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The Man Who Invented the 26th Dimension

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the beards-give-you-science-powers dept.

Math 259

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes Based on all the experiments we've ever been able to perform, we're quite certain that our Universe, from the largest scales down to the microscopic, obeys the physical laws of three spatial dimensions (and one time dimension): a four-dimensional spacetime. But that's not the only possibility mathematically. People had experimented with bringing a fifth dimension in to unify General Relativity with Electromagnetism in the past, but that was regarded as a dead-end. Then in the 1970s, an unknown theoretical physicist working on the string model of the strong interactions discovered that by going into the 26th dimension, some incredibly interesting physics emerged, and String Theory was born.

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Procreate with corpses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607161)

Einstein was a genius.

Gotcha covered... (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607165)

Here at discount dimension warehouse you can get 27 dimensions for the price of 26. We honor all competitors empirically undemonstrated theory coupons. More dimensions for your money.

Re:Gotcha covered... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607185)

LOL ... fsck it, we're going to 30 dimensions. ;-)

Re:Gotcha covered... (5, Funny)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 3 months ago | (#47607193)

I vote for 42.. y'know, to make things consistent.

Re:Gotcha covered... (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 3 months ago | (#47607319)

So that's your answer then, your ultimate answer, 42 ?

Re:Gotcha covered... (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#47607343)

Yeah, the problem with 42, is you have to stop off at 34, and as every man knows, all work stops at 34. Physics Porn FTW!

Re:Gotcha covered... (3, Insightful)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 3 months ago | (#47607563)

26 base 10 = 42 base 6

Re:Gotcha covered... (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 3 months ago | (#47607197)

agreed, let's turn this shizznit up to eleven.

Re:Gotcha covered... (5, Funny)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 3 months ago | (#47607715)

Don't listen to him! He sold me a dimension and when I got it home it turned out to be merely a complex vector!

Crazy Parakeet Man (4, Funny)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 3 months ago | (#47607175)

Not to detract from his contributions to science, but the photo of him in the Medium article makes him look like some sort of Parakeet Wizard. How he stayed sane with 40 parakeets in his house is something I will never understand.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607223)

I'm severely concerned for you if you've ever met any physics PhDs who didn't give off that vibe.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (2)

preaction (1526109) | about 3 months ago | (#47607543)

I work with one, but technically they aren't in academia anymore. Perhaps he didn't give off enough of that vibe.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (2, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607235)

How he stayed sane with 40 parakeets in his house is something I will never understand.

LOL, based on how nobody has ever been able to explain WTF String Theory actually claims to tell us or how you'd verify it ... I'm not sure of his 'sanity'. ;-)

String Theory has always been a little dodgy, and there seems to be about 20 different versions of it, most of which seems to not to make sense, even to many physicists.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (5, Interesting)

meerling (1487879) | about 3 months ago | (#47607333)

There are less of them now than there were a few years ago, the LHC saw to that. The data they gathered on the Higgs Boson ruled out numerous theories, though there are still a lot more to go.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47607555)

Yes, some publications even asked "Is this the end of String Theory?" which of course meant it wasn't.

I mean, it did take some serious blows. But it isn't quite gone yet.

On the other hand, since I have still seen no suggestions of practical ways to test for its existence (only its non-existence), I still have a bit of trouble with the "Theory" part. Last I heard it was only a hypothesis.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (-1, Flamebait)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47607745)

So since I have still seen no suggestions of practical ways to test for its existence nevertheless the (according to you: non existing tests) I mean, it did take (took) some serious blows. So, did it take blows by non existing tests, or did it got blows 'just like that'? But it isn't quite gone yet. Oh, it is not? Wow, so is relativity or QM.
Grow up and perhaps make science education.
Your well worded but substance less scientific (cough cough) rants, show pretty clearly that you never have any idea what you are actually talking about.
For beginners: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
For a mere hypothesis even this wiki article blows most /. readers out of the continuum where they still can follow the explanation.
Mrs. Public, perhaps you should restrain yourself to hot political topics in the summer break of congress and senate? So we uninformed barbarians in the third and forth world areas of this planet still get informed about why a white underclass christian in a suburb of a booming american metropole has no health insurance? Drama! News on ... why actually is the news in the USA at 11? Sane people sleeping already?

