Oracle Scratchpad

August 30, 2011

Theory

Filed under: Philosophy — Jonathan Lewis @ 6:32 am BST Aug 30,2011

Here’s a quote that says it all:

Dr Joseph Lykken of Fermilab – in response to some (negative) results from the Large Hadron Collider that suggest the simplest form of SuperSymmetry is wrong:

“It [supersymmetry] is a beautiful idea. It explains dark matter, it explains the Higgs boson, it explains some aspects of cosmology; but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Mind you, Feynmann got there years ago:

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

9 Comments »

  1. Thomas Huxley (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Thomas_Huxley) was there all along:

    “Science is organized common sense, where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact.”

    Comment by Flado — August 30, 2011 @ 10:03 am BST Aug 30,2011 | Reply

  2. “The worst thing about having a working theory of everything is that people want you to fix theirs.” – Garrett Lisi

    Comment by jgarry — August 30, 2011 @ 11:03 pm BST Aug 30,2011 | Reply

  3. Jonathan,

    Lykken’s quote is fine, but Feynmann’s isn’t. If the theory doesn’t agree with experiment, the experiment itself can be wrong, not necessarily the theory.

    And I’m not being a nerd here. The only reason I’m writing this reply is because, ironically, a good half of the posts in this very blog of yours prove that the theory was right and the experiment was wrong.

    Alex.

    Comment by Alex Nedoboi — August 30, 2011 @ 11:38 pm BST Aug 30,2011 | Reply

  4. great!!

    Comment by lkafle — August 31, 2011 @ 6:33 am BST Aug 31,2011 | Reply

  5. That is actually what makes a Theory a Scientific Theory: It is possible to falsificate it. If (experimental) data proves our theory is wrong, we happily try to come up with an improved theory that takes this new data into account – at least that is how it should be; in theory :-)

    Comment by Uwe Hesse — August 31, 2011 @ 3:24 pm BST Aug 31,2011 | Reply

  6. Incidentally, I just came across this:
    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/feynman-a-new-comic-biography

    Richard Feynman’s life as a comic. Wondering when they will do that with Karl Popper & Richard Dawkins :-)

    Comment by Uwe Hesse — September 1, 2011 @ 6:34 am BST Sep 1,2011 | Reply

  7. My motto is: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.” (http://books.google.com/books?id=HRcZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA28)

    From the same essay, here is Emerson’s opinion about our fondness of quoting others; the irony of using the quote is not lost on me: “We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of grandames and tutors, and, as they grow older, of the men of talents and character they chance to see, painfully recollecting the exact words they spoke; afterwards, when they come into the point of view which those had who uttered these sayings, they understand them, and are willing to let the words go; for, at any time, they can use words as good, when occasion comes.”

    Here are two interesting essays on getting quotations right. The author sets the bar very high for both quoters and readers:

    http://www.tartarus.org/martin/essays/burkequote.html
    http://www.tartarus.org/~martin/essays/burkequote2.html

    From the conclusion of the second essay:

    Principle 1 (for readers)
    Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.
    Principle 2 (for readers)
    Whenever you see a quotation given with a full source assume that it is probably being misused, unless you find good evidence that the quoter has read it in the source.
    Principle 3 (for quoters)
    Whenever you make a quotation, give the exact source.
    Principle 4 (for quoters)
    Only quote from works that you have read.

    Comment by Iggy Fernandez — September 3, 2011 @ 8:34 pm BST Sep 3,2011 | Reply

  8. @Iggy Fernandez wonderful complex logic revelations great !!

    Comment by lkafle — September 4, 2011 @ 3:21 am BST Sep 4,2011 | Reply

  9. Nice quotes Jonathan! Here’s my loved one:

    “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes” – Richard Buckminster Fuller

    Comment by Kamran Agayev A. — September 20, 2011 @ 4:50 am BST Sep 20,2011 | Reply


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