DEC 11, 2019 9:00 AM PST

Physics in Peril? (Part I)

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

The illusion of symmetry (Pixabay)

If you haven't picked it up from popular science news outlets, you probably have heard of a thing or two about a troublesome notion from the acclaimed The Big Bang Theory: physics is currently in a big mess. 

Many scientists are questioning where the field is heading and frustrated with the stagnancy in progress. Despite decades of global efforts in experimentation and observations, there's a shortage of evidence in support of several grand theories that are mathematically elegant, well-received, and supposed to solve multiple riddles in science.

For example, in physics, the hierarchy problem revolves around the enormous difference in strength between the weak nuclear force and gravity: the former is about 10^24 times stronger than the latter, though both are fundamental forces of nature. 

The supersymmetry theory was created as an extension of the Standard Model. It hypothesizes that every particle in the Standard Model has a superpartner particle to shield this mass, which could provide a solution to the hierarchy problem. 

But through the decades-worth collision experiments and multiple instrument upgrades of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), scientists have yet discovered any so-called supersymmetric particles that share similar masses with the Standard Model particles. 

Supersymmetric Particle Found? (PBS Space Time)

The spoof concept of Super Asymmetry on The Big Bang Theory can be seen as a light-hearted take on the current situation. While many in the physics community seem to hang onto the theory in the meantime, others start to question if it's time to declare its death already.

Sabine Hossenfelder, a theoretical physicist, quantum gravity researcher, and critic of modern physics theories, often laments that the reason why physics is not moving forward because many scientists are stuck with the "beauty" of mathematical modeling.

What's more, theorists always use math-based non-empirical arguments, which requires that those interpret and assess the theories need to be as objective as humanly possible. But the objectivity is subject to the influence of career opportunities and peer pressure. 

The echo chamber effect can also add to the bias: scientists often encounter peers who share opinions that coincide with their own, which unfortunately reinforcing their existing views.

All of these, according to Hossenfelder, can account for the current awkward stagnancy in physics. 

Source: Scientific American

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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