On the Superiority of String Theory

As we look at science in general, and physics in particular, a clear pattern emerges: the scientific endeavours most worthy of praise and acclaim are the most abstract and mathematical sciences.
Physics is of greater worth than biology, theoretical physics is more worthy than experimental physics, and high-energy particle theory is the most fundamental and important field in the history of human though.
Rather than deriding string theory as an excessively mathematical dead end, as many anti-science America-hating Bush-bashing politically correct feminist shrub-hugging liberal communist dupes do, we should celebrate it as the greatest achievement in the history of human thought.
It is, in fact, far more inherently interesting than the vulgar mechanical products of experimental science, such as the laser, the transistor, fire, and the wheel.
Let us be clear: the entire history of human culture has been nothing more than a steady progression from liberalism and crude experimental science to the twin pinnacles of George Bush and string theory.

Far from being an essential check on the validity of theory, experimental work is a mere distraction from the highest scientific calling, namely the manipulation of totally abstract mathematical constructs in arbitrary numbers of dimensions.
Often, you will hear miguided negative nihilistic foolish crackpots say that without some experimental data to constrain the 10300 possible string vacuaa, string theory cannot be considered science, but this is misguided, for experimental observations are nothing but plural anecdotes demonstrating nothing (see, for example, the mass of “evidence” claiming to show global warming).
Only when theoretical physics is completely cut free of piddling concerns about matching physical reality can it reach its fullest flowering, as a pure product of unfettered intellect.
Let go of your petty objections, drink this Kool-Aid, and revel in the eleven-dimensional glory of what is undoubtedly the greatest creation in the history of human culture.

Comments

  1. #1 Perry
    April 1, 2007

    Well superstrings and Bush both lack for data to back up their conclusisions (superpartners and WMD….).

    Science without experiment is evangelical posturing. I’m a theorist, but our “God” is what the voltmeter reads, ya gotta get that right or you’re just pissing in the wind.

  2. #2 Aaron Bergman
    April 1, 2007

    George Bush?

    Man, that’s cold.

  3. #3 mollishka
    April 1, 2007

    hehehe.

  4. #4 lofi
    April 1, 2007

    overcooked shite

  5. #5 D
    April 1, 2007

    You didn’t strictly need to make this (hilarious) post. You might instead have linked to a certain blog which shall stay unnamed…

  6. #6 Josh
    April 1, 2007

    Where did this come from? If you want to criticize string theory, just do it. You don’t have to sarcastically conflate the entire field with the rants of one string theorist who is universally acknowledged as a nutjob. You’re hardly showing yourself as superior…

  7. #7 Luke
    April 1, 2007

    If we do not scour each of the vacua for WMDs, the terrorists have already won.

  8. #8 Doug Natelson
    April 1, 2007

    The one flaw with this is that it didn’t fool me for even a nanosecond. Funny, though! Nice global warming line. A certain string theory blogger wouldn’t call experiments unnecessary, exactly, though. He’d say that they confirm string theory, and simultaneously imply somehow that the really bright intellectual lights go into theory anyway.

  9. #9 TJ
    April 1, 2007

    deriding string theory as an excessively mathematical dead end, as many anti-science America-hating Bush-bashing politically correct feminist shrub-hugging liberal communist dupes do

    April Fools to you too. As most of us know, there are many senior professional physicists that’d like to see string theorists make one testable prediction.

  10. #10 CCPhysicist
    April 1, 2007

    Josh, et al. Did you look at the date? That is where it came from. However, I wonder if it also came from my comment in the “Lab” threads about a return to “Natural Philosophy”. There is something so Aristotelian about String Theory, and this bit of satire said it better than anyone. And if you think this article is harsh, you should hear what experimental physicists say about it in private (and sometimes in public).

    But Josh, is it really the case that every string theorist questions (publicly and emphatically) whether there is sufficient effort put into connecting the mathematics to potentially observable quantities? Do they question if their work is physics or pure mathematics? I don’t think so, although mathematicians like John Baez are pretty up front about their interest in those subject areas.

  11. #11 Aaron Bergman
    April 1, 2007

    (I blame you for this, Chad.)

    In fact, the majority of the effort in string theory these days is being made in trying to connect it to physically observable quantities. People have found many possible confirmatory observations, but no one has yet constructed anything closely resembling the real world.

    You know, for all that string theorists get condemned as evil, arrogant assholes bent on destroying the very foundations of science (and we hate experimentalists, too), it seems to me that it’s not particularly a great thing that people are so unrestrained in making these broad and denigratory remarks to their colleagues, not as individuals, but as a group.

  12. #12 jk
    April 1, 2007

    And a happy April 1st to you too, Dr. Orzel.

  13. #13 Josh
    April 1, 2007

    CCPhysicist,

    I know the date and I got the joke. Maybe it was more good-natured than I took it to be, but it seems to contain much of the broad generalizations and bad attitude that it condemns.

