Questions tagged [epistemology]

For questions about epistemology in the context of physics - what knowledge is, and how we arrive at it.

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Guessing in physics [closed]

“In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see what, if this is right, if this law we guess is right, to see ...
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Does the notion of an universal clock really contradict special relativity? [closed]

Special relativity says that different observers qualify two events as simultaneous based on their velocities. But isn't that a statement about information they can measure rather than about reality? ...
11 votes
8 answers
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Can laws of physics suddenly change? [closed]

At the present time, we have a collection of variables and laws that describe, maybe in a non deterministic fashion, the evolution of the universe. Is it possible that these laws suddenly change? Say, ...
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2 answers
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Is anyone attempting to disprove the existence of ToE? (Formerly: Is there necessarily a theory of everything?) [closed]

Does the following claim have a proof? Theorem: There exists a theory of everything. [edit: Added the following to hopefully clarify what I’m driving at.] Is any physicist working on proving the ...
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Experimental exactness of Schrödinger equation for more than 100 particles

A question from a mathematician far from physics :) I have heard that Schrödinger equation for $n$ particles is hard in the following sense: If $n$ is enough big then there is no computer which can ...
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Current texts on the foundation of quantum mechanics?

So I'm currently writing an article regarding a priori axiomatic systems and the nature of inference (I'm not a physicist but a philosopher doing philosophy of science), one of my main texts is "...
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What would be a basic example of an axiomatic physical theory? (except Newton's Principia or Einstein's Special Relativity Theory) [closed]

If I were asked to give an example of an axiomatic mathematical theory, I'd be able to answer: set theory, probability theory, maybe group theory (assuming the elements of the definition of a group ...
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2 answers
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Is there a formal and generalized definition of a system?

From the wikipedia article In physics, a physical system is a portion of the physical universe chosen for analysis. Everything outside the system is known as the environment. The environment is ...
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Quantum physics and hard determinism [closed]

Ok, I will try my best to ask my question without going too far into philosophy. I am more or less aware of quantum physics and as far as I know it defies hard-determinism by saying that sub-atomic ...
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Why Are the Laws of Physics the Way They Are? [duplicate]

Why does Newton's law of gravitiation look the way it does? Why is the Gravitiational Consntant this specific value? Why do Maxwell's Equations look the way they do? Why is it that abstract quantities ...
20 votes
4 answers
3k views

How do we choose between two scientific ideas when both aren't yet falsified? [closed]

Consider a leading theory for a phenomenon, then how are new theories shown to be better while both remain unfalsified?
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The problem of measurement in general relativity

I am looking for a good selection of articles and books on the topic of measurements in general relativity. The only one I'm really aware of is Reichenbach's "The Philosophy of Space and Time", which ...
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8 answers
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Is the Copenhagen interpretation falsifiable?

According to the Copenhagen interpretation, physical systems generally do not have definite properties prior to being measured. The Schrödinger's cat is both dead and alive, until an observation is ...
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How can the Mach-Zehnder interferometer results be consistent with an epistemic view on the wavefunction (WF)?

If the epistemic view on WF is that something is happening in the mind of the observer (e.g. he observed something and then the WF changed for him) then how is this view consistent with the results ...
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what does it mean that theories are not true but assumed to be true? [closed]

I have read it in most of the article and heard in videos created to explain scientific method but i am not being able to understand it .please explain to me what does it mean? give some examples.
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What is the difference between a physical theory and mathematical theory?

Is there same approach in physical theories like primitive notions,axioms and theorems as in maths ? If it is then is it an only method or approach to study different fields of knowledge?
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Is there such a thing as duality in thermodynamics?

From a macro point of view of someone who never studied physics (or for man of ancient times, if you prefer) it seems to be consistent to think of heat exchange between two bodies as being cold ...
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1 answer
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Naturalness in Physics and fundamental constants

From the "flatness problem" in Cosmology to the "strong CP problem" and "hierarchy problem" in the Model standard, a lot of problems in physics deal with Naturalness: a certain parameter in our theory ...
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Is it consistent to use GR for cosmological (etc.) scenario's, given that GR reduces to Newtonian gravity?

