By K.C. Cole
String theory strutted onto the scene some 30 years ago as perfection itself, a promise of elegant simplicity that would solve knotty problems in fundamental physics—including the notoriously i […]
Alert, alert, I am about to be very pedantic.
I am always put off by the use of the word “theory” when it follows “string”. It is string hypothesis, nothing more.
See, people think Darwin proposed the theory of evolution. He did not. He proffered the hypothesis of evolution and, over the ensuing decades of experiment and debate, he was shown to be correct and then it evolved (pun intended) into the theory of evolution by natural selection.
A more modern example would be Lynn Margulis’ Endosymbiotic hypothesis which has (pun again) evolved into a theory over the decades of critical examination. Her early work was often crapped on and belittled. I heard it said that a prominent biologist (not Richard) said that she was either a genius ….. or completely cracked. But, her beautiful assertion did not exit her mouth (pen…brain…)as a theory. it was a hypothesis. So is the untested idea that strings underlie all matter.
A lot of nice things about this article of the expansion of the String Hypothesis, not least the resetting of expectations about timescale, the acknowledgement of the greatly expanded and quite generally usefull mathematical tool kit it has created for others, the new rich blended soup of ideas.
But I particularly like this neat little observation/hypothesis-
The discovery of dual descriptions of the same phenomenon pretty much sums up the history of physics. A century and a half ago, James Clerk Maxwell saw that electricity and magnetism were two sides of a coin. Quantum theory revealed the connection between particles and waves. Now physicists have strings.
(Crooked, appreciated the Margulis illustration. I don’t think people even now realise how critical this (now) theory is to understanding complex life.)
crookedshoes, I see your pedantic and raise you a metaphor.
…and then it evolved (pun intended) into the theory of evolution by
…Lynn Margulis’ Endosymbiotic hypothesis which has (pun again)
evolved into a theory…
since your concern is semantics.
Pinball1970, try ‘Unweaving the rainbow’ c. chapter 9 for RD’s take on Lynn Margulis.