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607385)

LOL, based on how nobody has ever been able to explain WTF String Theory actually claims to tell us or how you'd verify it ...

You know about those tests where you are given a number series and is supposed to guess the pattern and select the next number.
They become increasingly harder the more math you know since you can find so many equally simple functions that matches the series.
String theory is a bit like that, but without the constants.
Just add another dimension for every point of measurement you have and eventually it will all come together.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 3 months ago | (#47607349)

It only looks crazy in 2 dimensions. In 26 it is perfectly reasonable

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607409)

It only looks crazy in 2 dimensions. In 26 it is perfectly reasonable

My Linear Algebra prof used to say that about his office ... in 3-space, his office was an incomprehensible mess.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 3 months ago | (#47607471)

How he stayed sane

What makes you think he did?

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 3 months ago | (#47607645)

like some sort of Parakeet Wizard

At least he seems able to keep bird crap off his face, unlike some other wizards.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607663)

He probably just kept a lot of cracker around the house.

Didn't notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607679)

Couldn't bear to even try and read the medium.com linkspam.

Re:Crazy Parakeet Man (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607813)

I went to Rutgers for physics and engineering, worked in physics department for a number of years, and my desk was in a lab across the hall from his office; I can say without hesitation that he was not playing with a full deck.

That said, he was a brilliant man and one of my favorite professors. His classes were always interesting.

And damn did he love those birds.

String theory is voodoo physics (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607183)

Decades from now, people will look back on it and laugh--putting it beside Phrenology and others in the "Hall of Pseudoscience."

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 3 months ago | (#47607209)

agreed. nobody can truly vet it because nobody can truly understand it because nothing makes sense. welcome to my world.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607249)

Proposing an idea that explains a previously unexplained observation isn't pseudoscience. It can certainly be wrong, and should be treated as such until experimentally tested.

But pseudoscience lives in a special realm, where it wraps itself in the verbiage of science, while not sharing the methods and intent. String theory very clearly falls into the "not testable yet" category, rather than the "designed to resist testing" category that weapons grade bullshit enjoys.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607389)

String theory very clearly falls into the "not testable yet" category, rather than the "designed to resist testing" category that weapons grade bullshit enjoys.

No, but if it's inherently not testable ... then what, exactly, is it's value to science? What conditions need to come about for it to ever be tested?

From a science perspective, is it really any different than me saying that deep within every star lives a napping space goat whose farts drive the fusion process? That's untestable as well, but isn't designed to resist testing. Is my farting space goat pseudo science while String Theory is real science?

It may not strictly speaking be pseudo-science -- but at this point, it's pretty far removed from actual science.

It's just awfully hard to take it seriously when it's a claim which can't be tested, verified, or really even investigated.

At which point, it seems hard to conclude that it's still actually science.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607443)

Why do you allege the lack of testability is "inherent". That's a charge I hear a lot from people who pretend to like science, but mostly just regurgitate nice sayings they've heard about science.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607605)

I'm not clear on what magic needs to come into existence to test it.

This [columbia.edu] certainly says it's untestable:

My conclusion, as you'd expect, is that string theory is not testable in any conventional scientific use of the term. The fundamental problem is that simple versions of the string theory unification idea, the ones often sold as "beautiful", disagree with experiment for some basic reasons. Getting around these problems requires working with much more complicated versions, which have become so complicated that the framework becomes untestable as it can be made to agree with virtually anything one is likely to experimentally measure. This is a classic failure mode of a speculative framework: the rigid initial version doesn't agree with experiment, making it less rigid to avoid this kills off its predictivity.

So, tell us, please ... what is missing from our collective understanding of whether String Theory can be tested?

Because I've been hearing for rather a long time that physicists can't test it, or that parts of it have been refuted by the LHC.

I get the distinct impression that we simply have no basis on which to test it. Reputable scientists say it can't be tested.

So, on what basis are you asserting that it's testable?

