Monday, October 09, 2006


I am looking forward to reading Lee Smolin's new and hot 'The Trouble with Physics' in which he lambasts string theory as a science that is being pursued for the sake of elegance and beauty instead of agreement with experiment, which is the bedrock of the scientific method. Well, it's probably wrong to say that theoretical physicists are avoiding predictions that agree with experiments. What Smolin seems to think is that there have been very few experimental predictions made by the theory, which have not even been verified, and so the main justification for pursuing the theory seems to be mathematical elegance. Also, the predictions that do have been made seem to be verifiable only at very high energies, not achievable in the near future. A physicist friend of mine tells me that the option for this is to look back to the early universe and have 'observational' instead of 'experimental' evidence for the predictions of string theory, something like what they did for the Big Bang which won a Nobel this year.

That is why chemistry appeals to me more, although I find physics very interesting too. In chemistry, theory has to be necessarily much closer to experiment. That's why Woodward chose chemistry over mathematics I believe.

Anyway, more after I actually read the book.


Anonymous Siddharth Rege said...

Hey Ashutosh, Have you read the Tao of Physics? Now that book is almost 20 years old, but while reading that I could not help get the feeling that the traditional 'experimental verification', where one conducts the experiment from scratch in a completely controlled and understood environment is gettign increasingly difficult in modern physics. It is increasingly getting to the stage, where one might question the experiment and the experimentally observed results and wonder if we are really 'observing' what we think we are observing.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Yes, I have read the Tao of Physics. It's a classic and an intriguing book, and probably the first one of its kind. The whole question of observers and observers in quantum mechanics is a big and complex one as you know. Some people think that to really talk about the observers influencing the observation and changing its observed status is nonsense. After all, they ask, there did exist objects and laws of physics at the beginning of the universe, when there were no 'observers', didn't there? Then some others might claim that inanimate objects suffice to serve as 'observers'! It's an entertaining debate, but at some point, clearly becomes too philosophical, and physicists also argue about how much it then relates to actual physics.

12:58 PM  

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