December 25, 2015

“It’s very bad when people stop you in the street and say, ‘Did you know that the world is made of strings and that there are parallel worlds?’.”

nature Is string theory science? Physicists and cosmologists have been debating the question for the past decade. Now the community is looking to philosophy for help. by Davide Castelvecchi

'Earlier this month, some of the feuding physicists met with philosophers of science at an unusual workshop aimed at addressing the accusation that branches of theoretical physics have become detached from the realities of experimental science. At stake is the integrity of the scientific method, as well as the reputation of science among the general public, say the workshop’s organizers.

'Held at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany on 7–9 December, the workshop came about as a result of an article in Nature a year ago, in which cosmologist George Ellis, of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and astronomer Joseph Silk, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, lamented a “worrying turn” in theoretical physics (G. Ellis and J. Silk Nature 516, 321–323; 2014).

'“Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe,” they wrote, some scientists argue that “if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally”.'

Essay: Attempts to exempt speculative theories of the Universe from experimental verification undermine science, argue George Ellis and Joe Silk.

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