Is Theoretical Physics Wasting Our Best Living Minds On Nonsense?
“The book is a wild, deep, thought-provoking read that would make any reasonable person in the field who’s still capable of introspection doubt themselves. No one likes confronting the possibility of having wasted their lives chasing a phantasm of an idea, but that’s what being a theorist is all about. You see a few pieces of an incomplete puzzle and guess what the full picture truly is; most times, you’re wrong. Perhaps, in these cases, all our guesses have been wrong. In my favorite exchange, she interviews Steven Weinberg, who draws on his vast experience in physics to explain why naturalness arguments are good guides for theoretical physicists. But he only manages to convince us that they were good ideas for the classes of problems they previously succeeded at solving. There’s no guarantee they’ll be good guideposts for the current problems; in fact, they demonstrably have not been.”
There are a slew of brilliant ideas in physics that have now become the dominant, accepted theory of what describes reality: the Standard Model. the Big Bang, General Relativity, etc. These theories are, in many ways, beautiful. They have an elegant mathematical structure, they have strong predictive power, and most importantly, they match reality. It’s that last criteria that separates them from other beautiful theories that have fallen by the wayside, such as the beautiful (but incorrect) Sakata Model. theory of Technicolor, Steady-State Model, and more. Without the experimental evidence to support them, however, are we wrongly investing our energy, intellect, and resources into beautiful, promising dead-ends? In particular, are supersymmetry, grand unification, string theory, and the multiverse exactly those dead-ends, and is following them the reason (or a symptom of) why progress has been so scarce in recent decades?