Scientific Sense Podcast

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gravitational annoyance

A recent paper in the Journal of Science that describes the failure to detect gravitational waves from any source including the merging of two galaxies with possible combination of two black holes, perpetuates the gravitational holdout to otherwise beautiful theories woven up by physicists. Gravitation has spoiled every attempt at Grand Unification of the hypothesized fundamental fields of nature. It is ironic that a field that is obvious at human scale has been the one most difficult to understand and explain with status-quo theories. Ever since an apple fell on Newton’s head, gravity has vexed humankind and it seems like the current situation will continue for a while.

Failure of Grand Unification Theories is a subtle sign that we do not yet have theories that can be unified. Early in the 20th century, a few brilliant minds made inexplicable leaps into emerging knowledge. It is scary to even think of a world in which they did not exist. Newtonian mechanics could have ruled the mediocrity for a few more centuries. However, there were visible cracks in both the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, and the ones who followed are simply unable to mend them. More importantly, they have taken the hammers given to them and they have been looking for nails all around the universe to put the hammers to good use. None is able to spend a career or even risk a tenured position to ask if the hammers need modifications.

The jumps in the stochastic evolution of knowledge are rare and they are driven by an amazingly few members of billions of humans around the world. The next jump appears too far in a regime mediated by paid research and manufactured education.

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