    I don’t mean to start a fight. I like Chad’s site and he’s of course entitled to his opinions. But I don’t feel restrained from saying that, as a string theorist, I was a little insulted.

  14. #14 Moshe
    April 2, 2007

    What Josh said. And now I have to leave, I’m allergic to straw.

  15. #15 DavidD
    April 2, 2007

    “plural anecdotes” I like that.

  16. #16 agm
    April 2, 2007

    Thanks. This was better than pretty much all the Ursian business I saw yesterday. And an excellent lampooning, which could provide merriment any day of they year.

  17. #17 Perry
    April 2, 2007

    ____
    Luke | April 1, 2007 02:58 PM

    If we do not scour each of the vacua for WMDs, the terrorists have already won.
    ____

    Dear God, I hope noone tells Cheney this…….

  18. #18 Dumb Biologist
    April 2, 2007

    What’s really sad about these sorts of discussions is apparently the poor chemists aren’t even deemed worthy of the slightest derision. I mean, c’mon, chemists must have an average IQ of approximately 1/2 to 1 standard deviation higher than the unsophisticated biologists, and deserve an explicit designation at least one rung higher than the biologists on the mediocrity ladder. Please, have some sense of justice.

  19. #19 Peter Woit
    April 2, 2007

    Josh,

    “one string theorist who is universally acknowledged as a nutjob”

    If this is universal, perhaps you can explain why his endorsement features prominently on the covers of two of the three very recent textbooks on string theory and Clifford Johnson writes that he has “a great deal of respect for his ability as a physicist”, and thanks him “for his physics contributions and widening the discussion”. (widening the discussion????) As far as I can tell Clifford doesn’t want to have anything to do with Lubos since he considers him a racist and sexist, but doesn’t have a problem with his behavior as a string theorist.

    Chad + CCPhysicist,

    Besides some of the extreme cases like Lubos, I don’t think the problem is that string theorists are paying insufficient attention to how to get predictions out of string theory. Almost all of them would love to get any sort of prediction, and some of them are so obsessed with this they’re making really unsustainable claims about “predictions”. The problem is not that they aren’t trying to get predictions, the problem is that they are refusing to acknowledge that it is a lost cause: the framework they are working in just has no hope of leading to any sort of standard scientific prediction. Under these circumstances you’re supposed to acknowledge failure, give up and try something else. What’s remarkable is that they are refusing to do that.

  20. #20 Josh
    April 2, 2007

    Peter,

    I’m personally a little disappointed that other good string theorists seem to be two-faced about Lubos. I do think it’s fair to say that he has made good contributions to the field but, even ignoring his odious political views, he is overzealous to the point of unreasonableness in defending and promoting string theory and this is part of why I call him crackpot.

    As for your other comments that string theory has failed I simply disagree. I don’t think this is the place to continue this debate, so I will stop here.

  21. Uh Chad,

    String theorists are feeling a bit sensitive these days, maybe you could try to be just a little gentle.

  22. #22 Josh
    April 3, 2007

    Well, CIP, we have been a bit besieged by criticism lately so it’s only human that there’s some defensiveness. The criticism itself is healthy for the field, but I don’t think anyone is being soft or a spoilsport when they take umbrage to broad attacks which are more personal in nature than scientific. Just as I think Peter or Lee are in the right to take offense when people question their motives or integrity instead of listening to their views and arguments.

    Forgive me if I’ve read sarcasm into your comment when none was intended. I may just be a tad defensive :)

  23. #23 mahndisa
    April 3, 2007

    04 02 07

    hehehehehehehehe Now that was truly hilarious!

  24. #24 Dr. Elliot McGucken
    April 3, 2007

    Imagine if all the hundreds of millions in tax, tuition, and foundation dollars were divided evenly amongst competing theories.

    Over the past three years, Peter Woit has run an amazing blog, but unfortunately there are no new postulates to be found on it regarding physics. There are thousands of posts pertaining to Lubos, but I could find no posts pertaining to new theories based up simple elegance and beauty, underlying physical reality.

    As each one of the following pages contains multiple refrences to Lubos, the result is thousands of posts pertaining to Lubos, at the expense of advancing physics:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=lubos+site%3Awww.math.columbia.edu%2F%7Ewoit%2Fwordpress%2F&btnG=Search

    At any rate, I decided to help Woit out–let’s see if he allows comments pertaining to discussions of new theories, rooted in logic and reason–here’s the thread:
    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=542#comments

    Hello All,

    I recently counted the references to Lubos on Peter Woit’s blog, and they number in the thousands, culiminating in the above comment, linking to a video of Lubos which has not all that much to do with physics:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=706444693144627950&q=lubos+motl

    Indeed, it is entertaining, but I am hoping that as we move forward, we can move away from the snarky insiderism and postmodern performance art, and towards discussing physical theories rooted in logic and reason, such as Moving Dimensions Theory, which unifies disparate physical phenomena with a simple postulate: “The fourth dimension is expanding relative to the three spatial dimensions. ”

    This simple postulate offers a physical model underlying and unifiying:

