The End of Physics
I am puzzled by the current attitude in physics. Why do some
scientists say the theory of physics is almost entirely known when they do not
have the experimental means to prove this? Is there a mathematical proof
that nothing much different from quantum mechanics applies to the world?
Even so, mathematics is not physics (and according to some, it is quite
fallible (Russel, Godel, etc.)). Also , why are not physicists trying to
discover novel experimental methods that will allow them to test unification
And if there is nothing new to know, then I guess we will all take
a permanent vacation! Perhaps the Universe is pointless, as professor
S. Weinberg's observation suggests; but it sure is beautiful.
The theory of physics is not known as yet. We have several theories
which work in different domains but we do not know of a method which
will put these together.
There have been claims that string theory is the ultimate theory,
but we do not know of any sensible string theory which gives numbers
and in absence of these numbers, these claims remain claims. They
are not the theory, as some people would like to call it.
Rest assured, people are trying to think up new experiments which
will lead to better understanding.
It is worth pointing out that before quantum mechanics
and relativity theory burst upon the scene (so to speak),
the prevailing attitude among most physicists was that all
the basic physics principles had been unraveled and there
was only a little fine-tuning left to do.
I believe that your statement is a little unfair, and that
most of us remember the lessons of history and are not so
arrogant to believe that all important physical principles
are known. At least, I hope that this is not the case.
Also, any changes in the basic theories of particle physics
will have absolutely no effect on the work I and countless
other physicists, chemists, and others are doing in areas
like materials science - the basic equations have been
known since the 1920's, and yet we are still trying to work
out the details -- nobody plans on going on a vacation any
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Update: June 2012