Methods of Knowledge

Another subject to be discussed here is related to the Methods of Knowledge. How is it better to start when trying to understand nature? This may be a sociological problem or a psychological problem, in any case, not an easy one! First, it is assumed that an institutionalized education is important. Is that true? Certainly, in the modern society it is hard to find the right incentives that keep you for hours or days in front of a book, other than those related to grades in college. But then again, the role of colleges or universities should not be only to evaluate students. They should also teach, and here comes the problem: what is better? To learn from professors or to learn on your own. My own opinion about this is split so I will use the opinions of other scientists: Einstein was a horrible student interested in his own problems and with his own, special desires for knowledge. Another genius was the mathematician J. F. Nash, a person that wanted to re-derive everything in his own fashion without consideration for whatever has been done before. In this way he “re-invented” large parts of mathematics and in the end managed to produce some new, fascinating results. The last example here is Feynman, who is known for his hatred against uniforms and his free spirit… All these 3 figures marked science and society not by being a carbon-copy of some professor but by going beyond school, college or standard knowledge, by asking their own questions sometimes in a completely orthogonal relation to the rest of the world.

Apart of how we should start asking questions about the universe, a subject one could discuss about would be how to hope to find new insights about nature. One of the methods used by modern day string theory is to assume that the consistency demands of a specific formulation must enforce some fundamental truth about nature. By doing this one assumes that an ill defined theory is more important than nature and can impose some restrictions about how nature can behave. Fortunately, some paradoxes lately “discovered” in the description of black holes simply trashed these assumptions and imposed new ways of constructing theories… These ideas did not yet spread to the string community (although black holes are probably the candidate for “stringy” behavior)… This is rather unsurprising as string theory can just claim it could make predictions about something but cannot actually make them…

There are many other ways of thinking that must be avoided and, apparently, most of them are accepted by string theorists… why this? Because they try to give meaning to a theory that is essentially meaningless… but this is a subject related to “string theory” which I want to develop in all details, mainly basing myself on the two volumes by Green, Schwartz and Witten but also on some other more recent books like Becker & Becker and many more. What I want to underline here is that a knowledge comes from thinking about nature and not from thinking about representations of nature. What one must be very careful when dealing with mathematical descriptions are the so called “symmetries”… These are in fact some sort of redundancies of the theoretical description based on some choices one wants to make. It is known and generally accepted that there is nothing fundamental to these choices and nature should behave in the same way independent of what theory one uses in order to describe it. This is why it is extremely important to think in terms of Nature and not in terms of redundancies of theories…

The next question would be : what is symmetry? It is quite an interesting question because one is taught it is some sort of invariance of something with respect to some change of some variables. In some cases symmetries are “broken”, sometimes “spontaneously broken” etc. but one has to be careful about what one assumes when one starts writing a theory. These aspects will be part of some papers that will be hopefully published soon so I will be able to get into more details later…


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