A dismal view of the Current state of american physics ??

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silylene old

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Here is a provocative letter to <i>Physics Today</i>. Prof Philips is a highly published professor in the area of condensed matter, and aggregating and networking materials. <br /><br />thoughts?<br /><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p><b><font color="yellow">American Physics Implosion</font></b><br /><br />Kannan Jagannathan's review of two recent books (PHYSICS TODAY, December 2006, page 57) with the arresting titles Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory . . . and The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science . . . amusingly compares string theorists' faith in their own transcendental insights to the Great Disappointment of 1844, in which religious leader William Miller and his followers renounced worldly goods and awaited the Second Coming. However, the tempest in a teacup surrounding string theory conceals a much larger problem in American physics. That problem is well illustrated by theories that have evolved over the past 20 years to describe high-temperature superconductivity (HTSC). <br /><br />Since its discovery in 1911, superconductivity has fascinated many physicists. However, by 1980 the field was thought to be dormant; even the quest for higher transition temperatures Tc seemed to have leveled off around 30 K. In 1986 Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller announced that they had found superconductivity in a most unexpected place: not a metal, but a ceramic oxide, with Tc near 40 K. Within a few years, transition temperatures had climbed to well over 100 K. <br /><br />Unlike string theory, HTSC was a field with abundant experimental information—today there are more than 65 000 publications on the topic, about one-third of them patents. Here was a real challenge for theory; no fewer than nine Nobel Prize winners, and many other scientists as well, have contributed theories on the subject. The question they raised most often was, What interactions are responsible for the high transition t</p></blockquote> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><em><font color="#0000ff">- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -</font></em> </div><div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><em>I really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function.</em></font> </div> </div>
 
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origin

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"Americans have become so self-centered that their physics theories are disconnected from reality, not only when no data are available, but even when experimental data are abundant."<br /><br />I think there is something to that statement. We tend to 'jump on the band wagon' and research in a subject will be centered in a very narrow area. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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docm

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Lots of bad 'conventional wisdom' examples from all fronts; "GRB's are local", TOKAMAK fusion, anti-plate tectonics, "ulcers are caused by stress", 'global' cooling, 'global' warming .... the list is endless and growing daily. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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3488

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Unfortunately, what has happened in America, appears to be symptomatic of the <br />Sciences in general in the western / industrialised world.<br /><br />We are having universities closing laboratories because students are not enrolling on the science<br />courses, thus revenue is suffering because of empty places, labs closing as a result.<br /><br />Students are going for muppet, useless, easy, trendy, cheap courses.<br /><br />silylene's article, unfortunately I fear is just the tip of a very large iceberg, of increasing<br />scientific illiteracy.<br /><br />What can we do to stop this rot??? <img src="/images/icons/frown.gif" /><br /><br />Science, obviously Physics in particular though not exclusively, chemistry, engineering,<br />astronomy, biology, etc, across the board. Also the rise of creationism & the rise of fundementalist<br />religion, people beleiving in conspiracies, nonsense like Elvis Presley still being alive, <br />Apollo Moon Hoax, Roswell, etc are on the rise generally.<br /><br />It is absolutely tragic & will be disastrous long term.<br /><br />Andrew Brown. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080">"I suddenly noticed an anomaly to the left of Io, just off the rim of that world. It was extremely large with respect to the overall size of Io and crescent shaped. It seemed unbelievable that something that big had not been visible before".</font> <em><strong><font color="#000000">Linda Morabito </font></strong><font color="#800000">on discovering that the Jupiter moon Io was volcanically active. Friday 9th March 1979.</font></em></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://www.launchphotography.com/</font><br /><br /><font size="1" color="#000080">http://anthmartian.googlepages.com/thisislandearth</font></p><p><font size="1" color="#000080">http://web.me.com/meridianijournal</font></p> </div>
 
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billslugg

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HMMMM, our country's SIX Nobel laureates were wrong and their continent's THREE Nobel laureates were right???<br /><br />This is reminiscent of the remark I saw in the aviation forum a few weeks ago. The single engine plane was running rough. He was denied preference because the B-52 in front of him had an engine out. "Ahh, yes - the dreaded 7 engine landing." <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p> </div>
 