Or would be have to create a 26 dimensional device to measure this? Because, really, that's a pretty steep challenge.

I know enough about math and science to know that physicists have been saying String Theory is voodoo for decades, and it doesn't sound like we're any closer to being able to test it.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607677)

This isn't what you were saying. I don't disagree with this digest at all. The link is a great criticism, about the nature of how scientific theories fail, but it's nothing about "inherent" untestability.

Re: String theory is voodoo physics (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 3 months ago | (#47607705)

Still doesn't make it untestable. You keep fitting and explaining until you have enough description to make an unambiguous prediction - thats your test.

Pseudoscience is when you never do a test you should and can do. See any free energy insanity, or the recent EMDrive stuff.

Don't use Peter Woit as a authority... (1)

grimJester (890090) | about 3 months ago | (#47607707)

Woit has written a book called "Not even wrong" about string theory and how it's not science in his opinion. He actively blogs about string theory hype. He's not a string theorist and although he does have a PhD in physics he's not published anything scientific in decades. He teaches math and writes anti-string rants as a hobby.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607711)

Calculus is used in physics all the time. It's untestable, just like string theory. The problem is confusing a tool with a theory. String theory is really a set of theories using strings. It's like calling something calculus theory. There are plenty of calculus theories that are wrong. There's infinitely many theories you can make using calculus. You can't test them all. Same thing with strings. However, any theory you make with strings can be tested. Some we can't differentiate from other theories with current technology. You've taken honest and correct complaints about string theory and extended them way beyond reason.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (4, Informative)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47607609)

The problem with string theory isn't that it doesn't predict anything. The problem is that it predicts nearly everything and shows no particular bias towards one prediction over another. Pretty much any experimental result that comes out can be accommodated by string theory.

It is interesting. It may one day help to describe an actual theory (making it string toolkit rather than string theory) it may spur thought along new lines, but it isn't a very good theory.

The one thing string theory does predict strongly is supersymmetry, but that was already predicted by less extreme theories. The whole thing may turn out to be moot if LHC can't scare up a supersymmetric particle.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607657)

Yeah, and this is a much much much more valid criticism, but I do get a bit sick of the cargo cult "I don't know anything but like to sound smart by using the word pseudoscience" posts.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47607341)

Let there be myriad mathematical theories. It's okay, no one is going to lose their lunch over it. Einstein's theory of relativity was theoretical at first. It was only later that scientists were able to devise experiments to test it, and they are still conjuring up new experiments for further testing. Even the aether theory had an impact on science. It forced experiments that falsified it and we learned by doing that.

Science posits new theories all the time. Even if the aren't testable now, they may some day.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47607459)

You mean a hypothesis until tested. A theory is a proven hypotheses - something laymen get wrong all the time. FYI string "theory" is dead. It was never alive to begin with only in the minds of people grasping at straws. A spate of recent research has consigned string "theory" to the dust bin.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47607559)

A theory is not proven. It is just a hypothesis that has not been disproven, despite repeated attempts.

String theory can't be dumped; because it is just an intellectual exercise to find mathematical systems that return the same statistical shadow as quantum mechanics. As they see more statistical shadows, they refine their math. The ones that predicted yet unobserved statistical shadows gain credibility.

Doesn't mean their are actually multidimensional strings vibrating. But perhaps their is a mathematical cousin to vibrating strings operating at a quantum level (as circuits are cousins to structures).

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47607877)

String theory is not dead and never was.

I don't get how you can start a post like this:You mean a hypothesis until tested. A theory is a proven hypotheses - something laymen get wrong all the time. And then come to the brain dead conclusion: FYI string "theory" is dead.
It never occurred to you that the exact same experiment supports Einsteins Theory about Relativity AND String Theory? Do you have any single example of an experiment that 'disproved', 'falsified' the 'String Theory'?

In the last decades no one disproved any prediction the 'String Theory' (s) made ...

Claiming it is no sound scientific / physical theory is nonsense.

Meanwhile looking here on this thread it seems there is comparable to the AGW discussion an anti String Theory 'conspiracy' going on?

What nonsense is that!? 'String Theory(s)' are an established science since 30 or 40 years!

