Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is Not Even Wrong?

There was a famous theoretical physicist his name was Wolfgang Pauli. Like Winston Churchill he is famous for making memorable statements. Obviously his statements are concerned with the life in physics. Another famous theoretical physicists Rudolf Peierls tells a story in which a budding young physicist went to Pauli and discussed his theory or proposition. After listening to him Pauli give his candid opinion. He told this young man that his theory is not even wrong. Meaning thereby that the ideas were really absurd. This statement has become a sort of catch phrase. Research, in theoretical physics or otherwise, is about unknown things and wrong ideas and false leads and incorrect steps are part of the game. To use such strong words will only put down a budding researcher. Clearly the assessment by Pauli leaves out not only humility but compassion too. When research is not guided my humane values there is no way of discouraging this type of actions. But this is not the main point of the present post.

A quotation from a blog called Not Even Wrong has been used in an earlier post here. It would have been out of place to go on a detour to say a few words about that blog. That blog itself is a negative blog about a theory in theoretical physics called the (super) string theory. String theory is the most fundamental description of theoretical physics and incorporates all of the most basic theories of physics at the smallest level of size of objects. Smallest sizes can be studied by highest of energies only. What ever we know at the highest available energies is already incorporated by string theory. The problem starts when question is asked whether string theory is falsifiable, that is, can we do experiments that can test whether string theory is true or not. It turns out that such experiments will require very large amount of energies, larger than the energies that are available to us today. Such energies may never be available to experimental physicists.

Can we trust a theory that has no direct experimental test? This is the point that divides physicists. String theorists believe that internal structure of string theory will be constrained enough to make it reliable. Others demand experimental verification. Among the later type of people is Peter Woit. He says, following Pauli, that string theory is not even wrong. That is, it is absurd. He wrote a book, that became a best seller, with same title and later on started the blog Not Even Wrong.

But where are the Signs of Allah here? Every where. He created the world that people are trying to describe in theoretical physics. He created these people who are trying to describe the world He created. He created their minds and brains. If the structure of string theory is wonderful then it is so because it was made so. The minds that understand it, they too are creation of Lord Most High.