Friday, 18 December 2015

\"WE DON\"T know what we are talking about\" - Nobel Laureate David Gross

Last December (\’05), physicists held the 23rd Solvay Conference in Brussels, Belgium. Amongst the many topics covered in the conference was the subject matter of string theory. This theory combines the apparently irreconcilable domains of quantum physics and relativity. David Gross a Nobel Laureate made some startling statements about the state of physics including: \”We don\’t know what we are talking about\” whilst referring to string theory as well as “The state of physics today is like it was when we were mystified by radioactivity.” The Nobel Laureate is a heavyweight in this field having earned a prize for work

on the strong nuclear force and he indicated that what is happening today is very similar to what happened at the 1911 Solvay meeting. Back then, radioactivity had recently been discovered and mass energy conservation was under assault because of its discovery. Quantum theory would be needed to solve these problems. Gross further commented that in 1911 \”They were missing something absolutely fundamental,\” as well as \”we are missing perhaps something as profound as they were back then.\” Coming from a scientist with establishment credentials this is a damning statement about the state of current theoretical models and most notably

string theory. This theoretical model is a means by which physicists replace the more commonly known particles of particle physics with one dimensional objects which are known as strings. These bizarre objects were first detected in 1968 through the insight and work of Gabriele Veneziano who was trying to comprehend the strong nuclear force. Whilst meditating on the strong nuclear force Veneziano detected a similarity between the Euler Beta Function, named for the famed mathematician Leonhard Euler, and the strong force. Applying the aforementioned Beta Function to the strong force he was able to validate a direct correlation between the

two. Interestingly enough, no one knew why Euler\’s Beta worked so well in mapping the strong nuclear force data. A proposed solution to this dilemma would follow a few years later. Almost two years later (1970), the scientists Nambu, Nielsen and Susskind provided a mathematical description which described the physical phenomena of why Euler\’s Beta served as a graphical outline for the strong nuclear force. By modeling the strong nuclear forces as one dimensional strings they were able to show why it all seemed to work so well. However, several troubling inconsistencies were immediately seen on the horizon. The new

theory had attached to it many implications that were in direct violation of empirical analyses. In other words, routine experimentation did not back up the new theory. Needless to say, physicists romantic fascination with string theory ended almost as fast as it had begun only to be resuscitated a few years later by another \’discovery.\’ The worker of the miraculous salvation of the sweet dreams of modern physicists was known as the graviton. This elementary particle allegedly communicates gravitational forces throughout the universe. The graviton is of course a \’hypothetical\’ particle that appears in what are known as quantum gravity

systems. Unfortunately, the graviton has never ever been detected; it is as previously indicated a \’mythical\’ particle that fills the mind of the theorist with dreams of golden Nobel Prizes and perhaps his or her name on the periodic table of elements. But back to the historical record

\"WE DON\"T know what we are talking about\" - Nobel Laureate David Gross

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