string theory

String Theory: A Misguided Attempt at Unification

String theory is based on the misguided idea that the “great pillars of 20th-century science”; quantum mechanics and relativity can be unified. Unified into one theory that explains the quantum theory and relativity.

This is meant to unify physics and allow us to come up with a unified “Theory of Everything“. Or, at least to come up with a unified theory that can be used to explain most/all of physics. It is believed that with this theory, pretty much every other aspect of physics could be derived.

How do we know that we should try to unify quantum mechanics and relativity?

Even if we assume that these are reasonable theories, how do we know that we can unify them into a good or even coherent theory? Who says such a theory exists?

Many physicists assume that such a theory must exist. However, I see little or no reason to assume that such a theory must exist.

Why do so many believe that it must? Physicists have noticed how successful quantum theory and relativity have been in making astoundingly accurate mathematical predictions. It is rather hard not to. In terms of their powers of mathematically describing relationships, both of these theories are remarkably accurate to very high levels of precision.

And there has certainly been a trend in physics towards increased unification.  For instance, electricity and magnetism were once considered to be separate things until it was discovered that they are very closely related and that the same set of equations describe how they both work.

So, it is widely considered that there is this increasing trend toward unifying lots of different things under one theory, all describable by one set of equations. As done with electromagnetism and as physicists believe they accomplished with space and time.

They now want to unify quantum physics and relativity so that one theory explains both of these. And that can describe both with one set of equations. They assume that this is possible and that such a theory must exist. Must it?

Is it necessarily the case that a single theory explains the things covered by quantum mechanics and gravity?

I am not sure this is necessarily the case. Nor am I sure that it need not be the case. Until such a reasonable candidate for such a theory comes along, I think it is premature to do more than speculate.

Whether or not there is any such theory, we know that it cannot be a combination of quantum theory and relativity. Not as quantum theory and relativity exist as we know them today.

We should ask ourselves if quantum mechanics and relativity are theories that are ready to be unified.

string theory
And should we try unify them into something like this? Yes, this is the sort of thing string theory likes to talk about.

Do quantum mechanics and relativity make any sense?

If not, should we be trying to unify them? Are they coherent theories and if not, should we expect to be able to unify them into a coherent theory?

Relativity claims to unify space, time and gravity all into one neat bundle, all described by one set of equations. I would argue that it does not. I would argue that the physical interpretations of relativity make no sense. You cannot explain how gravity works by treating mathematical concepts such as space and time as though they were physical aspects of the universe.

Sure, it might work as a mathematical method, but we have to keep in mind that it is just a mathematical method and that space and time are only mathematical concepts. We cannot explain how anything works by treating abstractions as physical aspects of the universe.

Quantum theory is also rather nonsensical.

In fact, it largely avoids trying to explain anything and largely denies that subatomic particles have any reality or act in any consistent way with reality while they are not being observed.

Quantum mechanics explains very little in terms of the actions of physical objects. Instead, it is the action of magical entities that are not fully real and act as ghosts that are somehow made mostly real by the process of observation.

I am going to argue that neither quantum mechanics nor relativity is a coherent theory. Sure, the mathematics of both theories has been verified time and time again to match reality with great precision.

The point of physics is not to merely come up with accurate mathematical descriptions of reality.

Does this look like physics to you? Looks like math to me. But, this is about all string theory has to offer.

The point is to help us understand physical reality as it really is. Not to merely describe mathematical appearances.

The problem is that neither quantum mechanics nor relativity helps us to understand reality. They provide nonsensical, metaphysically invalid descriptions of appearances but do not describe reality or help us to understand it. In fact, they deny reality any place in physics and merely describe appearances.

They describe impossibilities such as particles that exist in contradictory states. Or objects that have different properties for different observers. This is about as far from a rational attempt to help us understand reality as one could imagine.

Why then should we try to make a unified theory out of these two failed theories? We shouldn’t! These are not coherent theories in the first place, so why should we attempt to come up with a theory that somehow accounts for both theories?

Neither theory works to explain reality, so why account for them at all? That would be like if I took Islam and Hinduism and tried to come up with a Unified Theory of Common Religions in India. Given neither Islam nor Hinduism have any truth to them, all I would end up with is yet another body of ideas without any truth to it.

Sure, one could perhaps take the aspects of quantum theory and relativity that work and come up with another theory. But, that would be a very different theory, at least in terms of its physical interpretations.

Sure, a lot of the math might be familiar, but physics is about physical explanations of how reality works. Not merely mathematical descriptions of how reality works.

This is all string theorists could hope to do. To come up with a body of mathematical equations that somehow unifies relativity and quantum mechanics. By that I mean,  the equations would describe things from relativity and quantum theory.

But that does not provide a physical explanation of how physical reality works.

So, it does not qualify as physics. And that is the problem.

Even if we have a mathematical unification of relativity and quantum theory, we still need a physical unification. And where is that going to come from?

From two fields of physics that have no rational physical interpretations to offer? I do not see how that is possible.

So, in as far as it tries to explain two largely false theories, that string theory is doomed from the start. It is not possible to come up with a coherent theory that starts with two other absurdly false theories as its premises.

This should come as no surprise. If so much of modern physics is nonsensical and anti-reality, why then should we expect string theory to be any better?

Other than this, is string theory of any use to anyone? In upcoming articles on string theory, we will see that it is not. The problems with string theory and its practitioners go far beyond what we have outlined here.

4 comments

  1. Yeah, the approach of String Theorists is irrational, but in some sense I have some sympathy for them. It is so, because they want to integrate, they aren’t skeptics who attack any attempt of putting pieces into a whole.

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