Something Wrong with the Foundations of Physics

That there is something wrong with the foundations of physics is nothing new here on Psybertron. As an engineer and epistemological-ontologist rather than a physicist I’m not an academic expert in fundamental physics, but I have been following the logic of many writers in physics and philosophy for over two decades.

Sabine Hossenfelder (@skdh) is a physicist and a science communicator I’ve followed for at least half of that period. She’s always thoughtful and open to philosophical thought, even if I’ve sometimes found her dismissive of any non-scientific philosophy talk – not in itself empirically falsifiable.

This @skdh piece in Cosmos is typically thoughtful and far-reaching and picks-up on a thought often expressed here, that unsuccessful searches for dark matter (and dark energy and assorted missing particles and symmetries) often appear to be in denial of the possibility that the effects of  their apparently invisible existence are really indicators that core theory predicting them is itself wrong. A wishful denial that has led to decades of stagnation (and wasted investment) in any real progress in fundamental physics. Jim AlKhalili agreed with her today.

@skdh says:

We’ve known of dark matter since the 1930s [… but] we still don’t know what it is made of: in fact, we don’t know whether it’s made of anything … it could just be we use the wrong theory for gravity.

Nowadays [… the] phrase “physicists say” is all too frequently followed by speculations [we have no evidence of]. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with this discipline.

But the worst part is that most of my colleagues think this situation perfectly okay. For starters, they would probably disagree that we have a problem in the foundations of physics at all.

After a bit more on philosophy-friendly naturalism:

The misgivings that philosophers had about quantum mechanics, it turned out, weren’t entirely irrelevant after all. If physicists hadn’t been so dismissive of philosophy, they might have seen that sooner.

Earlier she already hinted about “the wrong theory of gravity“:

“the cosmological constant is back”

And she concludes:

“I believe that physicists made a big mistake in the 1980s when they banked on […] increasingly larger and expensive particle colliders. [And politicians “following the science” were too scared to say no.]

In hindsight, physicists should have focused on the problem in front of their eyes, the one they’ve seen in myriad experiments: the measurement problem of quantum mechanics.”

Hallelujah! Progress. That media-and-politics-friendly “scientists say” meme has been a turn-off for me for longer than those two decades. I’ll say more about the cosmological constant in the next post (Sean Carroll’s “Poetic Naturalism”).


3 thoughts on “Something Wrong with the Foundations of Physics”

  1. Hi Ton, long time no talk.
    I don’t recognise the specific article, though I notice it uses the gravitational constant *and* a fluid flow analogy.
    Sabine’s point is that *many* alternative views using the gravitational constant have been ignored by the mainstream.
    Another physicist I’ve also been following is Erik Verlinde, who also uses more conventional physics and fluid flow analogies.
    Here’s one of my references to him

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