Last week Canelli posted this. Yeah, the LHC is running again. I know. I was at CERN a couple weeks ago. I pressed the button that started it back up. They were all like, “we need to run this bitch at a fuller energy level!” And I obliged. And while I was there, I assure you, nobody was talking about String Theory.
In fact, the only thing you’ll ever hear about String Theory these days are op-eds like this one that call String Theory theorists for reveling in the fact that it is mathematically impossible to prove String Theory (that is, impossible within the Universe’s lifetime).
Today, the favored theory for the next step beyond the standard model is called supersymmetry (which is also the basis for string theory). Supersymmetry predicts the existence of a “partner” particle for every particle that we currently know. It doubles the number of elementary particles of matter in nature. The theory is elegant mathematically, and the particles whose existence it predicts might also explain the universe’s unaccounted-for “dark matter.” As a result, many researchers were confident that supersymmetry would be experimentally validated soon after the Large Hadron Collider became operational.
That’s not how things worked out, however. To date, no supersymmetric particles have been found. If the Large Hadron Collider cannot detect these particles, many physicists will declare supersymmetry — and, by extension, string theory — just another beautiful idea in physics that didn’t pan out.
Note the end there about “just another beautiful idea in physics that didn’t pan out” (italics mine). There have been plenty of mathematically-beautiful hypotheses that turned out to not be true (the precursor to quantum electrodynamics–I forget the name of it–is one example: see Frank Close’s The Infinity Puzzle). In fact, the last time humans decided “fuck empirical evidence, let’s go with what’s beautiful,” it took 1500 years before someone came along and set things straight.
So there you go. String Theory is dangerous because there’s no way to prove it right and, despite that, it’s garnered a huge following of worshipers. And then there’s its attendant Anthropic Principle, which is absolute and utter bullshit. “XYZ is like that because we’re alive to see it like that”? That’s a big NO. There is no place in science for bullshit like that.
But look at this: proponents of String Theory often say it’s the only game in town. That’s marketing horse shit right there, especially considering there haven’t been any meaningful advances in String Theory since the late 90s. There’s actually lots of alternatives, and many of them are progressing quite smoothly these days while also connecting back to recent empirically-derived data.