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Not even wrong

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“Twelve years ago, Peter Woit wrote an iconoclastic book about physics entitled “not even wrong”. He argued that the discipline of string theory is not a science because it fails to propose any experiment that could show the theory to be wrong. Such failures are not new. Much of modern physics is founded on the principle that the speed of light is constant. Yet when Einstein proposed this in 1905, he recognised that no experiment could be performed to distinguish it from Lorentz’s earlier theory, in which measuring instruments become distorted when they move through the light medium so that merely the measured speed of light is constant. Since no experiment can distinguish the two approaches, it follows that the theory of special relativity is “not even wrong”. In this talk I will review Einstein’s debate with Lorentz from 1905 to 1922 and show that he won the argument by invoking an assumption that is now known to be false. This has important consequences: for example, later developments in the field of analogue gravity may have received inadequate attention because they are close to Lorentz’s ideas. In the main body of my talk, I will discuss recent experiments on analogues of quantum mechanics by Yves Couder, who died in April 2019. Ross Anderson and I showed that Couder’s experiments indicate, in quantitative detail, how Lorentz may have been right after all.”

The event will be hosted at Winstanley Lecture Theatre. To access the venue, enter the gate opposite to Great Gate, turn right, head upstairs, and take the second left turn. Doors will open at 18:00 with refreshments, and the talk will start at 18:15.

This talk is part of the Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) series.

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