we actually live in a computer simulation and we are not real. A “prominent” English professor of Computer Science told me that I am solipsist…

  13. Confused says:

    Only if we do live in a multiverse will I be able to watch the two debates simultaneously, for then I just have to watch the 2016 Isaac Asimov debate while my other copie will be watching the live stream from the New York academy of sciences 🙂

  14. Chris W. says:

    I would have loved to hear what that professor thought a solipsist was. What a ridiculous response…

  15. paddy says:

    I am a wee bit concerned by the NYAS discussion as its description invokes the “God of the gaps” and it is funded by (drum roll please)…

  16. Peter Woit says:

    I suspect the NYAS panelists won’t be that interested in discussing the limits of what we can know about physics in terms of “divine intervention”, even if Templeton is helping fund this. Less sure what they think about “the multiverse did it”, which is functionally similar.

    Actually, I would have thought that funding the AMNH “Is the Universe a Simulation?” discussion would be more the thing to do if you want to bring religion into science. I don’t see much of a difference between prominent physicists sitting around discussing “are we the creations of some superhuman beings, running a mysterious computer program that governs everything we do”, or “are we the creations of some divine being(s), who control us and our universe by some unknown mechanism for some unknown purpose”. Having the AMNH explicitly holding theology debates between physicists would at least have the virtue of novelty.

  17. Chris W. says:

    In these “Is the Universe a Simulation?” discussions, how often do people address the “it’s turtles all the way down” infinite regress that such a notion implies? Given how problematic the idea is in other ways I would except to start there and ask why we should even bother with more extended consideration of the notion.

  18. anon. says:

    Sorry Peter, but did appear to effectively ask for more experiments, simply by your demand for falsifiability. How can a theory be falsified without more experiments?

    “The problem with this “theory” is that there is no plausible way to ever show that it is wrong.”

    That’s dangerous again! There are 10^500 versions of superstring to be falsified before we give up. You seem to be simply repeating Popper’s argument, which was based mainly on the Michelson-Morley experiment which falsified one version of Maxwell’s light-carrying aether. After that, Lorentz and FitzGerald modified the theory a bit so that moving objects are contracted in the direction they go. So if experience is anything to go by, the way this sorry saga will eventually end is that Witten or someone will eventually come up with some falsifiable prediction, which will be falsified by experiment, and then he’ll just modify the theory a bit. Popper’s falsification ignores examples of theories that were simply modified to agree with new results. The reason old theories disappear from textbooks is not because they are falsified, but because something better replaces them.

    Can you think of one example of a mainstream theory that was debunked by experiment, without a new rival theory already being present to take over? (Don’t say Michelson-Morley 1887 because in the gap until 1905 there was FitzGerald and Lorentz’s ad hoc modification.) I don’t know of any example of falsification really working. It’s always been invoked only after another, better theory has taken over.

  19. Peter Woit says:

    I’m afraid you’re completely ignoring the argument I actually make in favor of discussing different issues about how science works that you are concerned with. All I’m doing is repeating myself at this point, but, again, the simple point is that the problem with the string theory/multiverse “theory”, “scenario”, “framework”, or whatever you want to call it is that there is no plausible way to ever show that it is wrong (or even that it needs to be modified). It’s in the same category as empty ideas like, well, the theory that we’re a “simulation”.

    Again, I think referring to this as a falsifiability problem seems to me an accurate use of language. What I seem to keep seeing is that there’s some sort of political correctness language problem here, that anyone using the word “falsifiability” gets immediately accused of being a naive “Popperazi”. If someone will tell me what the politically correct word is for referring to the problem, I’ll consider using it instead.

  20. Another Anon says:

    If string theory is becoming canonical textbook material then it seems to me that that part of physics is become more like philosophy: thousands of papers, self-perpetuating, self-referential, but plenty of material there for a university course. And just as few people with philosophy degrees go on to become philosophers, I suspect most of the physicists will just take their excellent mathematics training from string theory and go into finance.

    Physics then is not so much interested in explaining the universe. It’s more interested in generating publications, and training for future careers elsewhere.

    However, I think you’re misjudging the situation. I see the tide has turned in a big way against string theory over the last five years. It’s perceived as a theory which has not come up with the goods. If something else big comes along soon, I think there’ll be mass desertion from string theory overnight.

