String Theory

by Honolulu Mother

String theory has always had the problem of being essentially unfalsifiable. I’ve wondered myself if it’s just particle physics’s version of epicycles. Thus, I was very intrigued by the suggestion in this Atlantic article on string theory (I know, that reputed science journal, the Atlantic) that insofar as string theory produces testable hypotheses, they’re being borne out:

Using the physical intuition offered by strings, physicists produced a powerful formula for getting the answer to the embedded sphere question, and much more. “They got at these formulas using tools that mathematicians don’t allow,” Córdova said. Then, after string theorists found an answer, the mathematicians proved it on their own terms. “This is a kind of experiment,” he explained. “It’s an internal mathematical experiment.” Not only was the stringy solution not wrong, it led to Fields Medal-winning mathematics. “This keeps happening,” he said.

Do you have an opinion on string theory, or any other cutting edge field of science? Or failing that, do you support the level of public spending necessary to, say, prove the existence of the long-predicted Higgs-Boson particle?

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69 thoughts on “String Theory

  1. As a general proposition, the more you know about something, the more time and/or effort it takes to discover or prove something new in that same area. I believe that public spending should go towards (1) activities that benefit our society even if that is by expanding our understanding by proving a theory, and (2) activities that do not show (at this point) a direct path to a profit-making product or service. If there is a direct path to profits, I think the private sector will jump in to fund the research or development.

    I like to read about the new discoveries, but I don’t know enough about them to have a discussion. I did enjoy reading the book about why Pluto shouldn’t be a planet.

  2. HM, there’s a reason I stopped in my education where I did, and talk to my fellow math camp girl with a boy and then twin boys within two years about child rearing and not her PhD in string theory.

    From the blog of a guy I’ve never met but I’m pretty sure I sat next to at an astronaut lecture at the local university, I bring you a quote.
    “The part of the book I found most interesting was the part which tells how the string theorists were scammed by Nature (or Mathematics). Of course, Smolin doesn’t put it exactly like this, but imagine the following conversation.

    String theorists: We’ve got the Standard Model, and it works great, but it doesn’t include gravity, and it doesn’t explain lots of other stuff, like why all the elementary particles have the masses they do. We need a new, broader theory.

    Nature: Here’s a great new theory I can sell you. It combines quantum field theory and gravity, and there’s only one adjustable parameter in it, so all you have to do is find the right value of that parameter, and the Standard Model will pop right out.

    String theorists: We’ll take it.

    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, our new theory won’t fit into our driveway. String theory has ten dimensions, and our driveway only has four.

    Nature: I can sell you a Calabi-Yau manifold. These are really neat gadgets, and they’ll fold up string theory into four dimensions, no problem.

    String theorists: We’ll take one of those as well, please.

    Nature: Happy to help.

    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, there’s too many different ways to fold our Calabi-Yao manifold up. And it keeps trying to come unfolded. And string theory is only compatible with a negative cosmological constant, and we own a positive one.

    Nature: No problem. Just let me tie this Calabi-Yao manifold up with some strings and branes, and maybe a little duct tape, and you’ll be all set.

    String theorists: But our beautiful new theory is so ugly now!

    Nature: Ah! But the Anthropic Principle says that all the best theories are ugly.

    String theorists: It does?

    Nature: It does. And once you make it the fashion to be ugly, you’ll ensure that other theories will never beat you in beauty contests.

    String theorists: Hooray! Hooray! Look at our beautiful new theory.

    More at
    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/search?q=string+theory

    and the seminal book on the topic appears to be “The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next” by Lee Smolin

    I live in a world that may or may not be accurately described by string theory with the same calm ignorance that I grow babies in my uterus.

  3. Definitely off topic and I’m sorry, unless you are being very liberal today, HM, in your term ” cutting edge field of science”.

    Finn, thank you so much for pointing me to that article on the new Continental! I am now positively drooling. I think, however, prudence would be to wait a year to see if any bugs in the car develop. And I have a little bit of time. The Villages are still 3-1/2 years off for me.

    But I love that car, and I’m eager to go see one. I know one is in my future. I will have everyone wondering what insurance company I worked for for 40 years!

  4. Wait, where’s the article about the Continental?

    In general, I support scientific research. I have no opinion about string theory, but if I need an opinion, I can ask either my stepson or my ex-boyfriend. Then I’ll just go around repeating whatever they said.