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#47607643)

Let there be myriad mathematical theories. It's okay, no one is going to lose their lunch over it.

There is only so much funding, and so many tenured positions. So if funding goes to string theorists, there is less for real physics.

Einstein's theory of relativity was theoretical at first. It was only later that scientists were able to devise experiments to test it

This is backwards. Experiments had already been done that the prevailing "ether" theory could not explain. Relativity provided a simple and precise explanation. New experiments were also done. For string theory, no one can even conceive of how there can be an experimental verification.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (2)

Himmy32 (650060) | about 3 months ago | (#47607387)

I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but it deserves to be said.

In no way is String Theory anything like Phrenology. Trying to develop a model that unites both the large scale and the small scale is incredibly difficult. Quantum mechanics and relativity are complex enough without trying to unify them. String theory and super-symmetrical models have a basis in advanced mathematics, but the question is whether or not the model matches the immensely complex reality.

Even if it doesn't work out, studying the problem advances our knowledge of the known universe and modelling it in mathematics. That's how science works, you make a hypothesis and you attempt to test it and then you reform your hypothesis. The current problem right now is finding a way to test it. A failed hypothesis is not something to laugh at, because what you learn from that failure helps you forms a new and more accurate model.

Re:String theory is voodoo physics (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47607497)

Yes it is because it was nonsense to begin with - too complicated with zero predictive ability. It was a dead end as all the research as shown.

so what's the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607189)

seems like this is 40 years old too late to be news.

While we're at it (2)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#47607211)

Why not postulate an infinite number of dimensions?

Re:While we're at it (3, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607313)

Because that's not necessary to explain a particular empirical observation?

Re:While we're at it (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47607585)

Because that's not necessary to explain a particular empirical observation?

Out of interest, which observations to those 26 dimensions explain?

Re:While we're at it (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607635)

Well, let's go to RTFA land and see:

Theorists had tried to no avail to design a Pomeron closed string theory that was unitary in the ordinary four dimensions of spacetime. Instead the theory yielded monstrosities called tachyons that defied the law of cause and effect. A tachyon is a particle or field that travels faster than light and hences moves backward in time. While some researchers such as Gregory Benford have speculated about their properties, they have never been an accepted part of realistic physical theories. Most physicists believe that the only viable way to have a physical theory with tachyons is if they decouple from the theory, meaning they do not impact the observable phenomena—things like cross-sections and scattering amplitudes—that arise from it. (In addition to scholarly papers about tachyons, Benford also wrote a short story called the “Tachyonic Anti-telephone” about causality violations through backwards-in-time communication.)

So that's the unexplained phenomenon and:

In a moment of revelation, Lovelace suddenly realized that the solution to the problem was staring him in the face. Suppose one relaxed the assumption that strings lived in a four-dimensional world. He cranked up the dimensions of their surroundings higher and higher, and found that at precisely D = 26 the tachyonic problem vanished and unitarity was restored. He could scarcely believe such an odd result.

That's the resolution that requires 26 dimensions. My linalg-fu is weak, so I'm actually not checking the math myself. Happy?

Re:While we're at it (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47607719)

The GP was talking about "emperical phenomenon".

So that's the unexplained phenomenon and:

Those aren't emperical phenomenon. They're not phenomenon at all. It's just a mathematical artefact from an incorrect theory.

That's the resolution that requires 26 dimensions. My linalg-fu is weak, so I'm actually not checking the math myself. Happy?

Not really, no.

Currently there are no actual phenomenon (i.e. real things) which string theory yet explains.

Re:While we're at it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607515)

Why not postulate an infinite number of dimensions?

All 26 dimensions are needed to bring the mathematical properties needed to explain real world phenomena, as the article points out.

What purpose do the infinite dimensions in your theory serve? Or are you merely trying to be clever (and not succeeding)?

String theory is not science! (-1, Troll)

Rosyna (80334) | about 3 months ago | (#47607225)

String theory is math. Math is not science. This should not be in the "science" section of /.

Re:String theory is not science! (2)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607269)

Huh?

How is a theory that attempts to describe the laws of physics *not* science?

