Episode Five – Various Questions


What do you think about the mathematics and interpretations of special and general relativity?

These theories suffer much the same problem as does quantum theory.  While the mathematics of both of these theories have been vindicated by an endless array of experiments, the interpretation of this evidence is highly suspect.  Without the math, we would not have things like GPS. At this point, there is not a lot of point questioning the mathematics, as it seems to be pretty solid.

But, let’s go into the interpretations again.

Special relativity reifies time by treating it is a dimension.  But, this is invalid. Dimensions are a mathematical concept used to study relationships, they are not physical aspects of the universe.  But special relativity treats it as one.

Special relativity also introduces a major element of subjectivism.  It denies that things have objective properties such as length and asserts that these properties have different properties for different observers moving at different speeds. For instance, the length of a ruler is said to have different lengths for different observers moving at different speeds.

It denies that entities have objective properties dependent on their nature and instead asserts that the properties of entities exist in mutually exclusive states for different observers.

This is pure subjectivism and it is invalid.

But, in doing so it offers a non-physical explanation of apparent effects such as the slowing of clocks and the like. A non-physical explanation is no explanation at all.

General relativity asserts that gravity is the warping of space-time.  But, neither space nor time are things that can warp, they are relational concepts.  Asserting that gravity can warp is again offering a non-physical explanation of gravity and again is worse than offering no explanation.

So, again, neither theory offers a proper, physical explanation of the relevant phenomena hence their interpretations do not offer any real insight or understanding into how the universe really works.

What do you think of string theory and does it have a viable future?

String theory does not qualify as a theory.  A theory is a well-established scientific explanation of something.  But, nothing in string theory has been established.

Worse than this, nobody knows how to experimentally verify anything in string theory, so at this point, nothing in string theory can be established.

Which is fairly moot, since nobody really knows what string theory means or how one could test it.  In fact, string theory makes no definite predictions. So, at this stage, it is hard to see how anyone could test string theory.

String theory manifold.
This is the kind of thing string theorists talk about. Is it any wonder they have made no progress?

This does not seem to bother a lot of people working on string theory. Many of them are not greatly bothered by the fact that string theory cannot currently be tested.

Furthermore, the claims made by string theorists are extremely bizarre.  Central to string theory is the idea that reality is composed of nine, ten or some similar number of dimensions.  Not as a mathematical abstraction, but as a fundamental aspect of reality. As if geometry is not an abstract mathematical method used to study relationships, but a concrete physical aspect of reality.

String theory treats geometry as though it was a physical part of the universe.  But, dimensions are not a physical attribute of the universe and treating them as if they were explains nothing and commits the fallacy of reification.

It has many of the same problems as quantum theory and relativity, it attempts to explain all of the physics by an appeal to a non-physical explanation.

But, it gets worse.  There are a lot of mathematical issues with string theory.  A lot of equations employed by string theory get what you might consider less than convenient answers, such as infinitely large or small values.  Not really the kind of answers one would expect or want!

So, what do they do, to try to get rid of these infinities? Well, there is a mathematical method called renormalization which they use to try to get rid of them.  This process might be valid in some cases, but certainly not in all.

Some of these renormalization processes are crazy.  For instance, there is one example which says that if you add up all the positive natural numbers (1, 2, 3, etc) then you get minus 1 over 12!

Now, you don’t have to be much of a mathematician to see that this is just insane.  And it is, despite the various so-called “mathematical proofs” of this silly result.

What is up with all this? Well, it seems to indicate a desperate attempt to get rid of these infinities.  Infinities which probably should not exist in the first place and which seem to argue that the mathematics of string theory has little or nothing to do with reality.

Does string theory have a viable future? No, how could it?  Nobody really knows what it means, it is based on nonsensical non-physical explanations, its mathematics does not even work and generates a lot of nonsense and nobody knows how to test it.

How a theory with all these problems could have any viable future is very difficult to see.

This is a question that was found on Quora! Why there are no more great physicists like Einstein, Newton, Bohr and Schrodinger in this generation? Are the current problems way too difficult for now?

Well, we would like to cast a little doubt on how great Bohr, Schrodinger and Einstein were. We are not saying that they were not very intelligent people and that they did not make important contributions.  Of course, they did, despite our severe criticisms of some of their work.

At least this guy was great ...
Newton, at least he was great!

But, this is not the right place to go into how great these three figures were.  Let’s leave that for another time. But, you can certainly ask us about these criticisms, if you want.

Why are there no great physicists anymore?  Is it because the problems are too hard?

If you look at string theory, it certainly seems that the problems are really hard and perhaps too hard.  But that has a lot more to do with the philosophical premises of the people trying to answer the questions and the approach they are taking.

We are not saying that there are not some hard questions left.  But, not all questions are good questions and not all approaches to answering them are the right approaches.

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