  5. HM – It has many years since in friendly conversation (as this is) I encountered a reference to the concept of falsification (philosophy of science – Sir Karl Popper if anyone wants to google it). And I confess I have never had any one outside my first field of study refer to epicycles, unless they had just seen a PBS special. You have made my day.

  6. I am the kid of a particle physicist, and have known people who did research in string theory. Yet, I don’t have the faintest clue what it is about. I have always felt (and this drove my father bananas), that physics veers perilously close to religion sometimes. I don’t mean that it is dogmatic or faith driven. Rather, I mean that the things physicists think about are sort of like the question addressed by religion – you know, the deep “how did we come to be here, what is the universe all about” kinds of questions. And maybe we were never meant to get answers to those questions. Maybe as soon as we get close with a theory, God laughs and yanks the rug back a little.

    Physics is also deeply intertwined with mathematics – a world that most mathematicians DO consider close to religion. I don’t think you can truly understand any theory in physics without the math. It isn’t a question of understanding on the surface vs knowing the weeds. Rather, without the math, we can’t begin to comprehend the reasoning process that led to the theory. It is like black magic

  7. on the weirdities of the intersection between math and religion : some national Catholic school organization has developed new academic standards that are supposed to be better than Common Core. I was reading about this in Education Week. One of the math standards states that students will “display a sense of wonder about mathematical relationships as well as confidence in mathematical certitude.”
    Um, this is supposed to be better than Common Core? It reminds me of the assignment my DS1 had to complete in 7th grade, back in pre-Common Core days, in which he had to do a journal of his feelings about math. Maybe he should have written about “wonder” and “certitude”

  8. Mooshi – “certitude” – in my kids cases it means that they *know* the answer they came up with is correct, the teacher is terribly wrong and has the nerve to take points off.

  9. One of the math standards states that students will “display a sense of wonder about mathematical relationships as well as confidence in mathematical certitude.”

    Okay, that verges on creepy. What worshipful attitudes am I supposed to have about social studies or Spanish?

  10. I am so unqualified to comment on today’s subject matter; my understanding of these theories is at the “hey, these are words I’ve heard before!” level. My gut says that when you get into the kind of theoretical spiral WCE describes, it should be a clue you’re on the wrong track (I am reminded of all of the exceptions to the exceptions scientists had to make to explain why the cosmos orbited around the earth as better data was developed). But I have no actual substantive knowledge to support that feeling or determine whether it applies here. Honestly, the article made it sound like this is just an argument about language — that “string theory” as originally defined is wrong, but we keep translating individual pieces of it into different areas and still calling it “string theory” because we’ve never been able to come up with a better word for it.

    I completely support underwriting this kind of research. As far as I can tell, at some point the sun is going to die out, most likely first swallowing the earth in a supernova, or maybe just sort of petering out. In either case, life on earth will cease to exist, so we’d better have solved the problems of interstellar travel well before then or pfft, it’s all gone and done. Ergo, anything that moves us closer to that goal is a good thing.

  11. Hey the peanut butter jelly sandwiches I ate as a child were paid for my public funding of particle physics research!!!!

  12. DH tried to make me watch a documentary on string theorists once. I made it about 8 minutes in and then started playing Candy Crush. That is all I have to contribute to today’s topic. :)

  13. L, we watched a documentary on the pioneers of semiconductors recently, and all of us enjoyed it!

  14. Mooshi, I am completely unshocked that you are the daughter of a particle physicist but I didn’t remember that.

  15. “do you support the level of public spending necessary to, say, prove the existence of the long-predicted Higgs-Boson particle”

    No. I’d rather the funds be directed towards social services, foster care, domestic abuse victims, improving anti-poverty programs, etc.

  16. I have always felt (and this drove my father bananas), that physics veers perilously close to religion sometimes.

    They are both looking to answer the same question.

  17. It’s always a tough call to balance spending in different categories, but I think we should always be spending *something* on this kind of research. But how much we should be spending, now that’s another question . . . So few of us have any kind of intuitive grasp on the size of the federal budget or where most of the spending goes, so it’s hard to put what may seem like a large dollar figure for a particular research project into perspective.

