Dennis Overbye is a terrific writer, but I have to say, I hate the way that he falls into the lazy shorthand of using “physics” to mean “theoretical particle physics” in this article about a recent conference built around debates about the state of particle physics. He’s got lots of great quotes from Lisa Randall and Lawrence Krauss and others about how things are really bleak on the theory side, and these are barely tempered by enthusiasm from experimentalists.
So, yeah, theoretical particle physics may well appear to be in crisis. But, look, theoretical particle physics is always in crisis. They’ve gone from one sky-is-falling crisis to another for as long as I’ve been following science. They’re like the Democratic party– perpetually on the verge of implosion, even when things are going well.
Don’t attribute the histrionics of a small community of theorists to “physics” as a whole. There are vast swaths of physics that are going along very nicely, thank you– there will be literally thousands of papers presented this March by people whose fields of physics are doing just fine. Many of them would probably be happy to take on smart people who find the future of theoretical particle physics too grim.
“Physics” is not in crisis. Physics as a whole is doing better than ever. A small subset of physicists may be unhappy with the state of their small subfield of physics, but this does not mean that the discipline as a whole is having problems.