Re:String theory is not science! (1, Troll)

Rosyna (80334) | about 3 months ago | (#47607309)

Because it isn't testable.

Re:String theory is not science! (2)

Ultra64 (318705) | about 3 months ago | (#47607321)

To quote I kan reed:

'String theory very clearly falls into the "not testable yet" category, rather than the "designed to resist testing" category'

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47607399)

And until it falls into the testable category, it's speculation not any form of an hypothesis.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47607589)

He's wrong, as currently formulated it is testable in the sense that you gain new data (e.g. Higgs boson interactions) you can rule out those string theory formulations that failed to predict the new data.

You can falsify individual 'string theories', but no matter what you do they will always be able to construct/revise a new one.

Re:String theory is not science! (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607329)

Neither is an assertion about the absolute limit on speed in the universe(really: devise a test for that).

At some level, science is about creating a model that explains existing observations. Testing that model, looking for violations is essential but the postulation of an internally coherent parsimonious system that matches what we already see is science.

Re:String theory is not science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607401)

An absolute speed limit is as testable as anything in physics, and it's tested all the time in linear accelerators.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 3 months ago | (#47607413)

Neither is an assertion about the absolute limit on speed in the universe(really: devise a test for that).

An absolute speed limit is as testable as anything in physics, and it's tested all the time in linear accelerators.

Really? Then you have empirical evidence disproving my "Things can totally go faster than light in a vacuum once you cross the event horizon of a black hole" theory?

Re:String theory is not science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607593)

What is the argument you are making here?

Are you proposing that all of physics is untestable because we don't know how to test it inside of a black hole?

Which is a theoretical construct by the way. Can you prove anything happens inside of a black hole at all? Can you prove the things we call black holes in the universe are actually the objects that have been theorized?

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47607525)

Science is about observation. Anything else is speculation. Somebody failed high school.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47607603)

Yeah, genius, you figured it out. Good job. We just observed E=MC2. It was written on a tiny chalk board on some atoms we looked at with a microscope. We didn't extrapolate that idea from any sort of theory or model.

It's absolutely the case that we mapped observational experimental data to the resulting formula, and found perfect matches, but it's not like a plot of data points for mass and heat energy released in radioactive is identical to a smooth curved mapped by a mathematical equation. We create the system, and we examine if it corresponds to reality.

Inasmuch as the math of string theory maps to the behavior of tachyons(as described in this article) it's tested in much the same way. People say it isn't "tested" because your tests, nominally, shouldn't be the same as the data you're trying to explain in the first place, and should represent a divergence from the null hypothesis.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 months ago | (#47607875)

Neither is an assertion about the absolute limit on speed in the universe(really: devise a test for that).

It's been tested over and over again.

Re:String theory is not science! (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 months ago | (#47607395)

"String theory is untestable" is one of those easy to remember phrases that keeps you away from a great amount of interesting information:

1) "String theory" is actually a family of related theories that make different predictions, where they're advanced enough to do so
2) They're neither as a class, nor individually, a priori untestable
3) They're theories of high energy physics, so what predictions they do make will be difficult to test on currently existing hardware
4) The mathematical tools to make sense of the theories and make predictions are novel themselves

String theory is at a stage kind of like parachuting early-20th-century physics into the 15th century. It's not relevant at length scales where we can easily make observations, but we don't have the necessary cognative or physical tools to write it off either. Have we been handed relativity, or the aether? We can't say because we're not smart enough yet.

Now, as a matter of expediency I'd argue that any self-respective physicist should dedicate himself to advanced models that are a little closer to home and might act as stepping stones to string theory's energy scales, but since when has any self-respecting scientist been led away from a beautiful hypothesis by pragmatism? Much less a physicist?

Re:String theory is not science! (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47607551)

Bullshit. String theory is dead. The latest research has shown that known of the boundary conditions for string theory exist.

We don't have the necessary cognitive tools? Really genius.....