    I am reminded of all of the exceptions to the exceptions scientists had to make to explain why the cosmos orbited around the earth as better data was developed

    aka epicycles ;-)

  18. No. I’d rather the funds be directed towards social services, foster care, domestic abuse victims, improving anti-poverty programs, etc.

    Where would we be if people thought like you? Yeh Maxwell*, your theories are great but what practical purpose could they serve?

    *His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon.

    Electricity, bah humbug!

  19. I am pro-spending on medical research and different types of technology that are useful. But Higgs Boson? Not so much. That said, I know next to nothing about string theory, so I am a poor judge of its usefulness.

  20. Houston, I’ve got to agree with Rhett here. The usefulness of the theoretical stuff doesn’t become apparent until decades after the work was done, but without the theoretical stuff, there would never have been anything there in the first place for those later tinkerers and engineers to start playing around with practical applications of.

  21. I always imagine scientists jumping out of their bathtubs shouting “Eureka”, while the rest of us, think mundane thoughts such as what’s for dinner or worse – do I have to cook dinner today. So even if I can’t see or understand a lot of the science, I would dedicate funding (not sure how much) to it.

  22. Turing did lots of pishposhy work in theoretical mathematics, which of course ended up not only being the foundational underpinnings of computers, but also led to his work in WWII breaking the Enigma code and possibly shortening the duration of that war. So, you never know what theoretical scientific work might lead to

  23. Louise said “I always imagine scientists jumping out of their bathtubs shouting “Eureka”,”

    Trust me, they don’t. Physicists are some of the most boring, mundane people ever. They go to their kids soccer games, grouse about their students, and watch football on TV.

  24. “aka epicycles ;-)”

    Thus proving my initial contention that I am completely unqualified to opine on the subject matter involved. :-)

  25. different types of technology that are useful.

    They didn’t discover radio waves and then Maxwell came up with a theory to explain them. Maxwell came up with the theory and people like Heinrich Hertz went looking for the waves. Maxwell predicted their existence 20 years before Hertz proved their existance.

  26. Houston,

    There are four fundamental forces in the universe: the strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism and gravity. Our mastery of electromagnetism is what our modern civilization is based on.

    We don’t have a good theoretical understanding of gravity.

    Do you think a mastery of gravity might be useful?

    Physicists aren’t using mechanical wizardry to discover gravitons just yet, however. Efforts are currently focused on confirming the existence of the Higgs boson, which is the graviton’s distant cousin particle responsible for giving matter mass.

  27. Houston — although I disagree with you on research spending, I’m glad you’re here making that side of the argument as we wouldn’t be able to have any kind of discussion if everyone agreed!

  28. Thus proving my initial contention that I am completely unqualified to opine on the subject matter involved. :-)

    The epicycles thing is a famous example from Thomas Nagel’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The book isn’t hard to read, but who has time or the attention span? The wikipedia article covers the basics. You are probably familiar with the general thesis that science is a progression (or perhaps merely a series of changes) in paradigms, and one paradigm replaces the next when it answers more questions, has greater predictive reliability, greater coherence, greater cogency, and greater elegance/simplicity (and no I can’t remember the difference between coherence and cogency, it’s been decades. Leave me alone).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions

  29. Rhett: Great summary. I suppose you and everyone else on this board are correct.

    Honolulu: One day we will meet, and you will understand how ironic my argument is. : )

  30. Quote attributed to Isaac Asimov:

    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’

  31. OT: has anyone got a good book or movie recommendation for younger kids on the inclusion of kids with special needs? One of mine has a nonverbal child in the classroom and I’m trying to find a good way to explain why that child is different and how I want my child to treat the nonverbal one. The school recommended a Todd Parr book but I need more than the “some people have red hair, some people have blue eyes” approach.

  32. I loved quantum mechanics but could never wrap my head around string theory, so I think it’s wrong :). I hope you all appreciate my in-depth analysis.

    The amount we spend as a society on superconducting supercolliders is probably dwarfed by what we spend on psychics and astrologists. Sigh.

  33. “we watched a documentary on the pioneers of semiconductors recently, and all of us enjoyed it!”

    What was it? Sounds like something my family might enjoy.

  34. “They go to their kids soccer games, grouse about their students, and watch football on TV.”

