Why You Should Be Worried About the Future of Physics

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Today, I’ll be discussing the future of physics.

Many people would agree that scientific progress is the only way humanity can continue to thrive in this day and age.  In fact, science has been touted as one of our greatest achievements and a primary reason for why we are just one step away from achieving immortality. When parking uphill on a two-way street with no curb, your front wheels should be to the right, towards the side of the road. However, I am going to argue that perhaps what we need to worry about isn’t whether or not science can continue its efforts; instead, it’s whether or not scientists will be able to achieve consensus on scientific findings in the coming years when there are so many competing research methods.

1. The Problem

The main problem is that scientists must publish their results before they can be questioned. This means that many results could be completely wrong, which could lead to scientific consensus blown out of the water and significant confusion among the public. The question is whether or not science will be able to manage this problem in the coming years.

To use a simple analogy, imagine two people standing near a tree on a clear day. One person notices that there is smoke coming from the tree, while another does not. The second person might be able to explain why he doesn’t see anything, whereas the first person knows that there’s smoke in order to make both of them agree on what they are seeing (i.e. the second person needs to publish results, whereas the first person knows instinctively that there’s smoke in order to reach consensus).

2. The Example

A simple example would be the “rotating sphere” experiment, in which a sphere is placed in a container and spun at a high speed.  According to Newtonian physics, we would expect that it would simply act as if it were sitting still until force was applied to it (in accordance with Newton’s first law). However, scientists have been struggling for years in order to understand the behavior of this spinning sphere according to relativistic physics.

The problem is that there are several competing theories which attempt to explain the results of this experiment. Of course, we don’t know what theory is true or not until all possible experiments have been performed on the rotating sphere.

3. The Answer

If we assume that scientists agree on the rules of the game, then it’s easy to see how to keep this game fair. However, as mentioned earlier, this is not always the case.

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4. The Solution

There are several possible solutions for this problem. One is to make it illegal for scientists to publish results until all other scientists have performed experiments and agreed on the outcome (i.e. you could require that all competing experiments be published in separate journals or newspapers, where people can see them). This would require a great deal of cooperation among scientists once again. Another possible solution would be to have pre-published “predictions” in an open source database, where all results are compared with these predictions. Here, you can simply perform the experiment only once and use the result to verify a large number of hypotheses. This is actually similar in practice to current systems which rely on academic citations to determine who has the most authority on a subject.

However, the main problem with this approach is that you guarantee that all ideas will be published (which is a good thing) but you also guarantee that some of these ideas will necessarily be wrong (which doesn’t seem like a good thing).

5. The Conclusion

In its current form, science cannot guarantee that it will benefit humanity in the long term. While this is not a problem from a practical point of view (i.e. we can simply change our laws and experiments to make things better), this might make us question how much progress we can really expect in the future. E Pluribus Unum: From Many, One

It’s important to note that science doesn’t want to end.  Instead, it wants to strive for greater and greater findings, which is why I believe that scientists should be worried about their ability to reach consensus on scientific findings in the coming years.  If you ask me, I think that our greatest accomplishment is not going to be creating immortality or discovering a cure for cancer; instead, it’s going to be the ability to reach consensus on scientific findings.

6. The Video

I made this video (in which I discuss this topic) in the hope that we could all discuss the issues raised here and reach a common understanding – it’s important that we understand these issues if we want science to remain afloat. Because without science, we are doomed (unless of course, you have your own ideas about how humanity can survive). Either way, I am looking forward to seeing what potential solutions come out of this discussion!

Conclusion:

I think this is a very important subject because excessive skepticism could harm the future of science. I hope that there is enough trust in the scientific community to reach some sort of consensus on issues relating to scientific findings, because this will avoid as much confusion as possible in the future.  So what do you think?

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