We all have our own interpretation of what “the scientific method” is, but there’s always at least one thing that they all have in common: the ultimate arbiter of whether a theory or idea is valid depends on the evidence that comes back from physically observable phenomena.

Image credit: bluedot, via http://www.bluedot.gr/2013/01/everyday-equations/.

Image credit: abstruse goose, via http://abstrusegoose.com/275

But not everyone necessarily agrees with this in the way we commonly understand it. Sabine Hossenfelder has some fantastic thoughts analyzing and synthesizing a variety of viewpoints, laying the hammer down with a sweeping statement:

You can thus never arrive at a theory that describes our universe without taking into account observations, period. The attempt to reduce axioms too much just leads to a whole “multiverse” of predictions, most of which don’t describe anything we will ever see.

Image credit: Moonrunner Design, via http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-multiverse-inflation-big-bang-science-space/.

Image credit: Moonrunner Design, via http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-multiverse-inflation-big-bang-science-space/.

Go read the whole, fascinating thing.

Comments

  1. #1 Steven
    December 17, 2014

    I think the second image is mis-attributed. It comes from an Abstruse Goose comic strip: http://abstrusegoose.com/275

  2. #2 Dusan Maletic
    West Orange, NJ
    December 17, 2014

    I think that the term “theory” still holds water well for a type of scientific research questioned here. Unproven and in some cases unprovable/undisprovable, but still a theory.
    Now to, for me, more interesting consequence of this line of thinking: we are at the point of scientific development where we can clearly see that, to the best of our knowledge, some things are patently unprovable, untestable,… unknowable. Again, to the best of our knowledge, scientific question of “what was before BigBang?” is unknowable, untestable. We can make plausible theories of it but if current fundamentals hold – they remain untestable theories forever. In other words we just have reached level of scientific knowledge that, somewhat paradoxically, proves that the concept of transcendental is at least plausible if not a fact. “What was before BigBang?” – scientifically transcendental.
    On the side note: any experimental proof of the string theory out there yet? 🙂

  3. #3 eric
    December 17, 2014

    the reality is there is no funding for quantum gravity phenomenology and there are no jobs either.

    Hmmm…haven’t their been several observations of binary systems used to set limits on the quantization of gravity? I won’t argue with you about the limited job market, but it seems to me that in the cases where we can conduct relatively cheap and easy experiments that say something about quantization, we do it. Thus the problem isn’t that physicists are rejecting experimental confirmation/disconfirmation altogether, its just that they have run into the sad fact that experiments are much more expensive than theories, so we can’t afford to as many of them per science dollar spent. When the choice is ‘one more theory, or one experiment,’ then yeah, doing as much experimentation as theory makes sense. But when the choice is ‘a hundred more theories, or one experimen,’ then the hundred more theories starts to sound like the attractive choice a lot more of the time.

    We discard these because we have never observed any of that. We discard them because we don’t think they’ll describe what we see. This is not a non-empirical assessment.

    That’s actually an empirical assessment almost by definition. The criteria may not be quantitative or rigorously analyzed, but they’re still empirical.

    This method doesn’t have to be changed, it has to be more consistently applied. You can’t assess the use of a scientific theory without comparing it to observation.

    I agree. To anyone claiming that the methodology of science needs to be changed, I would respond: “okay. You propose your revised methodology as an hypothesis. Then go and test whether it can produce novel understanding faster or cheaper than the current methodology. Publish the results. If it does – when you have evidence it works better than the current methodology – I’ll pay attention.”

  4. #4 Denier
    United States
    December 17, 2014

    I thought the Scientific Method already had been revised. The New Method requires evidence of consensus and mitigates the risk to ones career by substituting proprietary computer models in place of physically observable phenomena. The Method favored by the theorists seem to correlate directly to how large an economic impact the theory is likely to have. The bigger the money, the more likely the methods used will look like marketing or politics.

  5. #5 dean
    December 17, 2014

    Well denier, it’s a good thing you’re totally wrong then isn’t it.

  6. #6 Tom Andersen
    Canada
    December 17, 2014

    The problem with physics is fairly straightforward. Its not testability. Its pomposity. In today’s world even Newton would not get published, as he spent most of his time on Alchemy and Astrology.

    The entire physics community is run by what Kuhn calls ‘technologists’. Truly wrong ideas floated by outsiders (and there are many) are laughed at by the physics community, instead of being treated with respect. Copernicus’ theory was inaccurate and performed far worse than the tuned epicycles of the day.

    The internet has unfortunately made this situation worse as the community has grown together into a large clique.

  7. #7 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    December 17, 2014

    @Denier #4: I guess you don’t ever have any sort of contact with physics, chemistry or biology, then. Let alone mathematics (i.e., real research mathematics). You might do a bit better pontificating about subjects you know, rather than generalizing about subjects you don’t.

  8. #8 Amrit Sorli
    Slovenia
    December 18, 2014

    yes it needes: BIJECTIVE EPISTEMOLOGY
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10699-014-9381-z

  9. #9 Pavel
    December 18, 2014

    I must disagree with almost all article.