    RELATIVITY:
    1) length contraction
    2) time dilation
    3) the equivalence of mass and energy
    4) the constant velocity of light
    5) the independence of the speed of light from the velocity of the source

    QUANTUMN MECHANICS
    1) action at a distance
    2) wave-particle duality
    3) interference phenomena
    4) EPR paradox

    THERMODYNAMICS
    1) Time’s arrow
    2) Entropy

    STRING THEORY’S MANY DIMENSIONS / KALUZA/KLEIN THEORY
    1) a fourth expanding dimension can be interepreted as many dimensions, each time it expands

    THE UNITY OF THE DUALITIES
    1) wave/particle duality
    2) time/space duality
    3) energy/mass duality
    4) E/B duality

    GENERAL RELATIVITY
    1) Gravitational redshift
    2) Gravity waves
    3) Gravitation attraction

    THE SPACE-TIME BACKGROUND
    1) quantum foam
    2) the smearing of space and time at small distances
    3) Hawking’s imaginary time

    PARADOXES
    1) MDT explains away Godel’s Block Universe
    2) MDT unfreezes time
    3) Resolves Zeno’s Paradox

    ONE GETS ALL OF THIS FROM A SIMPLE POSTULATE:

    The fourth dimension is expanding relative to the three spatial dimensions in a sphereically symmetric manner, in units of the Planck length, at the rate of c.

    This means that every point in three dimnesional space is always expanding into a fourth dimensional sphere with a radius of the plank length. A photon is matter caught on the surface of this quantized expansion, and thus energy is quantized. The expansion of the fourth dimension occurs at the rate of c, and thus the velocity of all photons is c.

    Check out the t-shirt with a simple proof of MDT:

    http://www.cafepress.com/autumnrangers.72464949

    “The only way to stay stationary in the fourth dimension is to move at the speed of light through the three spatial dimensions. Ergo the fourth dimension is expanding at the rate of c relative to the three spatial dimenions.”

    How sad it is that when truth stares modern physicists in the face, they must close their eyes so as to get a postdoc or raise more funds for String Theory.

    Moving Dimensions Theory is in complete agreement with all
    experimental tests and phenomena associated with special and general relativity. MDT is in complete agreement with all physical phenomena as predicted by quantum mechanics and demonstrated in extensive experiments. The genius and novelty of MDT is that it presents a common physical model which shows that phenomena from both relativity and quantum mechanics derive from the same fundamental physical reality.

    Nowhere does String Theory nor Loop Quantum Gravity account for quantum entanglement nor relativistic time dilation. MDT shows these derive from the same underlying physical reality. Nowhere does ST nor LQG account for wave-particle duality nor relativistic length contraction. MDT shows these derive from the same underlying physical reality. Nowhere does ST nor LQG account for the constant speed of light, nor the independence of the speed of light on the velocity of the source, nor entropy, nor time’s arrow. MDT shows these derive from the same underlying physical reality. Nowhere does String Theory nor

    Loop Quantum Gravity resolve the paradox of Godel’s Block Universe which troubled Eisntein. MDT resolves this paradox.

    Simply put, MDT replaces the contemporary none-theories with a physical theory, complete with a simple postulate that unifies formerly disparate phenomena within a simple context.

    THE GENERAL POSTULATE OF DYNAMIC DIMENSIONS THEORY

    The fourth dimension is expanding relative to the three spatial dimensions.

    If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.

    -Albert Einstein

    http://physicsmathforums.com/showthread.php?t=2381

  25. #25 mclaren
    April 3, 2007

    We need a corollary to Godwin’s Law — anyone who mentions Lubos in a discussion on string theory automatically loses by default.

    The real problem seems to involve people who have made basic mathematical contributions string theory like Brian Greene. What’s disturbing is the fact that Greene’s recent New York Times editorial boils down to the shorter version: “GIVE NUMEROLOGY A CHANCE.”

    Ideally, we would want a comprehensive theory (one that combined gravity with the strong + electroweak forces) to have only a few free parameters…in the perfect case, as few as one free parameter. All other physical constants would, ideally, be derived from one parameter, as well as detailed predictions all along the energy scale up to the unification of all 4 forces. That’s not what we’re getting in the landscape. On the contrary — we’re going in the wrong direction, with something like 10^300 possible vacua. That’s not testable, clearly.

    The essential reason that string theory has generated this explosion of possible universes is that it was the only way to salvage the framework when things got mathematically messy. String theory, as many have pointed out, did start out as an elegant and simple theory. The problem is that the initial elegant simple theory ran into basic problems, so it had to be fudged and modified, in the same sort of way in which successive epicycles were added to the Ptolemaic system. The Catch-22 is worse for string theory, however, because the Ptolemaic system could be tested even with all the epicycles tacked on. We can’t even do that much for the current string “theory.”

    I keep remembering Einstein’s warning:

    “Elegance is for tailors. Don’t believe a theory just because it’s beautiful.” — A. Einstein