The End of Reductionism Could Be Nigh. Or Not.
Quantum mechanics seems to have a problem with the order of time, which might signal the need for an entirely new type of law.Illustration by Ekaterina Kulaeva / Shutterstock The history of science so far has been a triumph of reductionism. Biology can be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can be reduced to atomic physics, and […]
Your Guide to the Many Meanings of Quantum Mechanics
The question “What is real?” is inescapable if you study quantum mechanics.Photo illustration by Nikk / Flickr Quantum mechanics is more than a century old, but physicists still fight over what it means. Most of the hand wringing and knuckle cracking in their debates goes back to an assumption known as “realism.” This is the […]
Do We Need a Theory of Everything?
I get constantly asked if I could please comment on other people’s theories of everything. That could be Garrett Lisi’s E8 theory or Eric Weinstein’s geometric unity or Stephen Wolfram’s idea that the universe is but a big graph, and so on. Good, then. Let me tell you what I think about this. But I’m […]
It’s the End of the World and This Physicist Feels Fine
I promise I have no intention to propose a quantum-model for disease spread, but like everyone else I have been wondering if I can make myself somewhat more useful in these difficult times.Screengrab via Sabine Hossenfelder / YouTube It’s week three of COVID lockdown here in Germany. Schools are closed, my institute is closed, my […]
Electrons Don’t Think
If a philosopher starts speaking about elementary particles, run.Pinterest I recently discovered panpsychism. That’s the idea that all matter—animate or inanimate—is conscious, we just happen to be somewhat more conscious than carrots. Panpsychism is the modern elan vital. When I say I “discovered” panpsychism, I mean I discovered there’s a bunch of philosophers who produce […]
Mind the Gap Between Science and Religion
Have you heard that we may be living in a computer simulation? Or that our universe is only one of infinitely many parallel worlds in which you live every possible variation of your life? Or that the laws of nature derive from a beautiful, higher-dimensional theory that is super-symmetric and explains, supposedly, everything? I’ve heard […]
The Real Differences Between Human and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence, it seems, is now everywhere. Text translation, speech recognition, book recommendations, even your spam filter is now “artificially intelligent.” But just what do scientists mean with “artificial intelligence,” and what is artificial about it? Artificial intelligence is a term that was coined in the 1980s, and today’s research on the topic has many […]
When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science
Insisting that new ideas must be beautiful blocks progress in particle physics.
First Black-Hole Image: It’s Not Looks That Count
FIRST LOOK: The Event Horizon Telescope measures wavelength in the millimeter regime, too long to be seen by eye, but ideally suited to the task of imaging a black hole: The gas surrounding the black hole is almost transparent at this wavelength and the light travels to Earth almost undisturbed. Since we cannot see light […]
When Gravity Breaks Down
Theoretical physicists have known since the 1930s that quantum gravity is necessary to bring order into the laws of nature, but 80 years on, a solution isn’t anywhere in sight.Photograph by Andrea / Flickr Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is more than a hundred years old, but still it gives physicists headaches. Not only […]