    1. It is not true, that we do not have any experimental evidence for developing quantum theory of gravity. This theory has to explain all experiments and observations mankind did during last ten millions years. All this experience results in Standard model, GR (which are incompatible each other) and some still unexplained phenomena – dark energy, dark matter, neutrino oscillations (that require massive neutrinos with contradiction with SM). So there is large experimental background for the theory.

    2. What is wrong with multiverse? SM predicts continuum of different universes (as it has more then twenty continuous parameters) so it is much worse then multiverse theory, that predict FINITE number of possible universes. As the correct variant or SM has been chosen by measuring the parameters, the correct universe of multiverse must be chosen by comparing properties of each its individual universe with out universe. What wrong with that?

    3. How you do experiments with quantum gravity without guidelines where to look for quantum gravity phenomena? Only theory can provide experimentalists and observers with such guidelines. Without theoretical predictions there cannot be any experiment or observation to validate them.

  10. #10 Wow
    December 18, 2014

    Again, to the best of our knowledge, scientific question of “what was before BigBang?” is unknowable, untestable.

    Actually, I’d put this in the same place as “Is the solar system stable?”, A query that led to the answer “maybe” and later to chaos theory, where we learnt that it wasn’t really an unanswerable question, but one that was poorly defined so as to BE unanswerable.

    I’d like to think that “what was before the big bang” is a question that can only be answered by PROPER DEFINITION of terms and may well be answerable in a manner of changing the question.

    E.g. chaos theory tells us we can’t predict, in general, reliably, BUT we CAN predict how good our predictions are likely to be.

    And in some ways, that’s a better question to be able to answer.

  11. #11 Wow
    December 18, 2014

    substituting proprietary computer models in place of physically observable phenomen

    You’re talking about the quacks who get time on Fox News because their “model” doesn’t include CO2 and says that AGW is wrong, right?

    Because if you want a GCM used by a national met office, just put in “GISS Model E” in your favourite search engine and you’ll get a link to this non-propitiatory model.

  12. #12 John Duffield
    December 18, 2014

    I agree with Sabine’s sentiment, and with the thrust of the Nature article by George Ellis and Joe Silk. There’s some dreadful pseudoscience being peddled as physics these days, and now we’re getting siren songs from quacks trying to undermine testability. However I disagreed with what she said about quantum gravity. IMHO there are other reasons for the lack of progress: arrogance and ignorance. Quantum gravity doesn’t need experimental testing, it needs an understanding of gravity and classical electromagnetism, with the appreciation that a virtual photon is in some respect also a (virtual) graviton, because a photon has a non-zero active gravitational mass. Sadly there are certain people who pontificate about quantum gravity when it’s patently obvious that they’ve never read Einstein’s papers, they don’t have a clue how gravity works, and they don’t even know the difference between curved spacetime and curved space. It’s like cargo-cult physics, yet such is their hubris that if you point out some Einstein quote or some evidence that challenges their assertion, they dismiss it with an insult. Truth be told, there’s not that much difference between them and the people who would tell you the multiverse is made of mathematics.

  13. #13 Wow
    December 18, 2014

    with the appreciation that a virtual photon is in some respect also a (virtual) graviton, because a photon has a non-zero active gravitational mass.

    What is there to “appreciate”? All leptons have zero spin, so would you have all leptons be the same thing?

    You lack the appreciation that gravity affects mass, whether charged or not, whilst photons affect only charged masses.

    Or else pass on what appreciation you have of this universality and how it makes quantum gravity work…

  14. #14 Heber Rizzo
    Spain
    December 19, 2014

    Mrs Hossenfelder:

    May I translate into Spanish and publish this article in my blog, (http://elatrildelorador.blogspot.com.es/) wtih due link and recognition, of course?

  15. #15 John Duffield
    December 19, 2014

    No, all leptons aren’t the same thing. But see this where Einstein spoke about the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field: “It can, however, scarcely be imagined that empty space has conditions or states of two essentially different kinds” A field is a state of space. There can’t be two states of space where the electron is. So its electromagnetic field is also its gravitational field. And virtual particles are “field quanta”, like they’re chunks of field. See this photon depiction? Every square that’s skewed to a trapezoid is a spin-1 virtual photon: you need a full rotation for it to look the same. See up the middle? Every square that’s flattened to a rectangle is a spin-2 virtual graviton: you need a half rotation for it to look the same. But get this: the skewed squares are flattened.

  16. #16 G
    December 19, 2014

    My first response to this, before even reading the column:

    Dude!, I love that graphic, the cartoon with the bunny munching a carrot and all of nature shown as chemical and mathematical equations. This is also an example of expressing what I mean when I say “the warm cozy facts” as a counterpoint to the usual expression “the cold hard facts.”

    Question: How or from whom can I get permission to use that (for noncommercial use in personal publications online)?

    OK, now onward to read…

  17. #17 Gideon Samid
    United States
    December 19, 2014

    It’s human nature all over again: science orthodoxy resembles religious orthodoxy: forced consistency, control by the purse, a-priori rejection of non-conformal big ideas. E.g.: extending Einstein’s idea of co-evolution to space and matter to space, matter, forces, and laws. If natural laws change/evolve then the regression leading to the Big Bang is invalid, which is heresy, same for the Constructor theory. It’s the realization that we scientists are no different from the narrow minded power brokers that ruled over other human concepts and theories. We are emotionally attached to our intuition, while theorizing objectivity. Science will benefit from opening it up to non-specialists and to that end we need to find a way to encapsulate math, like we managed to encapsulate biology and engineering: allow non-mathematicians to use mathematical tools without familiarity with the gory details, much we all use computers without being computer scientists. And underlying all this is the need for deep seated humility — the opposite from the claims of being so close to a “theory of everything”.