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47607829)

Then I really wonder why every german university is teaching it.
Ah ... yeah, because the germans are so backyard, true.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

niado (1650369) | about 3 months ago | (#47607631)

"String theory is untestable" is one of those easy to remember phrases that keeps you away from a great amount of interesting information:

1) "String theory" is actually a family of related theories that make different predictions, where they're advanced enough to do so 2) They're neither as a class, nor individually, a priori untestable 3) They're theories of high energy physics, so what predictions they do make will be difficult to test on currently existing hardware 4) The mathematical tools to make sense of the theories and make predictions are novel themselves

String theory is at a stage kind of like parachuting early-20th-century physics into the 15th century. It's not relevant at length scales where we can easily make observations, but we don't have the necessary cognative or physical tools to write it off either. Have we been handed relativity, or the aether? We can't say because we're not smart enough yet.

Now, as a matter of expediency I'd argue that any self-respective physicist should dedicate himself to advanced models that are a little closer to home and might act as stepping stones to string theory's energy scales, but since when has any self-respecting scientist been led away from a beautiful hypothesis by pragmatism? Much less a physicist?

If I could give out a "comment of the day" award, this one would win it.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 3 months ago | (#47607331)

Test-ability and the Title of Theory. String Theory is a Mathematical Theory, and an interesting Scientific Hypothesis. You can have a Math Theory as long as your math is sound given your assumptions. You can only have a Scientific Theory if your experiments, and data can be tested. Everything String Theory predicts and is testable for is in Relativity and Quantum mechanics. It doesn't provide anything new that we can test for yet. So giving it the mantel of Scientific Theory when it hasn't yet done the work needed gives it more credit then it should have. And doing so gives legitimacy to creationist claims that evolution is "Just A Theory".

Re:String theory is not science! (2)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#47607335)

You can spin equations out the wazoo (math) but it doesn't mean they model any natural phenomenon in particular (physics).

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47607599)

That was true for Newton as well.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#47607785)

No, the key difference is that Newton could measure the world in order to select the equations that best modeled his measurements.

Of course there were limits to how accurately he could measure, so his mathematical models were only accurate within those bounds (as always with physics).

Re:String theory is not science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607277)

String theory is math. Math is not science. This should not be in the "science" section of /.

Troll? Math is science at its most fundamental level.

Re:String theory is not science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607477)

Math is that part of science you can do without a universe.

Re:String theory is not science! (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 3 months ago | (#47607617)

Math is a tool used by science, it is not a science. It belongs somewhere in the useful philosophy neighborhood.

Re:String theory is not science! (3, Informative)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47607379)

That's easily defended. All physical theories are math. That's it, there's nothing more to them. We interpret mathematical theories using a model, i.e., in this case, the universe. Some theories are consistent with the model, some are not. Those that are not, are no less scientific because they describe what cannot be the case. All that is required of a mathematical theory is that it be consistent.

Einstein's general relativity a mathematical theory. Astrophysicists are still constructing tests to see how valid it is. Any testing is only as good as the resolution inherent in the physical system used for testing. In that sense, you could say that general relativity will forever be just a mathematical theory, it can never be fully tested because we'll never have infinite resolution (if that even makes sense). Mathematical theories of physics are merely scribbles on a piece of paper. We manipulate the scribbles and when we see our manipulation mirrored or represented in the Universe, we say the theory describes that part of the Universe. However, the representation is only up to a certain epsilon, so it is more accurate to say the theory describes the representation only up to the limit of resolution of our tests.

Yes it is. (2)

pavon (30274) | about 3 months ago | (#47607393)

The scientific model is quite simply:
1) Develop testable hypothesis (aka theory)
2) Develop experiments/observations to test hypothesis
3) Perform experiment/observations
4) Repeat
Anyone who participates in any of these steps is performing science. It took a while to find practical tests of String theory given it's extreme generality, but several have been suggested and a few have even been performed, ranging from the scale of planetary motion [phys.org] to LHC data [arxiv.org] .

Why are they all space dimensions? (3, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 3 months ago | (#47607275)

Frankly, the concept of a 2nd time dimension makes a lot more sense to me AND is a lot more interesting.

Not only does a 2nd time dimension allow for actual time travel (in a one dimensional universe you can't change the order of anything - you need a 2nd space dimension to hop over or around someone in front of you - so a second time dimension allows for time travel).

