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String theory has played a highly influential role in theoretical physics for nearly three decades and has substantially altered our view of the elementary building principles of the Universe. However, the theory remains empirically unconfirmed, and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. So why do string theorists have such a strong belief in their theory? This book explores this question, offering a novel insight into the nature of theory assessment itself. Dawid approaches the topic from a unique position, having extensive experience in both philosophy and high-energy physics. He argues that string theory is just the most conspicuous example of a number of theories in high-energy physics where non-empirical theory assessment has an important part to play. Aimed at physicists and philosophers of science, the book does not use mathematical formalism and explains most technical terms.Read more
- Explains the mechanisms which lead to trust in string theory and related theories in the absence of empirical confirmation
- Offers a fresh perspective on the classical question of scientific realism
- Discusses how a full appreciation of non-empirical theory assessment could lead to an altered perspective on scientific progress
Reviews & endorsements
"At the frontiers of physics and cosmology theoretical speculation proceeds without the constant confrontation with experiment often thought to be required for scientific validation. Richard Dawid explores this issue in the case of string theory. He offers a fascinating new perspective on non-empirical theory assessment, based on the concept of scientific underdetermination. I heartedly recommend this book to both physicists and philosophers."
David Gross, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2004See more reviews
"Richard Dawid argues that string theory plays a novel role in the scientific process that has been neglected by philosophers of science. I believe that this book is a valuable contribution to the philosophy of science, which should interest practicing scientists as well as those who are more interested in the methodology of science."
John Schwarz, California Institute of Technology
"Richard Dawid provides a fascinating account of string theory, then uses it as a starting point to puzzle over exactly what it is that we do or should want from a satisfactory physical theory more generally. The result is a number of compelling philosophical insights into the nature and practice of modern physics."
Jeffrey A. Barrett, University of California, Irvine
"Dawid makes what is probably the best possible case that theoretical justification can succeed. I applaud the fact that String Theory and the Scientific Method explicitly raises these questions and addresses them in a clear and well-considered way."
George Ellis, Science
"String Theory and the Scientific Method is clearly written and well argued, one of the clearest expositions of string theory accessible to a non-physicist that I have read. Though narrowly conceived, and yearning to be informed by a broader philosophical perspective, it is an important contribution to traditional Anglo-American philosophy of science insofar as its initial inspiration is not the urge to develop the logic of science for its own sake, but the mismatch between the inherited picture of that logic and the actual experience of scientists."
Robert P. Crease, History of Physics Newsletter
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- isbn: 9781107069862
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Table of Contents
Part I. Delimiting the Unconceived:
1. String theory
2. The conceptual framework
3. The assessment of scientific underdetermination in string theory
Part II. A Wider Perspective:
4. The dynamics of high energy physics
5. Scientific underdetermination in physics and beyond
Part III. Physics and Truth:
6. Final theory claims
7. An altered perspective on scientific realism
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