  18. #18 John Duffield
    December 19, 2014

    Wow: No, all leptons aren’t the same thing. But see this where Einstein spoke about the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field: “It can, however, scarcely be imagined that empty space has conditions or states of two essentially different kinds” A field is a state of space. There can’t be two states of space where the electron is. So its electromagnetic field is also its gravitational field. And virtual particles are “field quanta”. See this photon depiction? Every square that’s skewed to a trapezoid is a spin-1 virtual photon: you need a full rotation for it to look the same. See up the middle? Every square that’s flattened to a rectangle is a spin-2 virtual graviton: you need a half rotation for it to look the same. And get this: the skewed squares are flattened.

  19. #19 Wow
    December 19, 2014

    It’s human nature all over again: science orthodoxy resembles religious orthodoxy

    No. It isn’t.

    forced consistency

    The only consistency required is that you conform with reality.

    control by the purse

    Nope, no such thing in mainstream science, though the oil industries ARE putting in their offers of grant a requirement to produce their preferred result, though that isn’t part of science, only PR.

    a-priori rejection of non-conformal big ideas.</blockquote

    Oh, dear. Yes, everyone else MUST ***IMMEDIATELY*** accept any half-assed idea proffered by any dribbling buffoon as long as it is contradiction of what is generally accepted as a valid conclusion of the observation of reality.

    HOW DARE THEY!

    If you have a claim, YOU HAVE TO PROVE IT. If you can't, then why the heck do I have to?

    If natural laws change/evolve then the regression leading to the Big Bang is invalid

    Yes, IF they change. Prove they do. Until you can do that, don’t expect anyone else to genuflect at your “brilliance”. IF they change, prove it. Or we can sit with the default position “They don’t change”.

    It’s the realization that we scientists

    What’s this “WE”? I’ve seen nothing to indicate that you can proffer your personal inclusion with that “we” there. Realise WE can’t tell if you’re just blowing smoke.

    Science will benefit from opening it up to non-specialists

    No, it won’t. The difference is my unsupported claim has some logical support, whereas yours has nothing.

    We are emotionally attached to our intuition

    Yes, the first acceptable thing you’ve placed in your text. However, that’s why we don’t take anyone’s claims merely because they claim it. Something you complained about earlier.

    The scientific method, and the consensus, is the method by which we AVOID the problem of one person becoming attached to their own intuition. If we can’t persuade by evidence another, and several “others”, of our claims being right, then the method is to reject our claims ourselves.

    Moreover, REAL scientists approach their OWN claims with scepticism, requiring they PROVE TO THEMSELVES their own claims. Not just make the damn claim, then wait to bask in the recognition.

  20. #20 Wow
    December 19, 2014

    Wow: No, all leptons aren’t the same thing.

    Just like photons and gravitons aren’t the same thing merely because they share a tiny sliver of commonality.

    A fact you’re continuing to fail to realise or even read, John.

    A field is a state of space.

    Which is not the conclusion of the quote you gave from Einstein, dearie. Despite your attempt to make a connection merely by placing them in close proximity.

    There can’t be two states of space where the electron is.

    Yes there can. What there can’t be are two electrons of the same quantum state (eigenvalues) in the same space.

    And virtual particles are “field quanta”.

    No virtual particles ARE NOT “field quanta”, but if there WERE, then there DEFINITELY can be more than “one state” because you CAN have two photons in the same bloody space. If you couldn’t, YOU WOULD NOT GET INTERFERENCE FRINGES.

    See this photon depiction? Every square that’s skewed to a trapezoid is a spin-1 virtual photon

    since the gif contains bugger all other than lines and NO content or context whatsoever, how the hell are we supposed to take it as support for your claim???

  21. #21 Sean
    San Francisco
    December 19, 2014

    Some great insight, although some of his arguments contain what I find to be bits of weakness. Case in point: “they must believe their brains have a mystical connection to the universe, and pure power of thought will tell them the laws of nature.” Describing mathematics as “pure power of thought” is misleading and inaccurate. You don’t validate mathematics by asking “thought”, it validates itself. If all the humans disappeared today, math would still exist. Whether you agree with our reliance on its self-validation is a separate issue. There is also the problem of settling what it means to observe something. Does this mean we must see it with our eyes? What does that mean? Much of nature is “seen” by its effect. The wind on trees, the gravitational pull of a planet on its sun, the absence of light around the magnetic spots on a star. How many steps away from “seeing” with our own eyes do we have to take before this author decides we are no longer making an observation? This brings us to the frontier we are currently at, with our “observations” being defined against massive stores of collected data. To many, to explore nature now means to peer through the silicon looking glass using a rich variety of algorithmic fingers that bring back nature’s telltale secrets. Much of the math used by theoretical physicists are used to explore our world by capturing that math in algorithms and running simulations in today’s fastest, most powerful computers. If this makes the author uncomfortable with regards to what it means to observe then I challenge him to define what he means by observe. Or perhaps this is the revolution in science we seek, or at least the new definition that needs settling. I would argue that over half the “observations” made in science are by indirect effect and that resting the definition on “observation” is rather brittle. Testability yes! But to equate testability to observation requires some serious defining of the word observation. I argue that the “test” is not an observational one as this lacks a coherent definition. The test is one of mathematical self-consistency explored through the computational “observations” required by today’s science. Science has always been about collecting data and building models to understand that data. We can no longer satisfy “observation” by looking through a telescope or sampling the soil. We must use computers as our eyes and data collection as our new world to explore. This is, in my opinion, the next frontier of science. But like it or not, it’s going to look a lot less human.