But also it make it a lot easier to understand why we do not SEE the 5th or higher dimension, let alone confirm it with scientific instruments.

I can look up/down, North/South, and East/West, but I can not look past/future. So it makes sense that I also can not look t2+/t2-.

Re:Why are they all space dimensions? (2)

gtall (79522) | about 3 months ago | (#47607391)

What I'd really like is an extra space dimension so I can jump around traffic jams. An extra time dimension would good too so that it doesn't take me very long to do it.

Re:Why are they all space dimensions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607427)

but then you could get a space jam...

Re:Why are they all space dimensions? (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 3 months ago | (#47607639)

What I'd really like is an extra space dimension so I can jump around traffic jams

Buy a helicopter. They come with an extra space dimension at no extra cost.

Re:Why are they all space dimensions? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607431)

Last I read, there is no discrimination between space and time dimensions in the common features of competing string theories (there could be 15 timelike dimensions, but we're sure there's at least one). You do not SEE "higher" dimensions simply because you are not angled that way. You could define the three dimensional space of your experience as numbers 2, 8, and 23 with no consequence whatsoever in the calculations. They are all perpendicular to each other, so there is no ordering.

As for confirming their existence with scientific instruments? We might've already, but another model is more popular. The basis of having 10 (early models found an oddly low-dimension sweet spot at 10 dimensions, then a wide band of stability at 24 or more) or more dimensions is to have "room" for the different forms of interactions. Even if some of the dimensions were 1 Plank-length loops in on themselves so that there is only one position in those dimensions, simply having the direction exist benefitted the geometry of force interactions.
On the other hand, if there are more dimensions with meaningful distances, it allows the existence of parallel, intersecting, or even skew universes as compared to what we observe. Depending on what forces reach how far in these dimensions, dark matter and dark energy could be interactions from nearby or intersecting regions of other familiar matter just outside our ability to angle our instruments.

Re:Why are they all space dimensions? (3, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 3 months ago | (#47607629)

I can look up/down, North/South, and East/West, but I can not look past/future. So it makes sense that I also can not look t2+/t2-.

You can't do anything except for analyze the signals of photons presently impinging on your retina. You have no direct means of experiencing the space ahead of and behind you any more than you do the time directly ahead of and behind you. But assuming those photons travelled in straight lines in space and time and have spectra which depend on the object they last interacted with, you can make some good inferences about what objects were there a short time ago. Just as you can make the inference that those objects may have also been there at an earlier time, or may continue to be there longer than that.

It's only because the speed of light is so fast that we act like we are making direct spatial observations. Slow it down enough and you might not say your eyes were very good for finding the position of things at all -- just for telling you what they were like in the past.

Unknown? (3, Informative)

rfengr (910026) | about 3 months ago | (#47607279)

How could be unknown if "A study in 2009 ranked him as the 14th most influential physicist in the world for the period 1967-1973.", or was he unknown at the time, which is common for anyone before popular ideas? Unknown in the general public is anyone but Einstein.

Re:Unknown? (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47607359)

Yeah, I thought the editing failure was typical. "Relatively unknown", "obscure", or even "all-but-forgotten" would have been a better choice. But to hyperlink to the guy's wiki bio from the word unknown? That's just lame.

Re:Unknown? (2)

Almost-Retired (637760) | about 3 months ago | (#47607495)

This latter statement is gradually becoming moot, thanks to the efforts of another Japanese person with a tv personality.

Now, speaking as someone who has spent 65 of my almost 80 years, dealing in electronics, I have yet to detect an error or distortion of what you can see on your tv screen (the last 54 years in broadcast engineering) that was not completely and absolutely explained when analyzed, by General Relativity, including time dilation in an electron beam caused by the combination of its mode of amplification, velocity vs distance traveled, plainly visible on the video monitoring scopes at the voltages commonly used in Klystron amplifiers.

