Archive for October, 2006

Taking issue with String Theory

October 7, 2006

With the recent publication of Lee Smolin’s and Peter Woit’s books on the troubles of our theories of everything, every blogger in town seems to be talking about the crisis of modern fundamental physics (a.k.a. string theory and, so to speak, friends). Christine has just posted a list of recent posts on the subject. Like her, i’m reading Smolin’s book, courtesy of the publisher, and a review will eventually follow (once i find something to say about it that has not already been said!). In the meantime, i just wanted to add a few links to articles that i like on this pesky matter:

  • Jim’s Stab at String Theory is a very interesting discussion by Jim Weatherall on why it doesn’t really matters whether string theory is right. There you’ll find also a video interview with Peter Woit, by John Horgan (who is not specially happy with ST, either).
  • Among the free contents of the latest Physics Today issue, Burton Richter takes no prisoners when it comes to describe what’s wrong with all this super stuff.

I find Richter’s stabs, er, criticisms particularly compelling: his writing is clear and to the point, and his arguments are all but crisp and pungent. It’s curious that, by contrast, Smolin’s delicacy has actually augmented my curiosity on string theory (but i’m just halfway reading his book, so let’s better wait until i’m done).

On the other hand, i’m starting to be more and more in agreement with Weatherall’s arguments on the irrelevance of this whole business. At the very least, i’m trying to keep in mind that there’s arguably much more to fundamental physics than this debate. Maybe it’s time for some fresh air.

David Deutsch

October 1, 2006

DeutschI’ve just spent twenty minutes watching David Deutsch on TED Talks, a funny speech on our place in the universe (and what to do about that), by the author of The Fabric of Reality. I’ve not read his book, but, if his writing is as fresh as his speaking, i definitely should. Enjoy!

(A mostly unrelated but curious piece of trivia about David Deutsch: he’s also a Mac developer!)