  22. #22 Mark Thomas
    December 20, 2014

    I do not think that all of the low hanging fruit has been picked. There is a data set called Codata (for ‘Committee on Scientific Data’) that is renewed now on a 4 year cycle by the NIST. They have a set called the ‘fundamental constants of physics’ which is very very well determined out to 9 -13 significant figures. The only problem now is the Newton constant which is imprecise (only good to 3-4 significant figures ) and uncertain. hopefully the NIST and Royal Society will find a way to better determine its value in the near future. That the NIST calls these constants and masses ‘fundamental’ is beside the point. They are not fundamental but they are physics values that are computationally utilised (yes even G is used in GR).These values are all in what are called SI units which is a unfundamental complex blend of Length, Mass and Time (LMT) which are determined culturally as humans have determined them to be. So they are not Universal and intergalatic alien civilisations who are advanced in Science would not undertand our culurally determined units of LMT. So what physicist really want which would be fundamental are ‘dimensionless constants’ which are assembleages of the LMT group of units which would cancel out to create ‘pure numbers’ which would have Universal meaning to other advanced scientific minded civilisations. However, High-Energy Theoretical physicists do not seem to be interested in the now very good well determined Codata Set of ‘fundamental constants’ and I think they are not seeing what this means . If you want to reject what has been hard fought for (and that is really the Codata Set as it now exists) what do you have ? Michael Duff of Imperial College in Cornell Preprint arXiv: 1412.2040v2 [hep-th] 5 Dec 2014 (who I like very much for his thinking) criticizes Terry Quinn (a former Director of BIMP Paris) for suggesting that the Newton constant G could possibly be used to test a theory of Quantum Gravity. If the NIST and Royal society have their way a ‘very good value’ of G will be forthcoming eventually. Terry Quinn knows the Codata set is now very very good except for G and there will be amazing computional power when the numerical behavior of G is well determined. Duff makes the mistake of suggesting that G should be fixed like the metre ( and thus the speed of light c). The speed of light was a simple fix and is an integer and large number. We know the behavoir of light to extraordinary degree. The Newton constant G is a coupling constant, is smaller than the ‘fine structure ‘ constant and has complex units L^3 M^-1 T^-2 and its numerical behavior is not well understood. I highly suggest that if there is a potential ‘dimensionless constant’ that is a pure number it could be set against the Codata set numbers to isolate a very good value of G. If there are pure number ‘dimensionless constants’ which come from a math this helps set Einsteins criteria for having constants derived from theory. I have a few ideas along these lines and since this is Ethans site of Science I will just point at my thoughts at https://oeis.org/A161771 and https://oeis.org/A164040 and an internal discussion at a ‘crazy’ forum site http://vixra.freeforums.org/isospin-gravitational-coupling-constant-and-ep-t386.html

    I believe in the Multiverse but I think beautiful maths and symmetries will still be something to look for in any World. The real number line will exist in all of the other worlds including beautiful concepts like the Monster group and its moonshine associations and so on. I think the only difference mathematically (or physics vacuum values) between the Worlds will be the Planck time startups which will induce a different Planck to Low energy heiarchal space such that Time is never an absolute concept and we could consider the different Worlds as “Planck clocks” which differ only in ratio from each and every World (i.e. there would be a world which differs from our Planck clock by 2 or it be 1.78 or even 0.555 or would even be the same) As such physics constants (in any world) would still be derived from a pure theory of physics /math.

  23. #23 Wow
    December 20, 2014

    I agree, Mark.

    If nothing else, the fact that mathematical “tricks” turn out to be so damn useful (using e^iwt instead of sin wt to describe a wave producing as a mathematical baggage “evanescent waves” which turn out to really behave that way) shows that there’s something interesting, even if only in how we think of describing the world, that there’s plenty of interest in science unmined.

  24. #24 Terence Blake
    Nice, France
    December 21, 2014

    Terence Blake on Dec 20, 2014 • 1:02 pm at 1:02 pm
    Reply

    I agree with the demand of testability but I find Sabine’s formulation very vague, which is probably a good thing as making it more precise would make it more dogmatic and more one-sided. “Non-empirical facts” or qualitative considerations have always been a part of scientific method construed in the widest sense, and Einstein famously was indifferent to “verification by little effects”. Sabine argues effectively that observation is in fact present all the time, so why insist on a particular type of obsevation as an absolute necessity? Qualitative considerations could be sufficient observational fit for very abstract, very general theories that comply with non-empirical constraints as well.

