‘The Big Questions’ – do physicists agree?

Colin Blakemore says (Radio 4 interview by Jim Al-Khalili, 8 Nov.) that physicists agree on the ‘big questions’, while neuroscientists don’t – not even agree that the origin of consciousness is a big question.

Do physicists really agree??

Eg. do we agree that collapse of the wave-function is a big question?  (More grandly – the correspondence between quantum and classical reality).  Proponents of multiverse theories deny it’s an issue. A small group including Steven Weinberg believe otherwise, but most just carry on using the algorithms of quantum mechanics (New Scientist).

2. Do we agree that higher dimensions of space (or space-time) are real, rather than just useful algebraic nomenclature?  No agreement that this is an issue.

3.  Do we agree the existence of gravitons as equivalent to the gravitational field is a big question?  Gravitons are a basic part of the ‘standard model’, though few of us take their existence seriously. 

4. Do we agree with the ‘standard model‘ that fields are equivalent to particles, or do we see fields as ‘real’ in the sense of Faraday – energy distribution in space and transmitting forces through space?  

5. Do we agree that the existence of Black Holes is still in question?  The large majority appears not to accept it’s an open question.

6. The existence of the Higgs ‘God’ particle is one question on which we do largely agree, because without it the standard model is in great trouble.

Why not include string theory in this list? Because it has no clear physical principles and no empirical basis.  Rather than qualifying as a physical theory, it belongs to the sociology of science.

It’s a fundamental of the ongoing Crisis-in-Physics that many physicists do not see and the leading theorists do not agree on what are the ‘big questions’ in physics. Unsurprising that neuroscientist Blakemore is one of the blind.

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