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M-Theory/String Theory - Science or Speculation??

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hyperholiday: You indicated in the other thread that you were interested in M-theory, and I promised to explain why I don't consider it to properly be science. I'm hoping this thread will examine that topic in some detail. Other participants are welcome, of course. The more perspectives the better.

 

To get us started, I'd like to suggest that participants read the following article by Jim Holt.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/10/02/unstrung-2/amp

 

There are a lot of salient points in the article, some of which are tangential to the topic at hand. But it does describe string theory and M-theory fairly well in layman's terms, which is why I suggest reading it first.

 

I should say at the outset that I'm not an expert here. I know a thing or two about physics,  but that's about it. I'm looking forward to this discussion. Hopefully we can all learn something.

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Good article. 

 

After I read Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe), I remember questioning in my mind what that even means - the last divisible properties of matter. Is that even possible? Or could it be infinitely divided? With no absolute bottom to the microcosm? Matching a macrocosm with no top end. 

 

 

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On 5/17/2019 at 2:14 PM, disillusioned said:

 

hyperholiday: You indicated in the other thread that you were interested in M-theory, and I promised to explain why I don't consider it to properly be science. I'm hoping this thread will examine that topic in some detail. Other participants are welcome, of course. The more perspectives the better.

 

To get us started, I'd like to suggest that participants read the following article by Jim Holt.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/10/02/unstrung-2/amp

 

There are a lot of salient points in the article, some of which are tangential to the topic at hand. But it does describe string theory and M-theory fairly well in layman's terms, which is why I suggest reading it first.

 

I should say at the outset that I'm not an expert here. I know a thing or two about physics,  but that's about it. I'm looking forward to this discussion. Hopefully we can all learn something.

 

Yes, M Theory is neither science, nor science theory. Here are a number of definitions relating to scientific and string theories in general .

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A scientific theory is a coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world that can be repeatedly tested and verified in accordance with the scientific method using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results. A scientific theory must make testable predictions, must be falsifiable, and embody scientific knowledge.  The primary method of reasoning for a scientific theory is abduction.

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String theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called “strings.” It is a theory in a mathematical sense rather than a scientific one. It proposes as many as 7 additional unobserved micro-dimensions totaling as many as 11 dimensions in all. It describes how these hypothetical strings and their additional dimensions propagate through space and interact with each other.

 

Superstring theory is an attempt to explain all of the particles and fundamental forces of nature in one theory by modeling them as vibrations of tiny super symmetric strings, whereby such super-symmetric particle partners or their counterpart strings have never been observed.

 

M-theory is a mathematical theory that claims to unify all consistent versions of super-string theory and has been called a Theory of Everything, claiming that all of physics could have its basis in this one all encompassing mathematical super-string theory.

 

All three of the above are string theories of one kind or another. String theories collectively have been called:

 

“The most ambitious idea(s) ever outlined by scientists (but since 2014) has suffered remarkable setbacks. It has been dismissed as a theoretical cul-de-sac that has wasted the academic lives of hundreds of the world's cleverest men and women."

 

"This startling accusation has been made by frustrated physicists, including several Nobel prize winners, who say that string theory - which seeks to outline the entire structure of the universe in a few brief equations - is an intellectual dead end.”

 

https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2012/03/whats-wrong-with-string-theory.html

https://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9375

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2015/12/23/why-string-theory-is-not-science/#246b10d86524

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=9817

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trouble_with_Physics

https://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0610/0610168.pdf

 

There is no end to the criticisms of string theory and M theory, although many still argue in their behalf and continue to consider their possibilities.

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

hyperholiday: You indicated in the other thread that you were interested in M-theory, and I promised to explain why I don't consider it to properly be science. I'm hoping this thread will examine that topic in some detail. Other participants are welcome, of course. The more perspectives the better.

 

To get us started, I'd like to suggest that participants read the following article by Jim Holt.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/10/02/unstrung-2/amp

 

There are a lot of salient points in the article, some of which are tangential to the topic at hand. But it does describe string theory and M-theory fairly well in layman's terms, which is why I suggest reading it first.

 

I should say at the outset that I'm not an expert here. I know a thing or two about physics,  but that's about it. I'm looking forward to this discussion. Hopefully we can all learn something.

I'm still reading it (It will take some time)

 

Question: This string world hasn't been observed yet?

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1 hour ago, hyperholiday said:

I'm still reading it (It will take some time)

 

Question: This string world hasn't been observed yet?

 

No it has not.

 

String theory is a purely mathematical/conceptual description of how things might be. It proposes, as pantheory noted, that matter at the most fundamental level is composed of one dimensional strings,  as opposed to particles. This is just an idea. There is zero observational evidence to back it up. That,  in itself,  would not be that big of a problem, though, if string theory made actual, testable predictions. But it doesn't. What it does have is a certain explanatory power. But that's not good enough for it to be science! The God hypothesis also has some explanatory power. Science needs to do more than that.

 

Keep reading. By the end of the article, you'll see that string theory also leads to quite a few non-trivial problems which are not easy to resolve.

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14 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

No it has not.