    Surely the requirement of testability is not valid in itself, but rather as part of the more general requirement of realism, of actually describing the world. Some of Sabine’s formulations conflate too easily these two requirements, e.g. “The whole point of physics is to select axioms to construct a theory that describes observation”. A realist would say the whole point is to describe the world, and confrontation with observation is one way to test this. She also talks about describing nature, but it is not obvious that this is the same as describing observation. Some observation at least is erroneous or misleading, being based on false theories, and will have to be corrected or even jettisoned.

    So I would reformulate this text’s concern as the increasing tendency to idealism in modern physics, and that this idealism underlies a certain indifference to testability. I don’t think Einstein’s indifference, insofar as it existed, was based on such idealism, but more on time considerations, i.e. that “good” verifications take time especially when the theory is very abstract. Relying on aesthetic criteria in this case would not be an absolute, but an interim measure necessitated by the fact that observations can sometimes lag behind theory.

    The worry would then be that a properly interim measure could come to be taken as a permanent definition of science. This would lead to a new form of dogmatism, not so much of the content of a particular theory but a methodological dogmatism where mathematical speculation reigns unchecked. On the other hand, no time limit to interim speculation can be specified in advance, as sometimes we don’t even know how to go about getting the necessary observations. Close fit to readily accessible observations can also be considered to be an interim measure, adapted to some phases of a science but not to all.

  25. #25 Cormac O Rafferty
    http://coraifearaigh.wordpress.com
    December 21, 2014

    V nice article. However, I would argue that your own expression ‘starts with a bang’ could be included in the speculative category – as you know, our theories say nothing about what happened at t =0,so it’s pretty misleading to use the word ‘bang’ for a universe that was once small and hot …it’s interesting that which is the reason Einstein himself steered well clear of any discussions of origins…

  26. #26 Wow
    December 22, 2014

    Well, since you’re being so literal, since there was nobody to hear it, it cannot have been an actual bang.

    However, since the science doesn’t actually CLAIM it was a bang, it does appear to be a bit picky, if not misleading, to claim literal truth in the statement and attack it for being literally wrong..

    Right?

  27. #27 Kenny A. Chaffin
    http://www.kacweb.com/writing
    December 22, 2014

    Excellent. I have been concerned for ages about the speculation without evidence taking place in both the quantum world and the astrophysics world. I call it The Elephants in the Room and have written about it on my blog as well. Let’s keep the science in science eh?

  28. #28 Lionell Griffith
    California
    December 22, 2014

    I am an engineer. I make things that work. To do that, I must understand what is and what is possible. Then I must use that understanding in a way that is consistent with what is. I start with what is and incrementally transform and combine things according to what they are and what they can do. I have zero interest in how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or the logical equivalent of modern theoretical physics and cosmology.

    As near as I can tell, the theoreticians assume that reality is created by their equations thereby eliminating the need for experimentalists. The experimentalists don’t have enough money to pay for their equipment so it is fine by them to be given stolen wealth (taxes and deficit spending) so they can buy their toys.

    This discussion would not be at issue if the theorists and experimentalists were using their own wealth as they work on the “theories” (aka WAGS). I say, if you want the work done PAY FOR IT YOURSELF or get others to VOLUNTARILY PAY FOR IT and leave me out of it. Call me when you have something real to show me. If I can use it to make things that actually do work, I will pay for the parts I use. Otherwise stuff it!

  29. #29 Wow
    December 22, 2014

    As near as I can tell, the theoreticians assume that reality is created by their equations thereby eliminating the need for experimentalists.

    This is a problem with engineers who have a problem with theoreticians.

    Here’s a tip for you: The Big Bang Theory is just a show, not reality.

  30. #30 ARaybold
    New York
    December 22, 2014

    An excellent, concise and straightforward argument for the proposition that physics could do more to fix its difficulties by sticking to its principles rather than by redefining what is meant by science.

    “Somewhere along the line many physicists have come to believe that it must be possible to formulate a theory without observational input, based on pure logic and some sense of aesthetics… but the only logical requirement to choose axioms for a theory is that the axioms not be in conflict with each other. You can thus never arrive at a theory that describes our universe without taking into account observations, period.” – I can easily imagine this point alone being an entire article in itself by someone else.

    Science split from philosophy and became the most successful endeavor in history by elevating empirical evidence to the level of first importance, while the rump of philosophy seems to have sunk into largely self-referential irrelevance, because it has no external arbiter to choose between its arguments. It would be a terminal mistake for science to reverse this separation.

  31. #31 dean
    December 22, 2014

    The experimentalists don’t have enough money to pay for their equipment so it is fine by them to be given stolen wealth (taxes and deficit spending) so they can buy their toys.”

    Aah, so not only don’t you understand science but you’re a Libertarian with the usual distorted sense of reality that goes with that “philosophy”.
    Thanks for that identifying of you self so your future posts can be ignored.

  32. #32 Lionell Griffith
    California
    December 22, 2014

    “This is a problem with engineers who have a problem with theoreticians.”

    I have a problem with theoreticians if they can’t, don’t, and won’t demonstrate that their theory actually works in the real world. All the while expecting me and others like me to continue to pay for their works.

