I just noticed (hat tip Not even wrong) that Alain Connes has made available his book on non-commutative geometry, one of the third roads to quantum gravity. Not an easy reading, by any account, but surely an interesting one. Not only that. He’s also making available (in his downloads page) most of his recent articles and lecture notes, which make for an impressive list. A very interesting and enjoyable reading i’ve found there is Connes’ highly original View of Mathematics (PDF), which makes for a good introduction to NCG. And there is also a brief essay, Advice to the beginner, where, besides guidelines to young mathematicians, Connes gives his particular view of the physics community:
I was asked to write some advice for young mathematicians. The first observation is that each mathematician is a special case, and in general mathematicians tend to behave like “fermions” i.e. avoid working in areas which are too trendy whereas physicists behave a lot more like “bosons” which coalesce in large packs and are often “overselling” their doings, an attitude which mathematicians despise.
The bit about overselling rings a bell, doesn’t it?
The interview also contains quite a few amusing stories. In one of them Connes tells about a well-known string theorist who walked out of his talk at Chicago because he wasn’t very interested, but two years later was paying rapt attention to the same talk when Connes gave it at Oxford. When Connes asked him about this, the physicist told him that the difference was that in the meantime he had heard that Witten had been seen reading Connes’s book in the library at Princeton.