  21. Peter Woit says:

    Another Anon,
    It’s been true for a long time that if a promising idea about unification comes along, string theory unification will become a lot less popular. The problem I see though is that young people potentially interested in the problem are being fed now from a young age a diet of conventional wisdom that there’s no point in even trying. We’re assured that a wonderful new discovery has been made, a new, better decentering of our place in the universe, showing that the answer to such questions is just “the multiverse did it”. This is actually independent of string theory.

    Unfortunately I see this point of view becoming more and more popular, with skepticism about it all too uncommon. Making progress on unification is an extremely hard problem, discouraging people from ever trying is really easy.

  22. Robert says:

    If the arc of physics has led most theorists into a wasteland in the last decades, it’s mind boggling to think that a whole field can be so wrong! Further, it’s scary to think how defensive people get to preserve such a state. How does one correct a whole field that has gone off track? How do you council young aspiring theorists to think independently? Professional peer pressure seems insurmountable.

    Also, I have a very curious eight year old physics loving nephew who is in love with the idea of string theory. He’s enamored with all the hype and feel I’ll just confuse him by knocking it down. Any thoughts anyone? Thanks.

  23. anon. says:

    “… there is no plausible way to ever show that it is wrong (or even that it needs to be modified).”

    I simply don’t understand why you want a theory than can be shown to be wrong. The standard model is a minimalist theory based on three observed field theories, with very little speculation, and thus very little possibility for falsification. Suppose the Higgs boson had not been discovered, do you really believe the standard model would have been totally falsified? Surely it’s better to look at positives in evaluating theories, instead of requiring a way to “prove them wrong”. Superstring’s “positives” all relate to things that have not really been observed. Nobody has seen a spin-2 graviton, a heavy sparticle, or a whether couplings are equal at the Planck scale. If these things had all been seen, then surely you’d accept superstring theory as a good working theory (akin to the standard model), regardless of whether it is possible to disprove it.

  24. Peter Woit says:

    The strange thing is that I think most professional theorists are well aware of the emptiness of the multiverse/string landscape business. What’s unfortunate is that the ones who like to be on TV and make good copy are the ones willing to promote an easy to understand, grandiose sounding, but scientifically worthless set of ideas. It’s up to others who know better to speak up if they care about their field. There is no problem of professional peer pressure to go on about the multiverse, instead one reason for the evangelical behavior of multiverse proponents is that they’re well aware of how skeptical their colleagues are.

    The outrageous and damaging hype aimed at the public and the young I think already has had a couple decades effect of driving sensible young people away, and attracting those susceptible to impressive sounding but empty ideas. As for your nephew, I think confusing him would be a good idea…

  25. Peter Shor says:

    The really nice (???) aspect to the theory that the universe is a simulation is that you don’t actually have to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. You could just postulate that the code is buggy, and that the universe will crash when the first black hole evaporates 10^68 years from now.

  26. Peter Woit says:

    I complete disagree that the standard model cannot be shown to be wrong, and likely with some aspects of what appear to be your views on complex issues of what science is, but that’s irrelevant. Again, you want to argue the subtleties of theory confirmation/falsification and I’m talking about something completely different, the problem of people promoting pseudo-scientific empty ideas.

  27. Another Anon says:

    Anon: “I simply don’t understand why you want a theory than can be shown to be wrong. The standard model is a minimalist theory based on three observed field theories, with very little speculation, and thus very little possibility for falsification.”

    There’s all the difference in the world between a theory with little possibility for falsification because the theory gets it right every time and complies with all experiments (the standard model) and a theory with little possibility for falsification because the theory suggests eleven dimensions of space time which we can never see or infinite parallel universes where we can never go. All the difference in the world.

  28. A.J. says:

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to burst an 8 year old’s bubble. Let him be excited. But don’t hesitate to point him towards less speculative reading materials. The history of astrophysics and particle physics is full of wonders.

  29. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Forgive this naive non-physicist, but isn’t the “Standard Model” in some sense already “falsified”, i.e. it’s certainly incomplete, and neutrino masses already exist in tension with the theory without even considering dark matter and dark energy.

    The “best” unifying candidate gives us a framework for tying up these loose ends, but a virtually infinite number of ways to do so, while the other favored “alternatives” don’t incorporate matter, and may not even be compatible with special relativity at energies we already know it holds.

    Sounds pretty awful overall to this outsider, and also like a huge opportunity for a young upshot to shake the foundations of physics, if enough young upshots are given the opportunity to do so. Ditching empiricism strikes me as too radical a remedy just yet, and that does appear to be the only means for the status quo to remain viable.

