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Question:
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.



Replies:
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.

Jasjeet


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.

topper


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 time soon.

Arthur Smith



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