Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Belief and Science

Image result for higgs bosonEnvironment & Science Education
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

While this has been said many other times, I still like reading lines such as the following from theoretical physicists, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder:

"Look I'm a scientist. Scientists don't deal with beliefs. They deal with data and hypotheses. Science is about knowledge and facts, not about beliefs."

In a relatively recent post on her blog BackReaction, Professor Hossenfelder begins by calling our attention to a comment/question she often hears after public presentations: "Do you really believe that X exists?"  Her response: "Why do you care what I believe? What does it matter for anything."

The essence of Hossenfelder's short and important essay is found in what she has to say about a particle of physics, the Higgs boson (not the only example she uses). "The Higgs-boson and quarks are names that we have given to mathematical structures. ... We use this mathematics to make predictions. The predictions agree with measurements. This is what we mean when we say 'quarks exist': We mean that the predictions obtained with the hypothesis agrees with observation."

She also has some comments to make about philosophy of science, particular the idea of scientific realism, a belief system about which science can say nothing. Philosophers have a lot to say about it.

The essay, "Does the Higgs Boson Exist," was published on May 22 2019. You can read it or watch a short video of her comments. Professor Hossenfelder includes a worthy homework assignment, too, one I've yet to complete but I'm not taking the course for credit (I'll use any excuse.)

Please read or watch.

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