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docm

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Satirical metaphor.<br /><br />"7 engine landing": B-52's have 8 engines and if one or more goes out thrust becomes asymmetrical and they can be a hand full because of their unusual aerodynamics. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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billslugg

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Alokmohan<br />Somebody is complaining that the United States' 6 Nobel laureates were wrong when Europe's 3 laureates were right. He ignores that fact that one country (US) produced 6 laureates while a continent of 20 countries only produced 3.<br /><br />The pilot of a B-52, with 8 engines has one engine completely broken. The single engine plane is only running roughly.<br />The tower gives precedence to the airplane with the broken engine. The single engine plane points out sarcastically that the B-52 must now be forced to land with "only" 7 engines.<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p> </p> </div>
 
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silylene old

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Will 'string theory' or 'dark energy' be the next bad physics ? My skepticism is high on both subjects, and my bogameter is blinking. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><em><font color="#0000ff">- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -</font></em> </div><div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><em>I really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function.</em></font> </div> </div>
 
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centsworth_II

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The most mind-boggling, unbelievable theory I have <br />ever heard is the Copenhagen theory of quantum reality. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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vandivx

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while I think physics is lacking in many ways on either side of the ocean, this author seems to have picked wrong example and he himself seems to me to be bad example of ariving at conclusions that he does from the matter at hand (the six wrong vs three right)<br /><br />anybody who puts too much faith or respect in nobel winners as the author of the book here is in my eyes a hack who doesn't himself have a clue how to do some science including judging what is wrong with science in general as in this case<br /><br />author of the book seems to be fashion driven and my guess is the books he writes are written for effect to make money, not to honestly disect problems that sciences and physics in particular is facing, the term 'arresting titles' speaks plenty loud enough where the authors' priorities are - fatening his pocket by publishing provocative books that the market will gulp down because of controversy - USA vs EU - and it treats nobel scientists like some prize bulls<br /><br />book like this will be snapped by all those who have some ideological/continental geese of their own to cook so to speak<br /><br />that's my take on this thing<br /><br />vanDivX <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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origin

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<font color="yellow">Will 'string theory' or 'dark energy' be the next bad physics ? My skepticism is high on both subjects, and my bogameter is blinking.</font><br /><br />I know what you mean. String theory uses alot of mathematical 'tricks' to produce answers that make sense - at least that is my understanding. It seems more mathematical than rooted in physics.<br /><br />Dark energy is to me is just a bookmark for what is being observed, the acceleration of the universal expansion. The observed acceleration could acutually be caused by many things. We just hung a name on an observation without any clear evidence as to what is causing it.<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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MeteorWayne

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re Dark Energy. That could quite possible be right.<br />It's a placeholder. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#000080"><em><font color="#000000">But the Krell forgot one thing John. Monsters. Monsters from the Id.</font></em> </font></p><p><font color="#000080">I really, really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function</font><font color="#000080"> </font></p> </div>
 
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heyscottie

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Ditto on Dark Matter. We don't know anything about it, but we put a name on the phenomenon that will eventually be explained.
 
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silylene old

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<font color="yellow">author of the book seems to be fashion driven and my guess is the books he writes are written for effect to make money, not to honestly disect problems that sciences and physics in particular is facing, the term 'arresting titles' speaks plenty loud enough where the authors' priorities are</font><br /><br />The book is one thing..... I haven't read the book and I suspect your comments are correct about it.<br /><br />However,<br /><br />What was posted in this thread is a letter to the editor of Physics Today by Prof. J. C. Phillips about a previously published review of that book. This letter expresses the opinions of Prof. J. C. Phillips of Rutgers about the current state of physics research, especially in America. Prof. Philips is a well published researcher in the area of theoretical condensed matter physics, and has the technical background to know what he is talking about. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><em><font color="#0000ff">- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -</font></em> </div><div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><em>I really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function.</em></font> </div> </div>
 
