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Occam's Razor

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on October 22, 2002 23:12:50 UTC

Do I have a better theory worked out? No, I left physics decades ago. But Newton has already been proven wrong at relativistic speeds and near very massive bodies. So which is simpler: to imagine that one law of physics needs tweaking (it has been tweaked before, after all), or to invent whole new categories of matter that obey laws of physics that are (besides gravity) entirely unknown to us? Should we believe that hordes of boogey men exist? Dark matter equals boogey men. Occam's razor applies here.
And there are alternate theories. I recall an article some months back in one of the popular science magazines (Discover, perhaps) explaining one such theory that has been published in the professional literature. I discarded the magazine, so I'm not sure which it was. In any case, I'm not making this up myself--it is debated in the professional literature as well.
So, are huge amounts of invisible boogey men really simpler than assuming that we need to tweak Newton and Einstein again?
Of course, a century ago, before nuclear forces were understood at all, physicists who thought that the Sun shone from the heat of an undiscovered energy source were heretics. Gravitational collapse provided the Sun's energy, the accepted theory went, and therefore the Solar system couldn't be billions of years old. Nuclear energy was the boogey man then. So maybe back then I would have laughed at the boogey men, too, and I would have been wrong.

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