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A Dunning-Kruger universe

Everyone, it seems, has a “theory” of how the whole shebang works.
Hester_Jeff
The other day I got an email from someone claiming to have solved all the outstanding problems in physics and cosmology. Having read a few popular science books, the author insisted that only his brilliant and original perspective could save science from itself. His new “theory” would revolutionize the world!

I’ve gotten a lot of messages like that over the years, and they always make me smile. Most scientists who are in the public eye have their own collections. I’ve even received full-fledged manuscripts and autographed, self-published books.

Of course, the problem with these “theories” is that they aren’t scientific theories at all. In science, a theory is not just a wild guess. To a scientist, a theory is an idea that is consistent with known facts and makes testable predictions about the world.

Quantum mechanics is a theory that a lot of people never really liked. It made Einstein apoplectic, and some physicists are still trying to strip it of what they see as its philosophically troubling aspects. But quantum mechanics is still around for a simple reason: Even the theory’s most bizarre and seemingly preposterous predictions have always turned out to be correct. The same can be said for theories like relativity, the Standard Model of particle physics, the Big Bang, and on down the line.

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