[FOM] Question about theoretical physics

Timothy Y. Chow tchow at alum.mit.edu
Mon Jul 1 16:09:35 EDT 2013

Joe Shipman wrote:

> Physicists don't have in mind the same kind of theory that 
> mathematicians do, and that's understandable. The reason I asked about 
> this was that I felt that physicists ought to have, in any well-defined 
> experimental situation, an algorithm to predict the experimental results 
> to any desired precision, or at least to within a rigorous error term, 
> if they were to claim any notion of correctness for their theory.

It's not clear to me that such an algorithm exists for *any* realistic 
physical theory, let alone QED.  You're using the "for all" quantifier for 
"well-defined experimental situations," but my impression is that in the 
real world, the correct quantifier is much closer to "there exists."  It's 
generally considered a big success if someone comes up with a new 
experimental prediction and it gets verified.


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