    Theory without practice is mysticism. Practice without theory is magic. Neither mysticism nor magic is operative in this universe. Perhaps they are in your alternate universe but I don’t plan to live there and don’t want to pay rent for the privilege. I object to the fact you think it quite OK to use the government’s jack booted thugs to force me to pay regardless of my thoughts, values, needs, and principles.

  33. #33 dean
    December 22, 2014

    I object to the fact you think it quite OK to use the government’s jack booted thugs to force me to pay regardless of my thoughts, values, needs, and principles.

    The fact you can’t understand the results and so have concluded they can’t be correct is irrelevant. You cannot expect new ideas to not push boundariesx nor can you claim to appreciate science yet complain about the time to it takes scientista to sort ideas out.

    “I object to the fact you think it quite OK to use the government’s jack booted thugs to force me to pay regardless of my thoughts, values, needs, and principles.”

    Since it is highly unlikely you’ve been visited by “Jack booted thugs” this is a foolish comment. But it also shows another bit of short sighted “thought” by you. You seen to be implying that science research should be self funded or (likely ) industry funded. Both of those would be recipes for a serious decline in research. More support for realizing that libertarianism is for people incapable of prolonged thoughr.

  34. #34 dean
    December 22, 2014

    “thoughr” should be thought.

  35. #35 Lionell Griffith
    California
    December 22, 2014

    “Since it is highly unlikely you’ve been visited by “Jack booted thugs” this is a foolish comment.”

    Just try not paying your taxes and the jack booted thugs from the IRS will visit you and take what they think you owe. You don’t have a choice in the matter. They can fight you while using the wealth stolen from you. You must use the resources they didn’t steal to fight them. The theft of private wealth is a totally immoral initiation of force and, as such, is a gross violation of individual rights. That it is said to be legal by the jack booted thugs is irrelevant. Oh they have the power to take but that does not make it right.

    The wealth I produce is mine as yours belongs to you. You have no right to take by force what is mine nor I yours. That you use the government as a surrogate thug while claiming a superior need does not change the moral nature of the theft.

    If “supporting” research is so important for you, finance it yourself. Don’t reach into my pocket and force me to pay for something I want no part of. Make a clear case for the support for the research such that it is a value to me, I will likely support it to the degree it is of value to me. Even if I don’t support it, for whatever reason, it is MY choice. Otherwise, stuff it!

  36. #36 dean
    December 22, 2014

    If “supporting” research is so important for you, finance it yourself. Don’t reach into my pocket …

    So in other words you would stagnate the world at it’s curent stays because you are more important than the civilization that supports youx but you can’t make an argument more sophisticated than stamping your foot and complaining about being at risk of punishment for breaking the law. How telling.

  37. #37 Lionell Griffith
    California
    December 22, 2014

    “So in other words you would stagnate the world at it’s curent (sic) stays (sic) because you are more important than the civilization that supports youx (sic) ….”

    As a matter of fact yes I am more important than civilization. So are you. If the individual is not sovereign over his life and its product, the so called civilization is not worth sustaining and will ultimately collapse upon itself. It is the production of wealth that sustains civilization and not the other way around.

    Apparently all you can think of is taking what you want from others by force rather than voluntary trade to mutual benefit. Haven’t you heard of voluntary division of labor, freely trading of value for value, and respect for individual rights? This maximizes the production of wealth and advances civilization far more rapidly than the cannibalistic predatory system you support. After you have eaten the producers, what then will you be able to steal?

  38. #38 Wow
    December 23, 2014

    If the individual is not sovereign over his life and its product,

    If you feel yourself so indispensable, please live without the output and efforts of others.

  39. #39 Wow
    December 23, 2014

    Also the capitalist system is abhorrent to the ideal that “the individual is sovereign over their life and their product”. Your employer takes your product and sells it and gives as little as they can get away with to the employee.

    If your employer wants to sell what their factory produces, they should work it themselves. See how wealthy someone like, for example, Alan Sugar would be if he had to sell only what he personally and solely produced…

  40. #40 Lionell Griffith
    California
    December 23, 2014

    “Your employer takes your product and sells it and gives as little as they can get away with to the employee.”

    Apparently you are impervious to the full context of a statement. Trading value for value to mutual advantage is not living off of others. It is the essence of earning your keep – paying your way.

    As for an employer “taking” what you produce, does he not pay you for working, provide you with the facilities in which to work, provide you with the tools to do the work, and lastly but not least does he not provide you with the work to do? This is not a taking, it is trading value for value to mutual advantage.

    As for paying you the minimum. Yes, he will pay you what you are worth to him for his operations. He must do this to keep you in his employ but cannot pay you more than you are worth or he cannot long stay in business. If you don’t like what you are paid, quit and take a job that pays you believe you are worth. You are not his slave nor he yours.

    Both you and your employer have a right to your lives and thus have a right to determine the values of the goods and services exchanged. If there is no meeting of the minds, there is no contract and no exchange. He can go his way and you yours.

    You demonstrate no understanding of the workings of a capitalist economy nor of the importance of mutual respect for individual rights necessary for a technological civilization.

    This conversation is becoming quite pointless. I will no longer respond to your confabulations.

  41. #41 Wow
    December 23, 2014

    “Your employer takes your product and sells it and gives as little as they can get away with to the employee.”

    Apparently you are impervious to the full context of a statement.

