"Look, my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now."
Neil Turok: "It's the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all."
George Ellis and Joe Silk: "This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue - explicitly - that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical."
Adam Frank, professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, and Marcelo Gleiser, professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College: "A Crisis at the Edge of Physics. Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories? You may think that the answer is an obvious yes, experimental confirmation being the very heart of science. But a growing controversy at the frontiers of physics and cosmology suggests that the situation is not so simple. (...) ...a mounting concern in fundamental physics: Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility."
Frank Close, professor of physics at the University of Oxford: "In recent years, however, many physicists have developed theories of great mathematical elegance, but which are beyond the reach of empirical falsification, even in principle. The uncomfortable question that arises is whether they can still be regarded as science. Some scientists are proposing that the definition of what is "scientific" be loosened, while others fear that to do so could open the door for pseudo-scientists or charlatans to mislead the public and claim equal space for their views."
Huw Price, Time's Arrow and Eddington's Challenge, p. 122: "A lot of time and ink has been devoted to the question how entropy should be defined, or whether it can be defined at all in certain cases (e.g., for the universe as a whole). It would be easy to get the impression that the puzzle of the thermodynamic asymmetry depends on all this discussion - that whether there's really a puzzle depends on how, and whether, entropy can be defined, perhaps."
Jos Uffink: "Snow stands up for the view that exact science is, in its own right, an essential part of civilisation, and should not merely be valued for its technological applications. Anyone who does not know the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and is proud of it too, exposes oneself as a Philistine. Snow's plea will strike a chord with every physicist who has ever attended a birthday party. But his call for cultural recognition creates obligations too. Before one can claim that acquaintance with the Second Law is as indispensable to a cultural education as Macbeth or Hamlet, it should obviously be clear what this law states. This question is surprisingly difficult. The Second Law made its appearance in physics around 1850, but a half century later it was already surrounded by so much confusion that the British Association for the Advancement of Science decided to appoint a special committee with the task of providing clarity about the meaning of this law. However, its final report (Bryan 1891) did not settle the issue. Half a century later, the physicist/philosopher Bridgman still complained that there are almost as many formulations of the second law as there have been discussions of it (Bridgman 1941, p. 116). And even today, the Second Law remains so obscure that it continues to attract new efforts at clarification. (...) The historian of science and mathematician Truesdell made a detailed study of the historical development of thermodynamics in the period 1822-1854. He characterises the theory, even in its present state, as 'a dismal swamp of obscurity' (1980, p. 6) and 'a prime example to show that physicists are not exempt from the madness of crowds' (ibid. p. 8). (...) Clausius' verbal statement of the second law makes no sense.... All that remains is a Mosaic prohibition ; a century of philosophers and journalists have acclaimed this commandment ; a century of mathematicians have shuddered and averted their eyes from the unclean.... Seven times in the past thirty years have I tried to follow the argument Clausius offers... and seven times has it blanked and gravelled me.... I cannot explain what I cannot understand. (...) This summary leads to the question whether it is fruitful to see irreversibility or time-asymmetry as the essence of the second law. Is it not more straightforward, in view of the unargued statements of Kelvin, the bold claims of Clausius and the strained attempts of Planck, to give up this idea? I believe that Ehrenfest-Afanassjewa was right in her verdict that the discussion about the arrow of time as expressed in the second law of the thermodynamics is actually a red herring."
"From the pedagogical point of view, thermodynamics is a disaster. As the authors rightly state in the introduction, many aspects are "riddled with inconsistencies". They quote V.I. Arnold, who concedes that "every mathematician knows it is impossible to understand an elementary course in thermodynamics". Nobody has eulogized this confusion more colorfully than the late Clifford Truesdell. On page 6 of his book "The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics" 1822-1854 (Springer Verlag, 1980), he calls thermodynamics "a dismal swamp of obscurity". Elsewhere, in despair of trying to make sense of the writings of some local heros as De Groot, Mazur, Casimir, and Prigogine, Truesdell suspects that there is "something rotten in the (thermodynamic) state of the Low Countries" (see page 134 of Rational Thermodynamics, McGraw-Hill, 1969)."
Peter Woit: "As far as this stuff goes, we're now not only at John Horgan's "End of Science", but gone past it already and deep into something different."
Harry Kroto: "The wrecking of British science (...) The scientific method is based on what I prefer to call the inquiring mindset. It includes all areas of human thoughtful activity that categorically eschew "belief", the enemy of rationality. This mindset is a nebulous mixture of doubt, questioning, observation, experiment and, above all, curiosity, which small children possess in spades. I would argue that it is the most important, intrinsically human quality we possess, and it is responsible for the creation of the modern, enlightened portion of the world that some of us are fortunate to inhabit. Curiously, for the majority of our youth, the educational system magically causes this capacity to disappear by adolescence. (...) Do I think there is any hope for UK? I am really not sure."
"But instead of celebrating, physicists are in mourning after a report showed a dramatic decline in the number of pupils studying physics at school. The number taking A-level physics has dropped by 38% over the past 15 years, a catastrophic meltdown that is set to continue over the next few years. The report warns that a shortage of physics teachers and a lack of interest from pupils could mean the end of physics in state schools. Thereafter, physics would be restricted to only those students who could afford to go to posh schools. Britain was the home of Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Paul Dirac, and Brits made world-class contributions to understanding gravity, quantum physics and electromagnetism - and yet the British physicist is now facing extinction. But so what? Physicists are not as cuddly as pandas, so who cares if we disappear?"
Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond: "La science souffre d'une forte perte de crédit, au sens propre comme au sens figuré : son soutien politique et économique, comme sa réputation intellectuelle et culturelle connaissent une crise grave. [...] Il est peut-être trop tard. Rien ne prouve, je le dis avec quelque gravité, que nous soyons capables d'opérer aujourd'hui ces nécessaires mutations. L'histoire, précisément, nous montre que, dans l'histoire des civilisations, les grands épisodes scientifiques sont terminés... [...] Rien ne garantit donc que dans les siècles à venir, notre civilisation, désormais mondiale, continue à garder à la science en tant que telle la place qu'elle a eue pendant quelques siècles."
"Nous nous trouvons dans une période de mutation extrêmement profonde. Nous sommes en effet à la fin de la science telle que l'Occident l'a connue", tel est constat actuel que dresse Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond, physicien théoricien, épistémologue et directeur des collections scientifiques des Editions du Seuil."