måndag 26 januari 2015

Physical Quantum Mechanics 5: Does the Scientific Method Need Revision?

Niels Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of theorists into thinking that the job of interpreting quantum theory was done 50 years ago. (1969 Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann)

Sabine Hossenfelder asks Does The Scientific Method Need Revision? motivated by the following observations and reflections:
  • Theoretical physics has problems. 
  • It is our lacking understanding of space, time, matter, and their quantum behavior that prevents us from better using what nature has given us. 
  • And it is this frustration that lead people inside and outside the community to argue we’re doing something wrong, that the social dynamics in the field is troubled, that we’ve lost our path, that we are not making progress because we keep working on unscientific theories.
  • Somewhere along the line many physicists have come to believe that it must be possible to formulate a theory without observational input, based on pure logic and some sense of aesthetics. 
  • They must believe their brains have a mystical connection to the universe and pure power of thought will tell them the laws of nature. But the only logical requirement to choose axioms for a theory is that the axioms not be in conflict with each other. 
  • You can thus never arrive at a theory that describes our universe without taking into account observations, period. The attempt to reduce axioms too much just leads to a whole “multiverse” of predictions, most of which don’t describe anything we will ever see.
  • See, in practice the origin of the problem is senior researchers not teaching their students that physics is all about describing nature. Instead, the students are taught by example that you can publish and live from outright bizarre speculations as long as you wrap them into enough math.
  • I cringe every time a string theorist starts talking about beauty and elegance. Whatever made them think that the human sense for beauty has any relevance for the fundamental laws of 
  • There isn’t any one scientific method. The only thing that matters is that you honestly assess the use of a theory to describe nature. If it’s useful, keep it. If not, try something else. This method doesn’t have to be changed, it has to be more consistently applied. You can’t assess the use of a scientific theory without comparing it to observation.
  • Theories might have other uses than describing nature...but if they don’t describe nature don’t call  them science.
I agree: Modern physics is not pursued according to a scientific method. How can that be, when classical physics represents the highest incarnation of the scientific method? Why is modern physics irrational and without contact to observation, when physics if anything should be rationalization of observations? 

The answer is simple:  The diversion or Fall away from the Paradise of rational classical physics, happened in the 1920s with Born's interpretation of Schrödinger's wave function $\psi$ in statistical terms with $\vert\psi\vert^2$ as a probability distribution of particle position, against the scientific principles of Schrödinger,  which in the merciless hands of Bohr crushed Schrödinger and along with that the scientific method. 

To insist like Bohr that the ground state of a Hydrogen atom is the result of a microscopic game of roulette with a large variability, instead of a fully determinstic interplay of forces without variability making the ground state the same for all Hydrogen atoms,  is to make physics into a crazy casino or zoo of an inifinite variety of Hydrogen atoms all different. 

In the present series of posts on Physical Quantum Mechanics I return to Schrödinger's original second order wave equation, which can be given a deterministic interpretation without statistics, and thus may open a possibility of returning to the Paradise of rationality of classical physics.

Of course Lubos Motl, as a represenative of the generation of physicists brainwashed by Bohr, opposes to everything Sabine says.    

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