    Apparently you don’t understand the full context of your statement.

    Trading value for value to mutual advantage is not living off of others.

    This, however, does not apply in a capitalist system. It’s take the job at the offer or starve. You only have to look at the difference between the wages of the workers and the owners to see how broken that idea is in real life. You only have to look at the difference between productivity increases and the wage increases for the workers actually doing the production.

    Both you and your employer have a right to your lives and thus have a right to determine the values of the goods and services exchanged.

    We don’t have equal bargaining power. Partly because morons like yourself hate the workers having power from unionising.

    You demonstrate no understanding of the workings of a capitalist economy.

  42. #42 dean
    December 23, 2014

    Apparently all you can think of is taking what you want from others by force rather than voluntary trade to mutual benefit. Haven’t you heard of voluntary division of labor, freely trading of value for value, and respect for individual rights? This maximizes the production of wealth and advances civilization far more rapidly than the cannibalistic predatory system you support.

    What a load of mind numbingly stupid crap. Why is it that people who claim to worship capitalism have so little understanding of it?

  43. #43 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 26, 2014

    I knew there was an agenda of downplaying the multiverse in there.

    Like Pavel I have to disagree with almost all of it.

    Hossenfelder claims there is a problem in science that should lead it to improve its methods. But to be able to claim that she neglects the huge progress that has been made the last 4 decades, where cosmology and high energy physics has become two sides of the same coin.

    Inflation and its testing, and the tests of the Standard Model (standard Higgs, so far) and the Hot Big Bang (the recent Planck TE and EE modes making contenders finetuned), are huge! The Standard Model is the first consistent particle theory, and has exponential reach in energy.

    I want to contrast Hossenfelder’s article with Nima Arkani-Hamed’s recent webcasted seminar. There he describes how little elbow room there is for improvement. Just by knowing that space is 3D*, one can extract 1/r^2 longrange forces and 0, 1/2, …, 2 as allowed spins. Supersymmetry (spin 3/2) is the last allowed degree of freedom.

    – Of course there are outstanding issues. Neutrino masses, cosmological constant, … But multiverses isn’t one of them, as Pavel notes. The problem sneaks in already with potentials, where observation is needed to chose our universe. Not having to choose is the extraordinary claim, especially after inflation makes it finetuning to do so.

    – Hossenfelder describes axiomatics as essential, but physics can’t be axiomatized. (Re quantization.) If it can, we don’t know it yet.

    – Hossenfelder describes statistics as a problem, but science can’t do without it. Besides its use in quantification of experiments, processes like quantum physics and biological evolution builds on it.

    – Hossenfelder raves against beauty and elegance, disregarding that it has been useful. Since physics builds on symmetries, it is a fact of nature that theory tend to be simple and application tend to be complex. It is the old story of The Beauty and The Beast.

    *I think you can derive 3D from selection bias, as I remember it only such space can have closed containers (cellular life). Isn’t that one of Tegmark’s arguiment?

  44. #44 Claes Johnson
    Sweden
    January 26, 2015

    I comment on my blog and explore how to reconnect quantum mechanics with the scientific method of classical continuum physics:

    http://claesjohnson.blogspot.se/2015/01/physical-quantum-mechanics-5-does.html

  45. #45 Eric Hawthorne
    Canada
    February 20, 2015

    Our observable universe is complex, and like complex systems tend to be, is highly constrained.

    Now what if I have an algorithmic, generative theory / model, which is ridiculously simple, but which generates a complex model as output. Imagine that, in a stochastic sense (as all models of something as complex as the universe can only match its actual state stochastically), my algorithmically generated model agrees on many fundamental points with the structure and evolution constraints of the actual observable universe?

    Do I have a theory of the evolution of the universe or not?
    In principle, no one can ever test more precise than the stochastic correspondence of the particular states/structures in my output model compared to those of the observable universe. It didn’t generate THE universe, but a (presumeably low precision) model of a universe which is, very improbably, structurally and behaviorally similar to what’s been observed.

    Given how overwhelmingly unlikely it is that a simple generative algorithm and set of axioms would generate something even remotely similar to the complex set of properties of the observed universe though, don’t we maybe have a theory?

    So it is not that there was no test. It’s that the test was structural similarity in a number of seemingly independent properties, between one computationally generated complex system (model) and one physically evolved complex system.

    Now this test does NOT exclude that there could be another similarly simple generative rule-set (axioms plus algorithm) which would produce an equally similar generated model.

    But at a certain point you have to say, isn’t that overwhelmingly unlikely? So don’t we have it?

  46. #46 Wow
    February 21, 2015

    “But at a certain point you have to say, isn’t that overwhelmingly unlikely? So don’t we have it?”

    One-in-a-million chance of winning a lottery doesn’t stop someone winning the lottery every week.

    Bad statistics doesn’t make a good argument.