    So is Big Bang Theory inaccurate? Those guys don’t have kids, and I don’t think they watch football on TV.

  35. “Wait, where’s the article about the Continental?”

    9:13pm on yesterday’s open thread.

  36. Sky, I don’t have a book recommendation, but would it help to take note of people you see who have physical limitations and discuss how that might feel? Also, the show To The BestOf Our Knowledge recentlyndid a show on something related to that. I was only half listening, but I recall a woman in a wheelchair telling how much it irritated her when people leap to do something for her that she can do herself, and then probably get in her way. You can find it on TTBOOK.org

    On topic, that Asimov quote has long been a favorite of mine and i agree with Houston’s first comment, Sure, messing around and experimenting with things can yield unexpected benefits, or fun problems like “now that we’ve got graphene, what should we do with it?” But the amounts of money put into it are staggering. Instead of worrying about interstellar travel or colonizing Mars so the wealthy have some place to go when we’ve made this planet uninhabitable, let’s direct some of that money towards the things Houston me tionex. There will still be lots of other scientific research possible. And of course, the humanities should also be funded, as developing ways to clone people or blow stuff up or whatever always bring questions about if and when thtmis a good idea. Engineers are famous for taking zero responsibility for the effects of their creatiions, and I expect many scientists are cut from that cloth as well.

  37. “Engineers are famous for taking zero responsibility for the effects of their creatiions, and I expect many scientists are cut from that cloth as well.”

    This is something I’ve thought about, especially when I was on a committee that, among other things, reviewed the curriculum at my alma mater.

    A lot of the problem is trying to balance general education requirements that might delve into this sort of thing with trying to provide what many consider a basic engineering education. WCE and I have discussed here how those engineering requirements typically mean no foreign language (or non-foreign non-English language) requirements engineering students.

    SM, does your DS have a chance to participate in debate? If you’re concerned about that sort of thinking, you might consider encouraging his participation. Debate seems to push kids into thinking about this sort of thing.

  38. Yeah, I got nothing to say here. I can side with Houston about meeting more immediate needs but since I know so little about this science and how it can be usefully applied I’m not sure I’m qualified to have a strong opinion either way. I do however support legislation to limit the use of “Reply All” in email exchanges and harsh penalties for those who violate it.

  39. Finn, whatever my kid does, I hope it connects up with his love of children and baby animals, maybe pediatric bioengineering. He requested a debate-type elective for this year, but didn’t get it. He likes the idea of being a lawyer because “you get paid to argue” but hasn’t really decided between a STEMy career or something closer to the humanities. Today he horrified me by saying he doesn’t care if the chocolate he eats is fair trade or made by slave labor, because he isn’t directly affect him–maybe he’ll go into business! 😱

  40. Finn, I don’t think so. They had an extracurricular fair at lunch. I expect my son would have picked it if he’d had the option.

  41. WCE and I have discussed here how those engineering requirements typically mean no foreign language (or non-foreign non-English language) requirements engineering students.

    The requirements are pretty useless to the students in the majors that have them anyway. At my alma mater, the requirement is that you have to take through the fourth semester level of a language. That is not enough to achieve any kind of fluency, and unless you continue to use the language regularly, you lose it very quickly.

    I know someone will now chime in with all the benefits of studying a language even if you never end up using it and forget it all.

  42. Finn, I grew up around physics postdocs at national labs ( Big Bang Theory is set at Caltech which is similar – my father never was there though he did spend some summers at SRI). My father was a postdoc untiil I was 8. I never met any physics postdocs that were much liek the guys on Big Bang Theory. For one thing, virtually all of the postdocs I can remember were married with kids., They all hated Star Trek, the early Star Wars, and science fiction in general. Most of them were into things that proved their manhood – mountain climbing and wilderness trekking were very popular. Bike racing. One guy, who was on the team that discovered the actual big bang, built his own harpsichords, drove a Porsche, and did high tech skiing. They watched a lot of college sports on TV. They pretended to be into good wine but secretely drank Hudepohl beer, The ones from India had us over all the time for meals, which we loved because we could sit on the floor when we ate, and the spices smelled so good. It was notning like Big Bang Theory

  43. “Today he horrified me by saying he doesn’t care if the chocolate he eats is fair trade or made by slave labor, because he isn’t directly affect him–maybe he’ll go into business! ”

    SM – just like anything else, business isn’t bad or unethical by itself. Also, it was and has become more of a trend to do good with the profits you earned, so there’s that aspect as well. My father was a small business owner and maybe I just grew up around that (like Mooshi grew up around scientists), so perhaps I don’t see it that way.

