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  What experiment would disprove string theory?

+ 10 like - 0 dislike
2456 views

String Theory is often criticised as not falsifiable, i.e. that there is no experiment that can disprove it. Therefore, critics of String Theory often equate it to pseudo-science, etc.  

However, string theorists believe that string theory is falsifiable. 

So could we have a comprehensive list of proposed experiments which could disprove string theory? 

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Albert

asked Nov 2, 2010 in Experimental Physics by Albert (50 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 20, 2014 by dimension10
I saw a comment (seems to have vanished) to one of the answers that the view, heavily thrashed out in Smolin's book, that ST assumes a flat background whereas GR clearly accounts for dynamically bending spacetime is a bit moot insofar that GR could be construed of as being in a flat background with some fancy additions. Did this comment have any merit - could Lee Smolin truly have been unaware of such an interpretation? Or could it be something kind of trivial like the curved manifold of a GR solution can be embedded in a higher dimensional flat space (Whitney embedding). Comments anyone?

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user WetSavannaAnimal aka Rod Vance

12 Answers

+ 2 like - 4 dislike

String theory should come with a proposal for an experiment, and make some predictions about the results of the experiment; then we could check against the real results.

If a theory cannot come with any predictions, then it will disprove itself little by little ...

The problem is that, with string theory, this is extremely difficult to do, and string theorists have year in front of them to go in that direction; but if in 100 years we are still at the same status, then it would be a proof that string theory is unfruitful...

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Cedric H.
answered Nov 2, 2010 by Cedric H. (-20 points) [ no revision ]
While a fair point, I don't think this really answers the question, as it will not be a disproof. :/

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user BBischof
I agree, but my point is "there is no disproof experiments needed, just proof experiments": any experiment, one after the other, contribute to the "proof", but any single one of them can be a potential disproof.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Cedric H.
Even if string theory is at the same level of development after 100 years, it won't be a proof of anything, certainly not that string theory is unfruitful. It'll just be very likely that it's a useless theory, but we really won't know for sure without a specific prediction for some experimental result.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user David Z
Certain ancient Greek philosophers theorized that matter came in chunks - the word 'atom' is Greek if I recall. They were right though it wasn't until only 100 years ago anyone could be sure. So a long time passing without verification should not discredit an idea.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user DarenW
(That said, I suspect string theory is doomed to fail anyway!)

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user DarenW
It is very much the case that if a theory cannot make any verifiable predictions, it is a useless theory, whether it is correct or not, and should therefore not be pursued.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Noldorin
I loved DarenW's cogent first comment, though the second seems based purely on speculation. (What would be the mechanism for failure of a disprovable theory, anyway?) I got involved in string theory because we don't know how two electrons interact with each other, gravitationally. We still don't know for sure. It doesn't matter, since we can't measure the gravitational effects anyway... but still. Most people are pragmatists and don't care. Some care. None of this is controversial. The root of the controversy probably boils down to resentment in the allocation of hiring resources.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Eric Zaslow
Albert, you must have made a mistake in clicking because you clicked at this comment - which doesn't answer any of your questions, and what it says, is also incorrect - and you labeled it as the "right" answer to your question. Could you please fix your mistake? Thanks, LM

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Luboš Motl
@Daren Demokritos of Abdera s p e c u l a t e d about atoms. ( plus a lot od rechurners) When atoms were introduced in science middle/end of 18th century it was based on chemical evidence (constant and multiple mass ratios) from the onset. Neither 2500 or 100 years of waiting for experimental results.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Georg
-1 There is no content in this answer.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Erick Robertson
@Georg - the ancient philosophers had some great ideas, but no means to really verify them. Atoms (and all the subatomic goodies) with any nonzero amount of knowledge of their structure weren't real science until around 1900, give or take. Sure, earlier there were some good arguments for the idea of matter being "chunked", coming in units, but that's such a general fuzzy idea, with limited predictive potential.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user DarenW
@Eric Zaslow - yes, that second comment is pure opinion. What I expect is that string theory will fail due partly to other theories (perhaps unthought of at this time) being more fruitful, partly due to loss of interest and dissatisfaction with unanswered questions e.g "what are the strings made of?" and "why is string theory defined by an action principle?", and partly due to deep mathematical troubles, like how renormalization troubles killed certain theories in the past. But I am guessing...string theory (M-theory et al) may die in more interesting ways than anyone can guess today.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user DarenW
the only reason that string theory is interesting is that is a way to make a gravitational theory that is renormalizable, afforded by the fact that they smooth out the interaction diagrams by the string lengths

