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Re: Exciting Developments in Physics c.1962

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  • hibbsa
    ... Hi Brett - I liked a lot of what you said. The focus I was taking was much more narrow, concentrating on the headline theoretical progress only. You re
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 7, 2013
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      --- In Fabric-of-Reality@yahoogroups.com, Brett Hall <brhalluk@...> wrote:
      >
      > What's the subject mean? Do you mean there have been none since 1962? I'll assume that for the purpose of my reply here, except where I say otherwise. The body of your message wasn't clear about when exactly you thought progress in physics had stopped.
      >
      > On 01/03/2013, at 19:37, "hibbsa" <hibbsa@...> wrote:
      >
      > >
      > > I was a bit fluezy..needed to stay in bed a bit longer...so I went over
      > > to Edge.org thinking I'd stack up some videos to listen to by the
      > > physics/cosmology movers and shakers of our time. The first one I
      > > listened to was so incredibly uninspired...so uncreative, so no genius.
      > > String theory, a patchwork of universes ours as it is by anthropic
      > > principle. Where have the geniuses and great men gone?
      > >
      > Huh? The history of physics is a catalogue of the incremental improvement of knowledge contributed to, as always, by interested men and women of science. Some stars stand out: Descartes and Galileo, Newton, Boltzmann, Pauli, Einstein, etc, etc, etc.
      >
      > You should read this book: http://edge.org/conversation/a-cultural-history-of-physics
      >
      > >
      > > So I started searching back through the archives, and selected a couple
      > > of other videos. More interesting but nothing to be inspired by. Just no
      > > breathtaking paradigm shifting ideas.
      > >
      >
      > Um....shifting from what to what? If you actually look closely at the origins of QM, it was a *gradual* realisation...not a sudden paradigm shift. Blackbody radiation led to quanta and the photoelectric effect was noticed (by Einstein) and other contributions over some decades led to what we understand now. There wasn't like a day when all the physicists just decided "that's it! today is the day we do away with classical physics and embrace the new paradigm of QM. Today is the shift!" Paradigm shifting doesn't make much sense at all. Shifts are incremental. Paradigms imply lots of false stuff...like being "blind" to the truth. DD deals with this in the closing chapter of FoR.
      >
      > As for QM - we are still making progress in understanding it. That's what David Deutsch and others actually do! They are part of a continuum. If there was a "shift" then it's still happening. It never actually stops.
      >
      > Don't you find the theory of the quantum computer inspiring? What about the discovery of dark energy? That's amazing.
      >
      > Which shifts are you talking about exactly? I know relativity is a big break from classical mechanics and it was sudden. That's why Einstein is regarded as such an inspired mind. Do you expect these sort of discoveries to be more frequent? How frequent? Why?
      >
      > I'm not sure what you expect over the last decade or five...?
      >
      > > The same brick QM,
      > >
      > It's understood way better now. Not until Everett came along was it actually understood well. Even Feynman didn't get it as right as he might have. So it's not the same at all. But do you just mean over the last decade? What do you mean by "The same brick QM"? People cannot *decide* to change it arbitrarily.
      >
      >
      > > Big Bang,
      > >
      >
      > That theory is vastly different now than in 1962. For example, we now have so much more evidence due to technology. We understand how the cosmic microwave anisotropies can be explained by quantum fluctuations and inflation. That's an amazing, inspired find! It unites the very largest structures with the very smallest! Amazing. And....not the same at all.
      >
      > We learned the expansion is accelerating. I contend that this mystery is the equal of ANY over the last century and a half in physics. What is more mysterious than this?
      >
      > We learned much of this stuff over the last 15 years.
      > > Black-Holes
      > >
      > Um...you think we have learned nothing there? Wow. You are wrong. We now know there are tiny black holes that evaporate, and supermassive ones at the centre of galaxies. When they were first theorised they were thought to be only the size of stars.
      >
      >
      > > , Origin-of-life,
      > >
      > An active area of research. We know more now than ever before. And...you're now broadening the definition of physics. That's okay, I suppose...but my guess is few people working in this area call themselves physicists.
      >
      >
      > > brick walls. Then I noticed the dates on
      > > the videos I was watching was 2001. Wow...none of it was out of date.
      > >
      > Um...what's that mean? Einstein's special relativity isn't out of date and it's way older. What do you mean "out of date"? Do you mean "falsified"?
      >
      >
      > > Nothing has changed. so this is what it must have been like in times
      > > gone by. When you could pick up a 50 year old book with the title
      > > "Exciting Developments in Knowledge" and it'd still be up to date more
      > > or less.
      > >
      >
      > Is this your point? You are afraid we have hit a brick wall? No more progress? You have read BoI, right? Remember how Eddington made the same claim just before Quantum theory was discovered...and right before he himself contributed to Einstein's special relativity (indirectly).
      >
      > >
      > > Where have the great geniuses gone?
      > >
      > What do you mean by genius? Smart person? Famous smart person?
      >
      > I reckon Edward Witten probably understands more physics more deeply than any physicist of history you can name. DD understands quantum theory better than Schrodinger. Is David Deutsch therefore a greater genius than Schrodinger?
      >
      > To me, your question makes little sense.
      >
      > I reckon I could make the case that physicists today are better than physicists of the past, under a suitable definition of "better".
      > > Are there any at all in the
      > > universities and campuses in this and the last couple of generations?
      > >
      >
      > Until you explain what you mean by genius, this question is meaningless.
      >
      >
      > > The other day I read a pretty shocking article about how for a while now
      > > ethnic politics pretty much governs Ivy League admissions in America.
      > > There's massive discrimination in favour of some groups at the expense
      > > of others. Quality of students has panned as a result. Maybe that's
      > > where the geniuses are. They got turned away because someone else had
      > > better ethnic connections.
      > >
      >
      > Who cares what the Ivy League does? Good research can be done anywhere. Great research is being done, in physics, outside the USA - which isn't even the go-to-place in some areas of physics. Like, say, astrophysics. I don't think the staff at the LHC are much concerned with, nor affected by USA uni admissions.
      >
      > Brett.
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >

      Hi Brett - I liked a lot of what you said. The focus I was taking was much more narrow, concentrating on the headline theoretical progress only. You're right that the origins of life appears out of joint..I slipped it in because in my view it is going to prove fundamental and significant. I think we're going to find that the origins of life are very similar to the origins of science...and the origins of anything else that proves enduring and influential in reality.

      Which sounds awfully foundational, but actually I think that in the details of how things will pan out, the issue of foundations will be satisified without the mistake of foundationalism.

      You mentioned Relativity as an exception. I don't think it was. I think that at some appropriate level of abstraction, all the major scientific developments share the same signature of origination. What changes and differs is how well that signature has been recognized for posterity.

      This Edge video was very interesting...the historian of Science that made it has written a couple of fascinating books about the emergence of relativity. Whatever your view, the video is well worth the few minutes of your time:

      http://edge.org/conversation/einstein-and-poincare
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