- Hardcover: 214 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (June 28, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521883490
- ISBN-13: 978-1107029712
- ASIN: 1107029716
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,185,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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String Theory and the Scientific Method 1st Edition
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"At the frontiers of physics and cosmology theoretical speculation proceeds without the constant confrontation with experiment often thought to be required for scientific validation. Richard Dawid explores this issue in the case of string theory. He offers a fascinating new perspective on non-empirical theory assessment, based on the concept of scientific underdetermination. I heartedly recommend this book to both physicists and philosophers."
David Gross, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2004
"Richard Dawid argues that string theory plays a novel role in the scientific process that has been neglected by philosophers of science. I believe that this book is a valuable contribution to the philosophy of science, which should interest practicing scientists as well as those who are more interested in the methodology of science."
John Schwarz, California Institute of Technology
"Richard Dawid provides a fascinating account of string theory, then uses it as a starting point to puzzle over exactly what it is that we do or should want from a satisfactory physical theory more generally. The result is a number of compelling philosophical insights into the nature and practice of modern physics."
Jeffrey A. Barrett, University of California, Irvine
"Dawid makes what is probably the best possible case that theoretical justification can succeed. I applaud the fact that String Theory and the Scientific Method explicitly raises these questions and addresses them in a clear and well-considered way."
George Ellis, Science
"String Theory and the Scientific Method is clearly written and well argued, one of the clearest expositions of string theory accessible to a non-physicist that I have read. Though narrowly conceived, and yearning to be informed by a broader philosophical perspective, it is an important contribution to traditional Anglo-American philosophy of science insofar as its initial inspiration is not the urge to develop the logic of science for its own sake, but the mismatch between the inherited picture of that logic and the actual experience of scientists."
Robert P. Crease, History of Physics Newsletter
"I think that Dawid has identified an important, real feature of scientific methodology, neglected by philosophy of science - one that should be taken seriously. I also think that this book provides a plausible framework for thinking about it. To what extent Dawid is right about the way such 'post-empirical' reasoning functions in science is a harder question; even harder is the question of whether it can be justified along the lines he proposes. Obviously he believes he is right, and he argues plausibly to that effect, but the questions are big ones, deserving investigation and debate among a wide readership. I thus commend the book to you, and encourage you to engage the important issues that it raises. If Dawid is correct, then he has opened up a whole new way of thinking about scientific confirmation."
Nick Huggett, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"... explores how the development of string theories over recent decades has changed the way some physicists think about the relation between theory development and empirical evidence ... Recommended. Graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals."
M. Dickinson, Choice
"The book makes an important contribution to philosophy of science by discussing and arguing for the role that non-empirical theory assessments play in science."
Keizo Matsubara, Metascience
Why do string theorists have such a strong belief in their theory despite the lack of empirical confirmation? This book explores this question, offering a novel insight into the understanding of the scientific process. Aimed at physicists and philosophers of science, the book avoids mathematical formalism and explains technical terms.
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Top customer reviews
String theory is attractive because it provides a significant unification to the laws of physics, especially important being its unification of quantum mechanics and gravitational theory. It also explains black hole inertia and in general is pretty elegant in conception. The general point is that standard point-particles can get infinitely close to one another, leading to crazy infinities, only some of which can be normalized away. Vibrating strings cannot get that close to each other, so the infinities disappear.
The fact that, although string theory is severely underdetermined in any detail, it is capable of unifying so much leads many of its proponents to declare its truth, even without empirical support. Dawid attempts to defend this view, which is supported by very influential and serious people, but he does not succeed. This is through no fault of his own. The view is simply indefensible. All the arguments In favor of it are blatant special interest pleadings that cannot be taken seriously. If you cannot make predictions that are empirically verified, you don't have a supportable theory. That is all there is to it. The notion that Bayesian updating using non-empirical facts (such as the theory getting more elegant, more inclusive, or remaining the only game in town) cannot substitute for empirical evidence. Either there are little strings or there are not. You have to see the strings to credibly assert their existence. Without this evidence, string theory may remain a formidable speculative hypothesis, well worth working on, but it is still speculation.
It is a tribute the incredible progress in our understanding of the laws of physics that in some areas we appear to be at a point where we can go no further without really fundamentally new insights. My understanding of quantum mechanics, for instance, leads me to believe a version of multiuniverse theory in which the whole universe is in quantum superposition, so that the observations that appear to entail the collapse of the wave function really just means that the observer is in quantum superposition. But I have no idea how to test this notion, so it is just another speculation. Like string theory, we may never know. Or perhaps with better theory we will be able to attack this problem fruitfully.
I learned a lot from this book about the philosophy of string theory. But I remain completely unconvinced.
The coincidence of the evidence of Planet Nine is sweet.
I would like to say a word about mathematics. It plays such a critical role in theoretical physics that some say that mathematics actually exists in nature rather than the mind. Be that as it may, mathematics is predictive. It often has to wait for empirical experiments to catch up and vindicate its predictions.
The main foundation of String Theory is in the mathematics, which is 50, 100, or more years ahead of technology, in this instance. We should pursue String Theory, even if it remains in the theoretical realm. Shing-Tung Yau applies advanced Geometry to the problem. He is the co-inventor--or co-discoverer, if you will, of the Calabi-Yau. Someone rather conservatively said that there are 10 to the 500th power Calabi-Yau shapes to examine.
I think this is a very exciting time. I've been recently blessed to pursue my own personal studies of mathematics, Quantum Physics, and String Theory. I am no Albert Einstein. For all who are younger, enjoy the new scientific revolution.
“String theory and the scientific method” challenges this role and the stasis it entails. The book takes as its starting point the advances in physics over the last century and argues that the changes these advances have brought about have not been adequately reflected in current philosophies of scientific method. Indeed, the book suggests that there is now a fundamental disconnect between theory appraisal by contemporary physicists on the one hand and philosophers on the other, necessitating a “paradigm shift” (to use Kuhn’s concept as a metaphor) in the philosophy of science. This is most apparent in the case of string theory, which is the main focus of the book. But the book also argues that the disconnect is already evident in relation to earlier theories. “String theory and the scientific method” is thus both a systematic and a historical argument for a new approach to the philosophy of scientific method.
The book is divided into seven chapters which each address different aspects of the relationship between contemporary physics and philosophies of scientific method. I read the book from beginning to end, but it is also possible to read individual chapters on their own. While I personally don’t agree with all of the authors’ conclusions, the arguments are always thorough and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.