[Marxism] Fwd: Has this physicist found the key to reality?

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Tue Oct 25 10:31:49 MDT 2016


I get the impression that the reviewer is more inclined to place his bets on string theory than on quantum loop theory, which is favored by Rovelli. But as the reviewer admits, string theory is not empirically falsifiable. I don't think that one has to be a fan of Karl Popper to find that to be troubling. I think that most scientists since the dawn of modern science in the 17th century have at least tacitly assumed that scientific theories, to be regarded as such, must be empirically testable, and in some sense, falsifiable, even if we don't necessarily embrace Popper's conception of falsifiabilility. Hardcore proponents of string theory have responded by arguing that scientific theories to be scientific theories need not be falsifiable. In regards to this situation, I think it's too bad that the professional philosophers have not taken too much interest in what Popper called the "demarcation problem" for the past forty or fifty years. In other words not since the days of Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos. Given the cul de sac that physics seems to be in right now, this might be an area where the philosopher could do the scientists some good.


Jim Farmelant
http://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelant
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---------- Original Message ----------
From: Louis Proyect via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Subject: [Marxism] Fwd: Has this physicist found the key to reality?
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 08:03:35 -0400

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Has this physicist found the key to reality?
Whenever we have ventured into new experimental territory, we’ve 
discovered that our previous “knowledge” was woefully incomplete. So 
what to make of Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli?

Reality Is Not What It Seems: the Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo 
Rovelli. Translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre is published by 
Allen Lane (255pp, £16.99)

Albert Einstein knew the truth. “As far as the laws of mathematics refer 
to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they 
do not refer to reality.” However good we are at maths – or theoretical 
physics – our efforts to apply it to the real world are always going to 
mislead. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that reality is not what 
it seems – even when, like the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, you’ve 
done the maths.

It is a lesson we could certainly learn from the history of science. 
Whenever we have ventured into new experimental territory, we’ve 
discovered that our previous “knowledge” was woefully incomplete. With 
the invention of the telescope, for instance, we found new structures in 
space; Jupiter’s moons and sunspots were just the beginning. The 
microscope took us the other way and showed us the fine structure of the 
biological world – creatures that looked uninteresting to the naked eye 
turned out to be intricate and delicate, with scales and hooks and other 
minute features. We also once thought that the atom lacked structure; 
today’s technology, such as the particle colliders at the Cern research 
centre in Geneva and Fermilab in the United States, have allowed us to 
prove just how wrong that idea was. At every technological turn, we have 
redefined the nature of reality.

full: 
http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2016/10/has-physicist-found-key-reality

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