Thursday, January 28, 2016

Depressed about physics

The problem that some physicists warned about - what if the Large Hadron Collider finds Higgs, but nothing else very interesting - seems in danger of becoming a reality; and given that there's a more widespread acknowledgement than ever that string theory is an untestable waste of time (well, this is my impression, anyway), it seems that the physics community has fallen into a bit of a depression recently.

Here are a few pieces to back this up:

a.  John Horgan wrote a great piece this month "How Physics Lost its Fizz", and his explanation of why he (used to) find physics so fascinating mirrors a lot of my own interests.    But whether it deserves this full amount of pessimism still seems a bit unclear to me - the problem being that you never know what is just around the corner in both theory and experiment, although it certainly seems true that the era of building ever larger particle colliders is over. 

b.  Starts with a Bang notes that early inflation of the universe sets a natural limit on how far back you can see, as explained in the post "Physicists Must Accept That Some Things are Unknowable".   Not a new idea, perhaps, but good to be reminded.   (And by the way - I really don't quite understand the way inflation is so widely accepted when, at the same time, as far as I know, there is no clear understanding of what caused it.  It has always seemed to me to have more than a touch of the Deus ex machina about it.)

c.  You can also watch a Downfall parody video with a difference:  Hitler doesn't get a postdoc in High Energy Theory.  Somewhat amusing, and realistic, apparently.

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