  44. “Engineers are famous for taking zero responsibility for the effects of their creatiions, and I expect many scientists are cut from that cloth as well.”

    Are business majors any different? Actuarial science majors? Or communications majors? Most of the students I meet in many fields do not appear to be thinking too hard about ethical issues.

    For ABET accreditation, computer science programs must teach a course in ethics. I don’t know if that is true for other ABET accredited programs

  45. Business majors I am sure take multiple courses in ethics, social responsibility etc.

    At work more and more ethics courses, mandatory regulatory training which increases every year.

  46. At our school, everyone has to take 3 courses in Catholic theology. Most kids end up taking Catholic Marriage andf something else that is called. I think, Catholic Living. The courses are utterly detested by everyone. I doubt it does anything for a sense of “responsibility for the effects of their creations”.

    I am just really tired of the stereotype that engineers and scientists don’t think about ethics, but everyone else does. It just isn’t true. Most of the scientists I have known in my life cared deeply about social issues like poverty and the environment. As a kid, I knew physics grad students who were involved in anti Vietnam war work, and later on, anti nuclear weapon protests. I knew scientists who would not work on DoD money because of their concerns, and others who did because they believed in a strong defense. Everyone I knew thought about where they stood on these issues. There was always a lot of discussion of social issues when they got together for parties and picnics. Some of the scientists we knew were Mormons who did volunteer work for their church. There was one guy who was a Mennonite (not all Mennonites shun modern life) who went on mission work.

    And many software developers contribute their time to volunteering on humanitarian open source projects. They build web systems for food banks, or work on software for post disaster relief coordination, or on systems that track disease outbreaks.

    The image of scientists as cold technocrats is just wrong. They are mainly pretty normal people, no better or worse than lawyers or accountants.

  47. And just to add on to this – one of my best friends is a professor at a different school who is an Orthodox Jew. He is deeply religious and goes to Brooklyn once a week to study with a rabbi. He goes to Israel every year with his family to do volunteer work there. And his research work involves parsing medical vocabularies, an area he chose specifically because he felt it makes a difference.

    There are certainly engineers and scientists who have no sense of ethics and just take the money without worrying what they are doing. There are also lots of lawyers who are like that, and lots of marketing people who are like that, and even nurses and teachers who really don’t care. It is pretty much the same all over.

  48. Our ethics class in law school was almost useless – all about the exceptions to privilege. The MBE was similar – the trick was to pick the SECOND most ethical answer. The most ethical answer was never the correct one.

  49. “Most of them were into things that proved their manhood” — This makes total sense. I think “geek culture” is a relatively new thing — even when I was in school (which I am pretty sure was after Mooshi’s dad), the nerds were the ones who got beat up. Routinely. So if course if you are in a geek line of work, you’d develop excellent cover. “A Boy Named Sue” and all.

    @Ethics: Boy, this is a whole post. I will second L’s comment that law school ethics were useless – easy to say “just” do XYZ when you’ve never set foot in private practice. But the reality is in law, the real “ethics” issues are more structural — in the vast majority of cases, people aren’t arguing about conflicts of interest (90% of legal ethics), or even about bad actors like the guy who steals his client’s money. It’s about access to legal services (e.g., companies can afford better lawyers than 99.99% of individuals), the extent to which we should provide good legal representation to bad people (e.g., is there a difference between Perry Mason, standing up for the falsely-accused little guy, and the guy who defended Jeffrey Dahmer?), and the like.

    The “business ethics” issue is one reason I am in favor of more — and clearer — regulation. Business — capitalism — is fundamentally amoral (not immoral). Asking business people to behave “ethically” — e.g., to choose not to sell a particular product that they can legally sell — means that you are asking that business to choose to be less competitive and lower profits, which in turn will likely “reward” management with new jobs (at other companies) and shareholder lawsuits (because the ownership didn’t maximize the value of the stock). Sure, maybe one business can find a niche by holding itself to a higher standard — but so long as there is still a demand out there for whatever the “bad” stuff is, some other business will say “thank you very much” and be happy to fill that gap. If you want/expect businesses to act ethically, you can’t penalize those who do. We as a society need to determine what is acceptable and what isn’t, and then make the playing field level for everyone by writing that into the law.

