Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

This Post is a Stub or String Conjecture?

Anyone who has visited enough Wikipedia articles has come across the phrase:

This article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

Wikipedia defines a stub as “an article that is too short to provide encyclopaedic coverage of the subject, but not so short as to provide no useful information.” While this definition may apply to many of the posts in this blog, the following post is based on a book I haven’t even read. I am including it to prevent the blog from going stale and to motivate me to read the book in question.

Recently, friends have been pointing me to Lee Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. Unlike Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science (at least I’m reading that one!), in which two physicists look outside their field to find scientific abuses, The Trouble With Physics is by a theoretical physicist identifying problems in his own field. Smolin, according to his Wikibio, is a apparently not a fan of string theory. In fact, the entry includes the following excerpt from his book:

The scenario of many unobserved universes plays the same logical role as the scenario of an intelligent designer. Each provides an untestable hypothesis that, if true, makes something improbable seem quite probable.

The Wikipedia entry on string theory includes a section called Problems and Controversy, which summarizes both the problem and controversy in its first sentence: “String theory remains to be confirmed.” Smolin’s book not only raises this point but also details the elements that led such a theory to gain such a strong foothold in the physics community.

According to those who have read it, The Trouble With Physics is at the very least a cautionary tale for those working in theoretical areas within science and engineering that their ideas should not lose touch with reality.

If you didn’t like this post, you can help me by commenting on it.


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