compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
In the context of Pirsig's classic Zen and the ART of Motorcycle Maintenance, his Guggenheim sponsored LILA, the subsequent formation of the LILA squad of quantum physicists and Dan Glover's LILA's Child • the trouble with physics by Lee Smolin states ...
"how is it possible that string theory, which has been pursued by
more than a thousand of the brightest and best-educated scientists,
working in the best conditions is in danger of failing ?"
What I believe is failing is not so much a particular theory but a style of doing
science that was well suited to the problems we faced in the middle part of the
20th century but is ill suited to the kinds of fundemental problems we face now.
The standard model of particle physics was the triumph of a particular way
of doings cience that came to dominate physics in the 1940's. This style is
pragmatic and hard-nosed and favours virtuosity in calculating over
reflection on hard conceptual problems. This is profoundly different from
the way that Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin
Schrodinger and other 20th century revolutionaries did science.
Their work arose from deep thought on the most basic questions
surrounding space, time and matter, and they saw what they did as
part of a broader philosophical tradition, in which they were at home.
"I sometimes ask myself ... how did it come that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up. Naturally I could go deeper into the problem than a child with normal abilities."
In the approach to particle physics developed by Richard Feynman, Freedom Dyson and others, reflection on foundational problems had no place in research. This freed them from the debates over the meaning of quantum pysics that their elders were embroiled in and led to 30 years of dramatic progress.
"Schwinger's quantum electrodynamics and Feynman's may have been
mathematically the same, but one was conservative and the other
revolutionary. One extended an existing line of thought. The other broke
with the past decisively enough to mystify its intended audience.
One represented an ending: a mathematical style doomed to be fatally
over-complex. The other, for those willing to follow Feynman into
a new style of visualization, served as a beginning. Feynman's style
was risky, even megalomaniacal"
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