Martin Rees on Speculative Physics

EDITOR’S NOTE: In January 2017 Martin Rees, one of the world’s leading cosmologists and the 2011 Templeton Prize recipient, gave a lecture at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington, D.C. His lecture, titled “From Mars to the Multiverse,” offered a synoptic account of the modern cosmological story — how the universe as we know it came to be over the course of billions of years — touching on the big bang, red shift, background radiation, and dark matter and energy along the way. He also ventured into more conjectural domains to consider the multiverse and string theory and whether the universe might end in a “big crunch” or a “big rip.” 

After his talk, Lord Rees sat down with BQO’s Adam Keiper to talk about “speculative physics,” the limits of the observable universe, and more:


2 Responses

  1. mkmcgee802 says:

    Dr. Rees, you conclude “Our preferences are irrelevant to the way physical reality actually is, so we should surely be openminded.” From the context of the views expressed in the rest of the video, I gather that the cosmological version of “open-mindedness” applies (at present) to the concepts of multiverses and unification of gravity and QM theories.

    Rather than objective open-mindedness, this looks to me like subjective open-mindedness. It looks like a reflection of the ways scientists engaged in speculation prefer to frame their efforts to achieve endless justifiability rather than risk the unsavory perception that they’re as rapt as anyone else in a groundless information jungle.

    A robust analysis of the role of speculation in reality science requires noticing what is in the middle, between endless justification and information jungles.

    The elephant in the room is a cloth-less emperor, and until reality science unpacks metaphors such as these I fear that continued attachment to subjective open-mindedness will deprive the rest of science of the cultural oxygen it so desperately needs.

    My question is about falsifiability. In Oct 2016 I wrote “Anything that is self-referentially causative without explicit existential context is not falsifiable. This is the case with anything that is not directly observable, regardless of its origin in relation to institutional inquiry.” What do you think this catch-22 can mean to modern physics?

  2. masspacific says:

    “So we should surely be open minded,” indeed.

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