Again with the physics pessimism
So, if science media had a plethora of exciting articles about theories that Bigfoot is alive and well and lives in a cavern 43.14 miles beneath Paris, would you be inclined to read them? If so, well, that puts a damper on the point of this Gedanken experiment. But read on, if you care to.
The point is, do you get excited by vaguely scientific stories the bona fides of which are likely beyond convincing verification now, and for the rest of human history? For example, anything regarding black holes a la Einstein, with maybe a smattering of QM kludged in. And speaking of kludges, almost anything regarding the foundations of QFT, itself a kludge.
For example, I encountered this a few days ago: “An Entire Swarm of Black Holes Has Been Caught Moving Through The Milky Way”. Well, yikes. There is no room for doubt in that title. And yet, I wondered, if true, how could we possibly know that? We have just barely the technology to capture a picture of a reddish area around a black smudge, and claim it is a black hole, all the while having only the vaguest of ideas what that really means. And speaking of means, by what means have we “caught” a swarm of black holes moving through anything? Well, unsurprisingly, we have not. It is yellow journalistic conjecture – blatant clickbait, florid and sensational.
Had the story been about a swarm of Bigfoots I should likely have read past the first sentence, finding entertainment in how the story justified its central premise. But black holes? Much of our work in this area is tantamount to attempting to make a computer chip with a hammer and screwdriver, for we are comfortable with such tools, and are hesitant to admit that these tools, which have got us so far, may not be adequate to get us any further.
Recently PW’s blog informed me that the greatest minds in theoretical physics continue to gather and confabulate about the sorry state of this science. PW quoted LM, who was quoting some bigwig at Princeton:
“…Millennials are a generation that prefers to hide in a herd of stupid sheep and remain at the surface that is increasingly superficial…
“So most of the stuff that is done in ‘quantum information within quantum gravity’ is just the work of mediocre people who want to keep their entitlements but who don’t really have any more profound ambitions.”
Sigh. Swarms of bigwigs, but nary a Bigfoot to be seen. I thought I might comment on that blog, but I could only come up with a single word to describe my thinking: chortle.
As is frequently the case, when I have got most of the way through one of my peevish online screeds, like this one, I am wondering if I am covering old ground. And of course I am, but then, those about whom I write do nothing but that. If only I had the strength to ignore them.
There is a saying, neither a platitude nor profound, just obvious: creativity lives on the border between order and chaos. The manner in which this may apply to what is written above is left as an exercise for the reader.
As for me, it’s nearly vaca time, and I think I’ll turn my writing to another book. To my avid reader: Ciao!