Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Decline of Theoretical Physics

Progress in fundamental theoretical physics now seems to have been on hold for quite a while.

I thought that the situation was summed up quite nicely by one of the characters in "The Big Bang Theory" (an improbably funny TV sitcom about sciencey people).
Penny (cheerfully as a conversation-starter):
"So, what's new in the world of physics?"

Leonard (momentarily suprised and slightly amused that anyone would ask such a question):

Penny (taken aback):
"Really, nothing?"

"Well ... with the exception of string theory, not much has happened since the 1930's ... and ya can't prove string theory, at best you can say, 'Hey look, my logic has an internal consistency-y!' "

"Ah. Well, I'm sure things will pick up."

Leonard unhappily picks his nails, broods briefly, decides that there's nothing positive he can say, and then changes the subject.

And I think that just about sums things up.