Until a better story comes along

Or why your pet theory isn’t considered proven and probably never will be:

Isaac Newton’s “classical” law of gravity acquired more and more confidence over the three centuries that followed his original formulation. The arrival of unprecedentedly sensitive observational and measurement techniques in the early Twentieth Century called it into dispute. The dispute could not be resolved until a certain young physicist, at that time employed by the German postal service, proposed a new formulation that would:

  • Replicate the predictions of classical gravity with equal precision;
  • Outperform the predictions of classical gravity around objects of very large mass.

General relativity equaled classical gravity in those realms of measurement where classical gravity held firm. However, it produced results classical gravity could not match in the newly explored realms of very large mass where measurement had previously been unable to go. Thus, general relativity superseded classical gravity as the dominant conception of gravitation. At this time it remains dominant, which is to say: scientists’ confidence in it has not been disturbed by contradictory results in any sphere.

However, no scientist regards general relativity as having been proved. There remain realms to which Mankind’s investigative powers are unequal, at least for now. Perhaps some far-future experiment will reveal that at masses beyond what we can currently investigate, general relativity’s predictions don’t hold true. But for the moment that’s only a hazy possibility.

Or, to compress it into a single sentence: “If it’s settled, it isn’t science.”

1 comment »

  1. McGehee »

    21 August 2019 · 7:06 am

    Would it be excessively ironic to comment, “Amen!”…?

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