 

String theory is a purely mathematical/conceptual description of how things might be. It proposes, as pantheory noted, that matter at the most fundamental level is composed of one dimensional strings,  as opposed to particles. This is just an idea. There is zero observational evidence to back it up. That,  in itself,  would not be that big of a problem, though, if string theory made actual, testable predictions. But it doesn't. What it does have is a certain explanatory power. But that's not good enough for it to be science! The God hypothesis also has some explanatory power. Science needs to do more than that.

 

Keep reading. By the end of the article, you'll see that string theory also leads to quite a few non-trivial problems which are not easy to resolve.

I agree with you, on the basis that these mathematical formulas scientist create are spitting out various opinions on the race to a unified cosmological theory.

 

Observation has to be paramount to begin with.

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15 hours ago, hyperholiday said:

I agree with you, on the basis that these mathematical formulas scientist create are spitting out various opinions on the race to a unified cosmological theory.

 

Observation has to be paramount to begin with.

 

Maybe the prevailing opinion at this time is that no mathematical formulations, separate from scientific theory, could ever become a theory of everything. Many or most theorists at this time no longer think that string theory has any chance of being a correct.  String theory requires too many pillars of support that probably can never be observed since they probably don't exist -- such as 7 additional unobserved dimensions which have never been observed.

 

IMO there will never be a mathematically based Theory of Everything. Instead such a theory must be first founded on both science and logic confirmed by observation, and its mathematics will instead be a generally unrelated ensemble like the mathematics of physics are today.

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10 minutes ago, pantheory said:

 

Maybe the prevailing opinion at this time is that no mathematical formulations, separate from scientific theory, could ever become a theory of everything. Many or most theorists at this time no longer think that string theory has any chance of being a correct.  String theory requires too many pillars of support that probably can never be observed since they probably don't exist -- such as 7 additional unobserved dimensions which have never been observed.

 

IMO there will never be a mathematically based Theory of Everything. Instead such a theory must be first founded on both science and logic confirmed by observation, and its mathematics will instead be a generally unrelated ensemble as the mathematics of physics are today.

Yes, and my reasoning is that string theory smacks of assumptions, and therefore land's in the realm of the believed rather than the known.

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12 hours ago, hyperholiday said:

Yes, and my reasoning is that string theory smacks of assumptions, and therefore land's in the realm of the believed rather than the known.

 

Yes, it was believed rather than being science theory, not only because of its assumptions, but also because none of its assertions have ever been observed, and it never was a scientific theory in the first place.  Instead string theory is a mathematical theory which follows math-logic protocol, which often has nothing to  do with known reality. Now there are only a slim few theorists that believe in it at all. Even more so for M-theory since it is more complicated string theory requiring super-symmetry, also entities never observed.

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On 5/18/2019 at 8:38 PM, hyperholiday said:

I agree with you, on the basis that these mathematical formulas scientist create are spitting out various opinions on the race to a unified cosmological theory.

 

Observation has to be paramount to begin with.

 

Yes, if we want to be doing science,  the theory needs to be rooted in observation. Without empirical evidence, what you have may be logically consistent,  elegant,  even beautiful,  but it isn't science.

 

I don't personally think that a theory of everything is actually possible. It actually seems to me to be fairly silly to think that it should be. Why should we think that human evolution had equipped us to accurately describe how the universe actually is in its entirety? This seems to me to be asking me to believe a bit too much. Now,  that doesn't mean that we can't say anything about the universe, it just means that we shouldn't expect to be able to say everything. 

 

Where string theorists went wrong,  in my opinion,  is that they set out specifically trying to build a theory of everything. Then they tried to apply it to the universe in an explanatory fashion. That's fine, but unless it is based on observation (it isn't) or makes testable predictions (it doesn't) it's really just a guess.

 

Now,  this doesn't mean that string theory is entirely useless. It has led to some developments in mathematics. And that's great. I don't think it should necessarily be done away with, but it isn't really correct to call it physics,  in my view. 

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8 hours ago, disillusioned said:

 

Yes, if we want to be doing science,  the theory needs to be rooted in observation. Without empirical evidence, what you have may be logically consistent,  elegant,  even beautiful,  but it isn't science.

 

I don't personally think they a theory of everything is actually possible. It actually seems to me to be fairly silly to think that it should be. Why should we think that human evolution had equipped us to accurately describe how the universe actually is in its entirety? This seems to me to be asking me to believe a bit too much. Now,  they doesn't mean that we can't say anything about the universe, it just means that we shouldn't expect to be able to say everything. 

 

Where string theorists went wrong,  in my opinion,  is that they set out specifically trying to build a theory of everything. Then they tried to apply it to the universe in an explanatory fashion. That's fine, but unless it is based on observation (it isn't) or makes testable predictions (it doesn't) it's really just a guess.

 

Now,  this doesn't mean that string theory is entirely useless. It has led to some developments in mathematics. And that's great. I don't think it should necessarily be done away with, but it isn't really correct to call it physics,  in my view. 

While we are on cosmology, what about the theory of the big bang? Sure they have observational data (After the fact) but when they turn the clock back and crunch everything into a single point (The singularity) then all mathematical equations break down. They arrive at a point they cannot observe & cannot understand mathematically.

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