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vandivx

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thx, didn't quite get the whole context of the letter<br /><br />criticizing the current state of science is problematic in that one needs to have some valid overall standards by which one judges and few have that at best of times, personally I don't know the overall opinions of this professor and I should say my criticism is reagarding the book only and even then I also didn't read it so there is some possibility I might change my mind if I would read it<br /><br />tangent to the topic, nobel prize winners don't have to be authorities that they are almost invariably taken for although they may in some cases but in those they would be authorities anyway even if they happened not to get the prize<br /><br />I also don't have too high regard for that prize simply on the grounds that it is awarded pretty much always I think come hell or high water as one might say meaning that sometimes it might be given for something that at other more fertile times it would never be given, prizes are like in sports where you win if your opponent is not feeling well that day and that's that and it doesn't matter you're much worse than him and likely wouldn't win if he was in his normal regular shape, science prizes shouldn't be like that<br /><br />I think though that sometimes the nobel prize is not given out, still the science prizes are tainted in my eyes by those given in other areas where patently they are misplaced (like those given in humanities area), in any case I don't think nobel prize winners should be taken as beacons of their field with weight of the whole field on their shoulders especially when they are more often than not specialists in their field<br /><br />vanDivX <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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robnissen

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Yup, dark energy and dark matter are both placeholders. The current situation reminds me of the 1800s, when scientists had very accurately calculated the mass of the sun, but their calculation just raised more questions than it answered. There was no substance that could be burned to produce the amount of energy being generated by the sun, without burning itself up in an extremely short time. Thus, scientists had no idea what the sun was burning to create energy. Using current nomenclature, they probably would have called it "dark fuel." My guess is that there is a massive hole in our current thoeries, and that hole will be filled by something that scientists have not yet dreamed of, the same way that relativity solved the riddle of "dark fuel."
 
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emperor_of_localgroup

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Sounds like 1800s scientists were smarter than today's scientists. Unlike today's scientists they were not tempted to use a name 'dark fuel' and assign certain properties to their 'dark fuel'. The difference is they not only have invented dark matter, they also have given certain exotic properties to those matter - such as gravity, now there is no turning back.<br /><br />Now imagine how would it have turned out if those 'dumb' 1800s scientists had given certain properties to their 'dark fuel' when fission/fusion were unthinkable.<br /><br />We have to have a theory for everything whether its time has come or not, we are never satisfied with an answer 'We don't know'.<br /><br />Here is the answer to big question about current state of physics. 'Publish or perish' is killing our science. <br /> <br />Btw, has anyone read those books on String Theory? Why do they say String Theory is dead? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <font size="2" color="#ff0000"><strong>Earth is Boring</strong></font> </div>
 
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vandivx

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lots wrong with physics these days but its not the dark stuff IMO, string theory is more like it - it is culmination of the pure theoretical mathematical efforts that happened to have had success in past number of times and string theory goes way further that way hoping to break the bank, instead I believe it will prove the biggest joke on taxpayers funding it all<br /><br />just few days ago I read in newspaper that some European foundation awarded some big grant to one young bright Czech scientist and he is to spend it on research in string theory (that's the condition of the grant), something like that it was I recall, good luck fools<br /><br />if one takes more distant perspective though physics could be said it was in troubles always, no matter if it was hundred yrs back of two or three hundred, always there was some unhealthy trend going on, only difference was that these days every hack can make it into academia while some hunred years ago you had to be somebody, to be in science was respectable, not saying it was for the best but it kept out some wackos, to mind comes the famous Solway conference photo that most here will know where all attendants had moustache (all except one that is) which is telling of the times and how it was in sciences, not healthy in one way but healthy in others<br /><br />you had to have some means to even study (or get a scarce grant from somebody who recognized talent in you) and ordinary folks couldn't buy books easily like today and there wasn't proliferation of science publications to publish in etc, all depends how far one wants to go but the point is always there was some unhealthy trend going on even in those conditions from which physics recovered although sometimes it took centuries to do like in case of astrophysics and Ptolemy for example<br /><br />vanDivX <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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robotical

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<i>Sounds like 1800s scientists were smarter than today's scientists. Unlike today's scientists they were not tempted to use a name 'dark fuel' and assign certain properties to their 'dark fuel'.</i><br /><br />You mean like the luminiferous aether? It took quite a bit to finally put that idea to rest.<br /><br /><i>we are never satisfied with an answer 'We don't know'. </i><br /><br />Why should we be? <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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gpurcell

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I'm considerably more dismal about the apparent ignorance of a American physicist from Princeton about basic statistics than I am the problem he seeks to highlight.
 
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