Carlo Rovelli is right, in the sense that …

Interesting review of Carlo Rovelli’s latest “Reality Is Not What It Seems” by Michael Brooks in the New Statesman.

In my own review of Rovelli’s introductory work “Seven Brief Lessons, I felt compelled to add a footnote to ensure readers understood he was peddling a minority view in Quantum Loop Gravity. Interesting in Brooks’ review of Rovelli’s latest, he highlights the well understood paradox that Gravity and Quantum theories can’t both be right.

Both are right ….
in the sense that …. they’ve both
[made useful repeatable predictions].

And both must be wrong, too.
[Since neither supports the other].

Brooks takes umbrage at Rovelli’s dismissal of more “popular” current theories – eg String and SuperSym – that aim to provide more fundamental physics than the current combination of Gravity and Quantum. Rovelli spends the final third of his latest work promoting QLG.

Being right in this world is about being useful for two or three generations – Kuhn / Kondratiev – but that is hindsight of course. Those proven right – or consigned to obscurity – are always in a minority of one when they first point out the advantages of their alternative.

A minority view, but I think Rovelli is mostly right, however successful QLG proves to be. He’s right even if QLG is wrong. And right in a more fundamental sense than simply utilitarian. Consisent with Smolin and others there is a serious attempt to bring time and law-like causation within the explanatory scope of the model, not to mention a respect for the value that philosophy brings to fundamental thinking. And then there is that healthy scepticism of the celebrity status of heroic Galilean mythology.

I’m less inclined to follow fundamental physicists who are dismissive of time, causation and philosophy than those that are dismissive of popularity.


[Post Note : Another related review / book. Bell’s is another interpretation I have time for. Hat tip to Rick Ryalls on FB. Minority interests are not new, they just get trampled in the crowds following popularity contest winners, long before social media was invented. Same with science as any other topic of cultural interest.]

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