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user lurscher
Downvote for not answering the question.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Robert McNees
+ 0 like - 6 dislike

Disprove string theory by empirically falsifying a string theory postulate. No postulate can be defended or it need not be postulated. Falsify BRST invariance and string theories collapse. Falsify the Equivalence Principle (EP) and the whole of physics needs a rewrite. No measurable observable violates the EP. All continuous and most approximately continuous symmetries bow to Noether's theorems.

You need an observable (so you know it is there) that is calculable (so you know how much) but not measurable, that is an absolutely discontinuous symmetry - and a test for its divergent consequences. Are shoes different from socks when given a left foot? By how much, yours versus mine? Quantitative chirality is calculated in any number of dimensions, J. Math. Phys. 40, 4587 (1999) and

http://petitjeanmichel.free.fr/itoweb.petitjean.freeware.html#QCM
(
Solution optical rotations ignore atomic mass distribution)

Chop a pair of shoes into mm^2 pieces. Sort them left versus right. Chirality is an emergent property. It depends on scale. To test the EP against a pair of shoes, one would need a shoe built on the smallest possible scale - a few atoms - and rather a lot of shoes to sum to a measurable divergence. Physics cannot do that, but chemistry can.

If anything can break string theory (we cannot be smarter than Luboš, but we can be orthogonal) then


Two geometric Eötvös experiments. 0.113 nm^3 volume/α-quartz unit cell. 40 grams net as 8 single crystal test masses compare 6.68×10^22 pairs of opposite shoes (pairs of 9-atom enantiomorphic unit cells, the test mass array cube's opposite vertical sides).

DO NOT bet your grade on that! Betting a December Swedish dinner is acceptable, especially if its main course is surströmming,

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Uncle Al
answered Feb 14, 2014 by Uncle Al (-100 points) [ no revision ]
String theory is rigorously derived. One CANNOT disprove it within physics. That does not mean it is true. It means an experiment outside Official Truth is required. 1) "Particle physics is not mirror symmetric - shouted down, PNAS 14(7) 544 (1928), pnas.org/content/14/7/544.full.pdf+htm 2) "Particle physics is not mirror symmetric - Nobel Prize - but not for the experimenter, Phys. Rev. 105(4) 1413 (1957), prola.aps.org/pdf/PR/v105/i4/p1413_1

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-03-30 15:55 (UCT), posted by SE-user Uncle Al

chiral violations of the Eotvos sort, if nonzero, are infinitesimal compared to actual different mass violations of the equivalence principle. This answer is saying "do an equivalence principle test",  but massless scalars can violate EP, and even a non-null result of an Eotvos test does not have bearing on the question asked here. This does not answer the question, and it doesn't answer the question in a particularly maddening way, namely by not explaining itself properly. The experiment that is proposed above is to test equivalence principle violations between chirally reflected objects, a test which could concievably fail (at teeny tiny unmeasurable rates) simply because of Weak interaction effects changing the mass of the objects infinitesimally, and then a teeny-tiny Eotvos violation converting the mass difference and composition difference into an EP violation. The result is obfuscated compated to standard Eotvos tests which simply start with extremely different compositions right at the beginning.

The statement "Eotvos experiment detects violations of EP, and therefore violations of string theory" is correct, but is not the aim of the question.

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