  30. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of the Standard Model. No, the Standard Model is not like the string theory multiverse. At all. Questions about unsatisfactoriness of the SM, with respect to for instance neutrino masses or dark matter, are very interesting, but they’re well-defined problems of conventional science, have nothing to do with the problems of multiverse theories. Trying to discuss these things together will shed light on neither.

  31. vmarko says:

    There are two kinds of people in the world — those who debate whether the Universe is a simulation or not, and those that have learned and understood quantum mechanics (especially the implications of Bell inequalities) well enough to know that even if the Universe were a simulation, it would be a very weird one, namely one that is not being executed by an algorithm (given that fundamental quantum randomness is uncomputable).

    Also, there are two kinds of people in the world — those who debate whether there is a limit to human knowledge or not, and those who have learned and understood mathematical logic (especially the implications of Goedel’s incompleteness theorems) well enough to know that the obtaining new knowledge is a process that does not converge, while being simultaneously aware that there will always exist an infinite amount of facts about the Universe that we fail to understand.


    “There’s a very real danger that this will enter the textbooks, and that we will in our lifetimes see the end of fundamental physics as a human endeavor. The limit we will have hit will be due not to the nature of our minds, but instead the nature of our sociology.”

    Very well said. However, being an optimist, I believe that fundamental physics will not end, but will rather be reabsorbed into math. The drought of experimental data in quantum gravity is already pushing it from physics departments into math departments. Mathematicians are much more adept at developing theories with no contact to experiment, and I hope that fundamental physics will not die but be preserved within math departments, until technology catches up and enables us (or our descendants) to perform new experiments.

    Best, 🙂

    P.S. Robert, by all means do burst your nephew’s bubble. Have him learn real physics, teach him to question everything, teach him not to trust any authority figure. Teach him the difference between enthusiasm and hype — not just in science, but in life in general.

  32. Dom says:

    “I simply don’t understand why you want a theory than can be shown to be wrong. ”

    That is not really how I understand falsifiability, it is the concept that there is in principle a test that can be performed that would show it to be incorrect. The alternative is indistinguishable from magic.

  33. John says:

    So Tegmark said there was a 17 percent chance that we are in a simulation. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or how he arrived at 17%. Chalmers said that you can’t prove that we are not in one because any proof could be simulated.

    Not sure how this got classified as a science debate. It was a philosophical debate pure and simple.

  34. Michael Weiss says:

    The discussion of whether we live in an actual universe or within a simulation reminds me of a wry solution to the Shakespeare mystery: these magnificent plays and sonnets of the Elizabethan era were not in fact written by William Shakespeare (wrong social class and educational background), but instead by another Londoner named William Shakespeare. We stand enlightened.

  35. Robert says:

    Peter (and Marko),

    Thanks for the advice about my nephew. I can ‘teach the controversy’ but still want to
    very be careful that I don’t turn him off to physics by giving him a big disappointment.
    Of course at only 8, the physics of ordinary cotton strings is more relevant anyway.

    Peter, I am currently enjoying reading your book. The first parts bring back memories of my physics student days at University of Illinois in the mid to late 70’s.

  36. Jeff M says:


    Just a guess, but maybe Tegmark did the Hampshire summer studies in math, and that’s where the 17 comes from. Hampshire recently changed all the speed limit signs on campus to be 17mph in Kelly’s honor.


  37. Tom Andersen says:

    I watched 80% of the NYAS discussion. The first thing I noted was that all three panelists were essentially cloned as far as their outlook on physics was concerned.

    I submit the not very popular viewpoint that the internet for all the good it has done us has basically wiped out individual viewpoints in physics. Case in point: its not unusual or weird to discuss the multiverse or 11 dimensions as they are part of the current accepted legend, while truly new ‘obviously wrong’ ideas are not tolerated. ‘Physics’ (being the entire community) will not admit that it failed to predict dark matter, dark energy, high Tc superconductivity, etc. The list is embarrassing and getting longer every year. Meanwhile astronomers and condensed matter workers keep finding new data. Its ok to be wrong.

  38. A says:

    arXiv seems to be doing a survey – asked in the comments for trackbacks from this blog to be allowed again, other readers might want to do the same.

