The End of (one type of) Physics, and the Rise of the Machines

Peter Woit in Not Even Wrong:

Way back in 1996 science writer John Horgan published The End of Science, in which he made the argument that various fields of science were running up against obstacles to any further progress of the magnitude they had previously experienced. One can argue about other fields (please don’t do it here…), but for the field of theoretical high energy physics, Horgan had a good case then, one that has become stronger and stronger as time goes on.

A question that I always wondered about was that of what things would look like once the subject reached the endpoint where progress had stopped more or less completely. In the book, Horgan predicted:

A few diehards dedicated to truth rather than practicality will practice physics in a nonempirical, ironic mode, plumbing the magical realm of superstrings and other esoterica and fret­ting about the meaning of quantum mechanics. The conferences of these ironic physicists, whose disputes cannot be experimentally resolved, will become more and more like those of that bastion of literary criticism, the Modern Language Association.

This is now looking rather prescient.

More here.

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