  47. #47 Kurt Grimm
    Vancouver, BC
    September 1, 2015

    I am neither a physicists not do I follow all of the specific arguments. However, I am a scientist and attentive to such matters. My thoughts:
    1. Crackpot rigor, whether cast in mathematical language or rhetorical argument is still only that. if you can’t give a simple description that predicts and survives testing, you are talking BS. After all, physicists say so, right.
    2. Having read something of these topics before, it is amazing that the masses of people continue to venerate the deep physics being discussed here, and publicly fund it, indeed royally when there has been very little empirical or conceptual breakthroughs in decades. Physics as technology: well done. Conceptually you guys are perhaps way off the mark.
    3. Said again, it appears that much that constitutes modern research appear as fanciful conjectures. Is anyone ever gonaa confront these guys (I knwo they are not all “guys”), or is anyone deep on the inside ready to come out and come clean?
    4.I suggest that it is neither the particular “physics” of any phenomenon that is “essential”, it may be the geometry or form. The numbers and fluxes are perhaps simply detail, and also misses the irreducable pattern itself.
    5. Describing the physics of a phenomenon — physics of clouds, climate changing — does not account for the dynamical patterning that is observed, within these phenomena. Physics predicted global warming (IPCC, variously), missed the promineent likelihood that een as Earth is “warming”, the overall pattern is “differenter” (more different, phase change/transformative (not phase transition) changing: extremes novelty and spectral changing.
    3. Noting this statement, “We all have our own interpretation of what “the scientific method” is, but there’s always at least one thing that they all have in common: the ultimate arbiter of whether a theory or idea is valid depends on the evidence that comes back from physically observable phenomena.”. I agree. And here’s my gripe physicists: There is the imherent and explicit assumption that all of nature is REDUCABLE. that irreducability of any phenomena
    6. Computational modelling: It’s fast intricate and impressive. However, most of it is dishonest. The modelling of real phenomena requires “tuning”, that is an adjustment of parameters to tweak the computational “experiment” into giving some results that conform to something about which papers can be written. How correct am I in this statement?
    7. Concerning comment #45, and other more broadly, complexity is not a system. The concept and language of systems arose (via Wiener, Simon, etc) when a single language was sought for describing/predicting a wide range of phenomena, call it cybernetics, describing machines, consciousness , ecology, etc..: A theory or framework of everything. Complexity and much of the work at places like the Santa Fe institute seems to fall short because the reductionist prejudice of very smart physicists (equals very skilled reductionists!) still reigns. Complex organizations are not “systems”, they are phenomnena, and much evidence suggests they are in fact, irreducable.
    8. Butchers can’t see physiology.
    9. Peer review is deeply corrupted and thank goodness their are now some kinds of altenatives.
    10. Scientism is alive and well: I quit my tenured faculty job and am freer — intellectually and otherwise — for having done so.
    Thanks for reading.. Keep and eye out for drkurtgrimm.com and my near future postings — Dr Kurt Andrew Grimm on Medium. I am unveling a Lifework. It begins with this assertion, very well evidenced: Complexity is Not Complicated. Kurt Grimm kgrimm@eos,ubc.ca

  48. #48 Wow
    September 2, 2015

    if you can’t give a simple description

    Why simple? Surely it should be as simple *as possible* and no simpler. I believe you’re misinformed on science and are caricaturing Occam’s Razor.

    Conceptually you guys are perhaps way off the mark.

    A claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    3. Said again, it appears that much that constitutes modern research appear as fanciful conjectures.

    However, your feelings mean bupkis. An appearance you have manufactured describes nothing but your internal monologue.

    #4 is pointless and says nothing.

    5. Describing the physics of a phenomenon — physics of clouds, climate changing — does not account for the dynamical patterning that is observed

    The phenomenon leads to the dynamic. Again you are misinformed. Willfully.

    Physics predicted global warming (IPCC, variously), missed the promineent likelihood that een as Earth is “warming”, the overall pattern is “differenter”

    No it didn’t. It is entirely compatible. Whatever differenter means to you.

    There is the imherent and explicit assumption that all of nature is REDUCABLE. that irreducability of any phenomena

    Who cares? Seriously. Why is that wrong, whatever it is you mean by it? All science has as its axiom is that the rules of the universe are explicable.

    NOTHING ELSE.

    To someone who is clueless and likes it that way, they can squint hard and make that look like you describe. But it doesn’t make it wrong.

    6. Computational modelling: It’s fast intricate and impressive. However, most of it is dishonest.

    No, this entire rant of yours is dishonest. Sorry.

    7. Concerning comment #45, and other more broadly, complexity is not a system.

    Yup. So what? Not a problem in the least. Despite your half-assed attempt to pretend there’s an issue.

    #8, pointless, just like #4.

    9. Peer review is deeply corrupted

    No the idiots like you are deeply corrupted. Willingly.

    I quit my tenured faculty job and am freer — intellectually and otherwise — for having done so.

    You’re also free from reality, spelling and any sense of coherency.

    Keep and eye out for drkurtgrimm and my near future postings

    No thanks, Youtube is full of insane cranks and they’re much more entertaining.

  49. #49 Roget Lockard
    United States
    April 14, 2016

    Hoo boy! Didn’t note the antiquity of this exchange until well into it. But the question that prompted this note derives from the very last sentence: “…if they don’t describe nature don’t call them science.” It strikes me that the word “reality” might serve us better here than “nature,” in that “reality” more readily incorporates Us and all of our machinations, hopefully sidestepping the vexing tendency of humans – including sloppy scientists – to speak, and worse, think, as though the realm(s) of human operation are outside of, or other than, the workings of nature.

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