    With respect to scientific exploration, I really need to go back to the earlier point that you will never know at the beginning how human creativity will develop new ideas. Much of our current “civilian” advances were developed initially in military applications, and vice-versa. At one point, DH was working on non-lethal alternatives for crowd control; it was funded by the military for use of its forces when serving a “peacekeeping” role, but how many Black men would be alive now if traffic cops had that option on their belt? At the same time, he also worked on a project that was using existing civilian tech to provide better mapping/planning/communication abilities, so soldiers in the field could better spot their targets. Etc. ad infinitum.

    Which is why I am in favor of scientific exploration in general. You can’t define certain lines of pure scientific inquiry as “ethical” and some as not (you can define some *mechanisms* as nonethical, e.g., research on humans, but you can’t say that the subject matter of the research itself is inherently unethical). You just have to pursue it within a framework that evaluates and safeguards ethical uses of that information to the extent possible. The alternative is to say, ok, scientific exploration is bad, because the research might lead to bad things. Fine, but (a) that is fundamentally contrary to the human drive to create and invent, and (b) that means foregoing all of the benefits that you might achieve as well. A/k/a “let’s go back to the Dark Ages.” No thanks.

  50. Geesh, with all the joking people dish out about prioritizing anything higher than money in choosing a career or majoring in Women’s Studies, Art History, and other humanities subjects, you’d think they’d be able to take it a little better.

    And Mooshi, doing volunteer work does absolutely nothing to change the way engineers are taught to see social/moral concerns as external to the problem they are dealing with.

  51. Laura, I didn’t see anyone arguing that certain technologies or discoveries are inherently moral and others are not. That depends on how they are used–which is why we need people whose primary job focus is thinking about ethics.

  52. Update: the only thing my phone needed was for the charging port to be cleaned out. They did it for free. What a blessing!

    Now I’m motivated to bring them an old crashed laptop to see if they can’t recover the photos.

  53. That depends on how they are used–which is why we need people whose primary job focus is thinking about ethics.

    I disagree. The last thing we need is people making decisions who don’t feel the impact of the decisions they make. Of course, if these people are just thinking about ethics, they can do whatever their employer wants them to do.

  54. the accreditation standard for engineering programs has a list of key outcomes, and one of them is “(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility”. ABET outcomes have teeth – to get accredited, you have to show with great specificness how your courses map to these outcomes. This is in addition to whatever social issues type courses that engineering students take in the general ed core. Is it enough? Probably not, but it is also pretty much in line with what business students, music students, law students, allied health students, art history students and so on get. I just don’t see anything that fundamentally differentiates engineering from other fields in this respect.
    And why would engineering types be bothered to volunteer if they weren’t thinking about social issues?

  55. I think engineering ethics depend more on systems (risk analysis and decisions about what to pay for; priorities in business and government) than on the ethics of individuals. Profits are also a factor- in my opinion, the petroleum industry safety lapses in the ’90’s were strongly related to low oil prices. The uncompromisingly ethical petroleum engineers didn’t remain employed.

    I think medical ethics considers how to promote ethical behavior in systems but I don’t know that, say, geostructural engineering has had those same thoughts. I’m going to an earthquake lecture in a couple weeks and the hard part of geostructural engineering ethics is knowing how much risk to take, vs. the cost of mitigating risk. No matter what is done, some people will die in the event of a tragedy, and those people, not the 95% of people who don’t die who would have died in a less developed country, will be the focus of attention.

  56. WCE said ” the hard part of geostructural engineering ethics is knowing how much risk to take, vs. the cost of mitigating risk.”
    But isn’t that a core ethical question? The same question is important for medical ethics too. Which class of patients should we spend the most money on? How much risk should we allow when approving new drugs. Cost-benefit analyses abound within ethical questions.

  57. “the way engineers are taught to see social/moral concerns as external to the problem they are dealing with.”

    I wasn’t taught that.

  58. Denver, I’m glad you enjoy your profession. It sounds like you and i have opposite idea about what the good parts of medicine are.

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