Sunday, March 18, 2018

But . . . But, He Wrote Another Paper!

Hate mail informs me that Stephen Hawking wrote a last paper, which is being touted in the popular press as his greatest evah! - it hasn't been published yet so that's a bit premature.

A final theory explaining how mankind might detect parallel universes was completed by Stephen Hawking shortly before he died, it has emerged.

Colleagues have revealed the renowned theoretical physicist’s final academic work was to set out the groundbreaking mathematics needed for a spacecraft to find traces of multiple big bangs.

Currently being reviewed by a leading scientific journal, the paper, named A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation, may turn out to be Hawking’s most important scientific legacy.

Fellow researchers [which ones?] have said that if the evidence which the new theory promises had been discovered before Hawking died last week, it may have secured the Nobel Prize which had eluded him for so long.

The new paper seeks to resolve an issue thrown up by Hawking’s 1983 “no-boundary” theory which described how the universe burst into existence with the big bang.

According to that account, the universe instantaneously expanded from a tiny point into a prototype of what we live in today, a process known as inflation.

But the theory also predicted an infinite number of big bangs, each creating their own universe, a “multiverse”, which presented a mathematical paradox because it is seemingly impossible to measure.

The extent to which all of this is based on unfounded scientific speculation, not on verification in the physical universe, would seem to be a secret not to be generally shared.    Here is Sabine Hossenfelder's point 2. that came before point 3. which I gave you this morning.

2. Ok, so it’s not falsifiable, but it’s sound logic!

Step two is the claim that the multiverse is a logical consequence of well-established theories. But science isn’t math. And even if you trust the math, no deduction is better than the assumptions you started from and neither string theory nor inflation are well-established. (If you think they are you’ve been reading the wrong blogs.) 

I would agree that inflation is a good effective model, but so is approximating the human body as a bag of water, and see how far that gets you making sense of the evening news. 

But the problem with the claim that logic suffices to deduce what’s real runs deeper than personal attachment to pretty ideas. The much bigger problem which looms here is that scientists mistake the purpose of science. This can nicely be demonstrated by a phrase in Sean Carroll’s recent paper. In defense of the multiverse he writes “Science is about what is true.” But, no, it’s not. Science is about describing what we observe. Science is about what is useful. Mathematics is about what is true. 

Fact is, the multiverse extrapolates known physics by at least 13 orders of magnitude (in energy) beyond what we have tested and then adds unproved assumptions, like strings and inflatons. That’s not science, that’s math fiction. 

So don’t buy it. Just because they can calculate something doesn’t mean they describe nature.

Which I have to say,  I found extremely gratifying when she said, "That’s not science, that’s math fiction."   Which was exactly my first reaction when I read Hawking and Mlodinow's demand that science be exempted from verification through observation of nature.  It was so shocking to me that I can remember the exact moment it occured to me and where I commented about it.

Anthony McCarthy says:
September 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm
After reading here and other places, I went to my sister-in-law the aquatic biologist, with the happy news that now that physics has been freed from the requirement of actually being tied to physical evidence that she didn’t have to go out this winter to do her sampling anymore. She wasn’t as happy about it as I thought she would be, though she did take the opportunity to vent about theoretical physicists and cosmologists, their politics, their dirty politics and their hogging of funding. I think she might have felt better after that.

Being a complete outsider I have to say that the idea of an entirely artificial physics generating an entirely artificial mathematics to service it gave me a lot of entertainment while I was doing my chores this weekend. It came to me that the results might be a science that has has more in common with fan fiction than it does the natural universe. But that’s only a musician’s view of it.

I know I've described the same demand for exemption as writing science fiction in equations instead of purple prose.

So, does Hawking come up with how much money the Lords of Creation are going to demand to fund this quest for the Unholy Grail?


  1. The odd thing is that this kind of physics is essentially Neo-Platonism, which is Platonism building castles in the air, and then moving into them. Small wonder such celebrity scientists are also vocal atheists.

    They resent the competition.

    1. It really is incredible how often some of the biggest names in science, atheists all, bring up God when waxing sciency on this stuff. It was reading such scientists in both cosmology and in evolutionary biology and genetics and their constant references to their desire to dispose of God - some of it even within what they published AS SCIENCE - that lead me to believe that has been an unadmitted to agenda which has been inserted into science. And yet they wonder how they got a reaction out of religious people who question their motives. I mean that quite literally, going back into the 18th century, if not earlier. Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel, all did it in works that Darwin cited as science and you can read it today in what many of the big names in at least popular science say. The entire motivation for inventing the multiverse conjectures - of which there are more factions than there are of Baptists - was to get past what Eddington pointed out, the incomprehensibility of modern cosmogony which is best explained by God creating the universe out of no physical substance and creating time at the same beginning point. Obviously a lot of scientists just hated that idea and they've been willing to blatantly drag their ideology into science which they then claim is a pure vessel which contains nothing of the sort. The hypocrisy of it is pretty stunning. And due to most people being as ignorant of the foundations of science as Carroll would seem to be, as Hossenfelder points out, they get away with it on the basis of the ignorance of their fans.

    2. I did love this line, though I don't think mathematics is about what is true any more than science is (surely Godel put that to rest):

      "In defense of the multiverse he writes 'Science is about what is true.' ”

      Which raises Pilate's question, doesn't it? And as Godel's Theorem establishes, there are questions science can formulate which it cannot answer, which must be answered by another system; so "what is truth?," indeed.

      These guys are a joke. They might as well be Bible college graduates, for all they know about that of which they speak.

    3. It occured to me several years back that the only part of what is arguably science, that arrives at actual proof of hypotheses, mathematics, is a science about something which isn't physical, that the objects at which we can arrive at definitively definite, though infinitely incomplete, conclusions are mathematical objects which very well may be entirely imaginary. There is a debate as to whether or not mathematical objects are real, though even those who hold them to be real, existing in another realm of existence than the physical universe, such as Roger Penrose, don't claim they are physical and, so I'd imagine, have qualities that aren't found to govern physical objects. I haven't read deeply into that because I'm too old to get far and it isn't easy going. It's like when I decided to look into Bergson's ideas about time and a. didn't trust the translation into English, b. found the French very hard going and decided I'd just have to read about it instead of reading it.