String theory, until it can make a testable prediction, which it has not in nearly 45 years, is to this old, un-papered but practicing engineer, strictly a means to keep a chair funded at some university whose management doesn't understand that a great number of us who do deal with relativistic effects on a daily basis, think its the pure stuff usually found, still warm and smelly, behind the male of the bovine specie. IMO they should close that chair and use the money to reduce tuition costs for other, far more practical subjects of study. But they cannot even think of doing that. They'll give the themselves a nice comfy raise instead.

My $0.02, in 1934 dollars.
Cheers, Gene

Re:Unknown? (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47607787)

String theory does hundreds of testable predictions in QM and relativity and aims to predict 'stuff' that are grey area in both QM and relativity.
Where does the brain dead idea come from that thousands of physicists on the planet work on a theory that makes no testable predictions?
Maxwell formulas/predictions, radioactive decay, space time warping close to gravity wells etc. ARE EXACTLY THE SAME IN STRING THEORY! Hence scientists find it interesting!

General relativity will never be reconciled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607317)

General relativity will never be reconciled with quantum mechanics until singularity is taken out

Claud W. Lovelace (5, Informative)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 3 months ago | (#47607347)

is his name. Not sure why the summary left it out.

I'm not a physicist, but (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | about 3 months ago | (#47607357)

I thought there had to be more than 3 macro-scale space dimensions to allow the whole 'finite but unbounded' thing. You know, so you can't sail off the edge of space?

Re:I'm not a physicist, but (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 3 months ago | (#47607435)

Finite but unbounded is not reality, only a conjecture designed to eliminate infinite length in any direction. People don't like either the concept of the universe being a bubble in a void or curving around on itself. The truth of the situation is we haven't a clue as yet.

Re:I'm not a physicist, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607493)

Could you explain why? A 3-dimensional sphere is perfectly consistent.

Where is Buckaroo Bonzai when you need him? (4, Funny)

mmell (832646) | about 3 months ago | (#47607411)

Just sayin'.

Re:Where is Buckaroo Bonzai when you need him? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607619)

That movie is an unintelligible, sucky mess. Just sayin'.

Dim IX (1)

Guy From V (1453391) | about 3 months ago | (#47607529)

Gotta be over 9000

RIP String Theory (-1, Troll)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 months ago | (#47607575)

Another rubbish theory consigned to the dust bin....

Unknown? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 3 months ago | (#47607633)

So the inventor of multi dimensions, founder of string theory is unknown?

Perhaps you wanted to make a sentence like " at that time unknown scientist ... "?

After all people with the surname Lovelace are very well known in the geek community. Hm, have to check if they are actually related.

Oh it's not the only possibility /mathematically/ (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 3 months ago | (#47607661)

Statements like that make me cringe. News at 11: Not everything mathematically possible is physically possible, it's the other way around.

Re:Oh it's not the only possibility /mathematicall (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47607835)

Even worse: he proposes that our universe is only 3 spatial dimensions, when it's well-accepted that this is a consequence of inflation. Originally, we had ten dimensions in balance; but the force between them gave out, and six of these contracted while three expanded. The three expanding dimensions make up our growing bubble of space--the universe--while the six shrinking are not major forces in our universe, but possibly have an impact on the quantum level (see: quantum foam).

Thus we have three-dimensional space-time, and six dimensions of no note. It's like having a few rich people and some non-notable Ska.

String "Theory" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47607765)

I'm not asking you about evidence that you have found. I'm merely asking you to imagine evidence that you might find some day, which would confirm or disprove your "theory."

I'm not asking you to tell me about an experiment that you have performed. I'm merely asking you to discuss an experiment that you might some day be able to perform, if say, you had a modest grant of ten trillion dollars per second and ten thousand years to work on putting your experiment together.

The questions about a scientific theory simply don't get any easier than this. Have you ever wondered why creationists don't seem to be able to grasp what the word "theory" means? Maybe it's because people like you, have been teaching them that the word "theory" MEANS NOTHING. Indeed, I wonder why I even see you two, as two different groups. Your concept of Science sure looks the same to me.

Everyone, please join me in henceforth, addressing all String Theorists with honorary titles such as Pastor, Minister, Your Holiness, etc.

buckaroo banzai (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#47607857)

Was his name Buckaroo Banzai?

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