This description of the relationship between general relativity and Newtonian gravity looks pretty good. It also seems to have gotten a lot of upvotes, so I assume it reflects mainstream thought on ...
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Why does math work for describing and solving physics problems? [closed]

The clarified version As far as I understand, Wigner considers a "miracle" the fact that it is even possible to find a mathematical equation that describes a natural phenomenon. It is not exactly ...
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Is a theory the same as a hypothesis? [duplicate]

“Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it.” Excerpt from Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, iBooks. So does that mean ...
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1 answer
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Is contemporary physics interpreted in an instrumentalist way? [closed]

I'm a master student in theoretical physics and the reason why I choose this career is far more related to the "philosophical beauty" of physics, than to my personal ability or skills. This, in some ...
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Can a theory be proven by an experiment (or series of) that sustains it?

This is a question that I've always had but it wasn't until the recent news regarding the BICEP2 experiment that I really gave thought about it (please note that the question is general and not ...
9 votes
3 answers
838 views

In what way are the Mathematical universe hypothesis and A New Kind of Science connected

The Mathematical universe hypothesis, mainly by Max Tegmark and A new Kind of Science, mainly by Stephen Wolfram both claim (as least as I understand it) that at its innermost core reality is ...
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When experimental search for exotic dark matter-like particles began exactly?

I am looking for information about : what was the first experiment that claimed to look specifically for non baryonic dark matter particles ; when occurred the first serious(*) reporting of an ...
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1 answer
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How widespread is the meme "QM is counterintuitive" in academic physics? [closed]

I have recently entered university — studying CS — and I have spoken to many physics students on campus. Most of these — when propmted — will gladly proclaim that QM is ...
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5 answers
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Why can mathematical equations describe this world? [closed]

Since I want to understand the world, I learn physics from textbooks. But I feel there is a gap between the textbook and the world. I do not know why the equations in the textbook can control the ...
3 votes
0 answers
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Geometry and physics [closed]

I'm searching for references, articles and books, that discussed the geometrization of modern (and contemporary) physics, in a philosofical point of view. Something in the way that Michael Friedman ...
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Is the big desert hypothesis a wilder assumption than the see-saw mechanism to explain neutrino masses?

Sometimes I see comments about the big desert hypothesis that I don't understand. For instance in a famous blog : ...This is based on a renormalization group calculation extrapolating the Higgs ...
6 votes
4 answers
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Is there anything physically infinite? [closed]

I can't think of a single thing that could be infinite. Because the universe is expanding, isn't it? But there is an ever-changing barrier, so why could there be anything infinite, both ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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The meaning of 'postulate' in physics? [duplicate]

What does postulate mean in physics? What is its role in physical theories? Is it possible to break physical postulates?
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Can a scientific theory ever be absolutely proven?

I personally cringe when people talk about scientific theories in the same way we talk about everyday theories. I was under the impression a scientific theory is similar to a mathematical proof; ...
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The quantum state can be interpreted statistically, again

Now there are two papers The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.3328 (It was discussed here the consecuences of this "no-go theorem") And this one (two of ...
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Is the wave function objective or subjective?

Here is a question I am curious about. Is the wave function objective or subjective, or is such a question meaningless? Conventionally, subjectivity is as follows: if a quantity is subjective then ...
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Time travel and nuclear decay

Reading a previous closed question an interesting variation has come to my mind. Suppose that time travel to the past was possible: I wait for an atom to decay and measure the time, $t_{1a}$ I ...
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6 answers
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Is there a difference between observing a particle and hitting it with another particle?

First, let me state that I'm a lot less experienced with physics than most people here. Quantum mechanics was as far as I got and that was about 9 years ago, with no use in the meantime. A lot of ...
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11 answers
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Why can't the outcome of a QM measurement be calculated a-priori?

Quantum Mechanics is very successful in determining the overall statistical distribution of many measurements of the same process. On the other hand, it is completely clueless in determining the ...
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57 votes
10 answers
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What is the difference between a measurement and any other interaction in quantum mechanics?

We've learned that the wave function of a particle collapses when we measure a particle's location. If it is found, it becomes more probable to find it a again in the same area, and if not the ...
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