Uncertain Times from Quanta to the Cosmos

It’s all happening at once today. Prompted I guess by the first episode of Jim Al Khalili’s BBC4 series on Quantum Mechanics, the usual alternative theories are crawling out of the woodwork.

Not watched the episode yet, but judging by the Grauniad review we get the “Einstein was wrong” take and a bit of wave-particle duality so far – Feynman’s quantum physics in a nutshell “double-slit experiment”. Jim tweeted this morning receiving a link to Natalie Wolchover’s piece in Wired from back in June about the David Bohm interpretation of QM – basically an Einstein and Bohr were both wrong, take on things. Coincidentally mentioned by Rebecca Goldstein last month as her own preferred interpretation before she switched from physics to philosophy.

And talking of philosophy at the other end of the scale just yesterday we have Roberto Unger collaborating with Lee Smolin on anthropic mistakes in cosmological interpretations.

Two givens

Firstly, at the extremes of fundamental physics much is speculation, and the touch points with empirical reality few, indirect and incomplete. Yes, the maths work in given contexts and scales, but the explanatory understanding of reality – beyond doubtful metaphors – is a long way off.

And, secondly, physics needs philosophy to help sort out it’s relation to both reality and humanity.

Related – but more general (medical) science in this case: the recurring agenda of mine: when is speculative (or interested) science newsworthy? The tag of “science” allows so much hyped crap to be touted as worthwhile knowledge, when it’s really churn in the processes of science – speculative in both senses, doubtful, but worth a shot if it justifies the funds.

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