  39. Pingback: End of fundamental physics in view? | Uncommon Descent

  40. Another Anon says:

    At the NYAS evidently there was some discussion of the multiverse, with the audience told “The multiverse hypothesis is no more speculative than the universe hypothesis”.

    Good grief. I’ve never heard of the “universe hypothesis” before – probably because it’s not a hypothesis. The universe is defined as “all of time and space and it’s contents”(thank you Wikipedia). The universe therefore exists. Does the multiverse exist? There is no evidence that it does. Therefore the multiverse hypothesis is more speculative than the “universe hypothesis”.

    I think what he means is that you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist. OK, but that still does not raise the multiverse hypothesis to the same level as the “universe hypothesis”, for which we have unambiguous evidence. In fact, his suggestion seems to be that the multiverse is clearly separated from the “universe”, in which case if the universe is defined as the set of all the things which exist, then the multiverse does not exist – by definition.

  41. A third Anon says:

    As someone who listened to the whole thing, I think the explanation for that comment was that both hypotheses refer to the region beyond the visible horizon. Presuming everything is the same even everywhere where we cannot see is as presumptuous as assuming the conditions are variable. Neither is visible, so both equally speculative. Anyway most of the dialogue was not about that.

  42. Another Anon says:

    Yeah, but the string theory multiverse proposes different laws of physics in different universes. That’s a whole step beyond “presuming everything is the same everywhere”.

  43. Peter Woit says:

    A third Anon,
    Sure, there’s some sense in which that comment is true. But it’s also worded not so as to enlighten anyone but anything, but to instead score a propagandistic point. I’m curious whether anyone at the NYAS event made any attempt to explain the problems with the multiverse, as opposed to trying to justify and sell it.

  44. A third Anon says:

    Hi Peter. Most of it was not about that. If I have it right, this was just the extreme end of a more general discussion of how to deal with the distinction between complicated versus simple/symmetric explanations of things. One speaker pointed out that in dark matter, from the point of view of the dark sector our visible particle physics is more complicated than Occam’s razor would justify. So these parts of physics we don’t measure yet could either be complicated or simple as far as we know, and it’s not clear how to judge that.
    I guess the multiverse/universe thing is about that kind of question but beyond the horizon. I wouldn’t know what of it was propaganda but it didn’t seem like that, just some interesting musings on this topic.

  45. anon. says:

    Hi Peter. Of course tested theories like the SM have evidence. The problem you know is that certain superstring theorists have – since the 80s – argued that coupling unification and spin-2 gravitons are a kind of evidence. There are two differences. First, time ordering. In other words, the Pauli-Fierz 1939 spin-2 graviton idea predates the string theory framework that incorporates it. I don’t understand why the historical order is so important here. Physicists in some other galaxy might have come up with a spin-2 superstring gravity framework before deducing that spin from universal attraction of similar charge sign in quantum gravity! Secondly, the number of such postdictions is far, far smaller in superstring, than it is in the SM. This is the real problem to me, not whether the model is contrived to fit empirical data, or is making way out predictions of hitherto unknown phenomena. A danger in your approach may be that, if some supersymmetric particles seem to turn up at the LHC, you’ll be debunked, even though it won’t be a proof that any particular existing supersymmetry model is right. The anthropic landscape is so big it will be claimed it covers whatever turns up…

  46. Peter Woit says:

    You’re still just ignoring everything I write and insisting on arguing about the complexities of a completely different topic and what my “approach” to that is, even though you have no idea what my views are on the topic you insist on discussing or what my approach to that topic is (if you really must know, short version: it’s complicated.). Sorry, but this has become a complete waste of time.

  47. TCS says:

    In the age of steam, when engineering was developing increasingly precise machines, a prevailing view was of a beautifully precise mechanical Universe.

    In the age of computing, when computers are simulating increasingly complex systems, an emerging view is of a beautifully complex simulated Universe.

    Plus ca change?

  48. Sirius says:

    Will everyone just please stop simulating themselves. Some of us have work to do!

  49. Shantanu says:

    Can someone point me to links of videos of these talks if they are archived?

  50. Confused says:


    Here is the archive for the NYAS video:

    There is nothing archived yet for the 2016 Isaac Asimov debate.

    PS: I managed to watch the two debates, not because we are living in a multiverse as I hoped, but thanks to the fact that we live in a computer simulation. I just had to go throw the program twice, once branching towards the AMNH and once towards NYAS. I am looking forward to read in this blog an expression like the “Computer Simulation Mania”.

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