Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Disappointed with the Superstar

I was excited today to head across town to Notre Dame to hear one of the world's most famous physicists, Brian Greene.  The afternoon talk was at a colloquium for the physics department.  It was on the foundations of string theory, and pitched a level so that a scientific layperson like myself could follow it fairly well.  I thought it was one of the clearest presentations of why the majority of physicists see in string theory a real possibility of unifying quantum theory and general relativity.

But then he gave another lecture this evening that was pitched at the general audience.  He promised us at the beginning that he wasn't going off on some fringe tangent, but was presenting what mainstream physics accepts.  The first of these conclusions was that our world is actually just a holographic projection from the information stored on the edge of a black hole.  The second was that there is an infinity of worlds, and so among these you will find configurations of particles that resemble how the particles are configured in our world; so in some of these other "universes" there will literally be exact replicas of me sitting in an easy chair watching Top Shot and typing a blog on his laptop.  The last conclusion was based on the widely accepted theory that the universe is expanding faster and faster, such that at some point in the very distant future all of the other objects in space will have moved so far away and so quickly that the light will never reach our planet.  So the conclusion was the future inhabitants of our planet will be forced to conclude that their little chunk of matter is the only thing in the universe.

I was disappointed because this popularization strayed so far beyond the realm of what is empirically justified.  I understand that we often speculate, but it is irresponsible to present speculations as the most logical conclusions that we can come to.  There is a boatload of assumptions going on here, and it is irresponsible for scientists with so much respect and authority in our society to pass such stories off as the unquestionable truth.

End of rant.

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