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Not Even Wrong, THE BOOK

  1. Aug 23, 2005 #1


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    Dearly Missed

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  3. Aug 23, 2005 #2


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    A roger penrose blurb on the front cover that is just two words:
    "Compulsive reading"

    and a new title (revised from what appeared in the Random House online catalog):

    The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics: NOT EVEN WRONG

    Woit kicks butt.
  4. Aug 23, 2005 #3
    I look forward to checking it out... except that I have so much reading to do, I don't know where to fit it in.

    I must say though that "compulsive reading" is a strange blurb to have on the book. It sounds vaguely pathological.
  5. Aug 23, 2005 #4


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    So the rumours of a film are true?
  6. Aug 23, 2005 #5


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    dammit Alejandro, put in a smiley when you say that!

    sometime your deadpan (pokerface) humor will cause a dreadful confusion.
    I or someone will actually believe something you suggest like a film version of N.E.W.

    I was referring to it as Not Even Wrong, the Book
    to distinguish it from Not Even Wrong, the Blog

    nowadays we have so many media options, besides the Blog and the Book we can have...I tried to list them and it just gets worse and worse.

    Not Even Wrong, the Quiz Program
    Not Even Wrong, the DocuDrama
    Not Even Wrong, the TV Serial
    Not Even Wrong, the Musical
    official Peter Woit and Lubos Motl action toys
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  7. Aug 23, 2005 #6
    when does the film come out?

  8. Aug 23, 2005 #7


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    I've already printed the jacket and put it up in the corrider! :smile:
  9. Aug 23, 2005 #8
    Do you know who's the intended target audience? The general public, non-specialists?
  10. Aug 23, 2005 #9


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    I gather the book has [EDIT: Peter says technical parts, not equations though], indicating that at least part of the intended audience would be
    OTHER physicists, not string theorists
    and also students in the sciences, particularly grad students
    like those Woit teaches at Columbia

    (he is in the Mathematics department and sometimes gets the job of teaching the graduate-level courses in Quantum Field Theory and Group Representation Theory---graduate level math courses for physics students)

    but it is complicated by the fact that the book was originally written for publication by Cambridge University Press
    (with a less provocative subtitle, more academic-sounding)

    then when he switched to a commercial publisher, they wanted him to get rid of [EDIT: the technical portions] (i.e. go for sales to the general audience)

    and he fought that and with Roger Penrose help he managed to keep the harder stuff in, but even so the commercial publisher insisted on changing the subtitle and putting in the provocative attention-getting "failure of string theory".

    So the answer is not clear-cut this or that. he wants other physicists, he wants an audience of scientists and university students, and he has not DUMBED DOWN the book, but he also wants general audience----and his publisher wants to promote the book so it will sell to general audience.

    Berislav, this is the best I can do by way of answer to your question----I don't have enough information and must be partly relying on guesswork.

    A good discussion of the background of the book, and the various changes of publisher and related decision, is at Woits blog
    see blog discussion:
    Look at Peter's original post, at the top, there
    I edited this in accordance with better information from PW in a post later on in this thread, that cleared up a misconception I had.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  11. Aug 23, 2005 #10


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    splendid girl!

    I think the book is going to be a hit on university campuses
  12. Aug 23, 2005 #11
    I think that this will be difficult to accomplish.

    As I gather from the title and his blog, Peter Woit wants to show that string theory can't predict anything. Demonstrating that a theory has no predictive character is much harder than showing that it is wrong. Finding a contradiction or lack of causality in a theory is relativly easy, mathematically and physically. But how does one show that it is fundamentally void of predictability? In any case, I will buy the book. I hope that prof. Woit has actually successed in his quest.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  13. Aug 23, 2005 #12

    why are there so many arrogant remarks being exchanged between peter and lubos ?

    I find it very unproffessional, and disrespectful.
  14. Aug 23, 2005 #13


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    I wish there were a scholarship fund to help scholars buy books, Berislav. The initial price is planned to be 50 USD. That is a lot for a beginning university student to spend.

    But remember what happened to the price of Penrose book. It was also expensive at first and it was promoted for sale to general public. therefore many adults bought this book to give as gift. then after about 6 months there was a big supply of the Penrose book USED. Now I think "Road to Reality" can be obtained SECOND-HAND quite inexpensively. So students can now buy it.

    BTW I didn't see Woit say that string theory can never be made predictive.
    If you find him making such extreme statements please POST A LINK!
    What I hear him objecting to mostly is that string is overemphasized in the US.
    Too much hype, too many (up til now) empty promises. He has been on the scene watching carefully for some 20 years (princeton harvard particle physics PhD, I dont remember the details) and knows a good many of the people.
    One can argue that it has been a bad investment, to concentrate resources in string, and that (at least in the US) it needs to be downsized. Physics departments need to diversify and provide more options for young researchers. If you find Peter claiming that string reseach programs should be actually eliminated, please let me know.

    I dont think he says that, or that it impossible to make a predictive stringy theory, but of course i could have missed something.
  15. Aug 23, 2005 #14
    but is the way they are behaving right in your opinion ?

    I constantly see arrogant remarks exchanged between them, just because they both disagree on each others theories ?
  16. Aug 23, 2005 #15
    Well I'm not willing to say being arrogant and disrespectful are "wrong" either. Maybe unproductive is something that can be agreed on?
  17. Aug 23, 2005 #16


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    I have found Peter Woit to be, on the whole, remarkably forbearing and polite, even when viciously attacked. So it would be interesting if you would find some quotes from him which you think are arrogant or lack courtesy.

    About Lubos, what you say is not news. he has a talent for a certain kind of verbal attack. There is no need to bring in samples---everybody is familiar with it. nothing can be done. Leonard Susskind, a string theorist, tried to quarrel with Lubos and make him take some word back. But in the end Susskind was humiliated and compelled to apologize and retreat. No one wants to quarrel with Lubos because he has a very sharp tongue.

    In my personal estimation, you misrepresent things by suggesting that it is an "exchange" of arrogance, as if the discourtesy were in some sense evenly balanced. But perhaps you can change my opinion by bringing in some new evidence.
  18. Aug 23, 2005 #17
    It could well be unproductive if both of their respective theories turn out to be wrong.

    But I don't understand why two grown men , are acting in such an unprofessional manner.
  19. Aug 23, 2005 #18


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    roger you have not given any evidence. you are accusing Peter Woit of unworthy behavior without giving any substantiation. I have to call you on this. Provide some quotes or retract your innuendo.
  20. Aug 23, 2005 #19
    sorry, you are correct. It was Lubos who was the one provoking him into arguments.
    But, even on this forum, I have experienced this kind of arrogant attitude from some members.

    What has Lubos done in physics by the way ?
  21. Aug 23, 2005 #20


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    Roger bless you! Thank you for exonorating Peter! I have seen him terribly insulted and still keep his cool. Now and then he may get huffy but he has real oldfashioned academic courtesy standards. I am so glad you took a second look and revised your opinion.

    In the end we have only each other's good opinion, so it matters.
    And fairness matters.

    yes of course, what you say about PF is true, nobody is perfect, but PF is actually pretty civilized. compared with some other boards. it has a "nice" culture which somehow got established by the agency of the people Greg chooses for mods. Or through independent efforts of some patient and civilized people. Or whatever reason.

    the occasional lapses into rudeness are not, I think, something to worry a lot about.
  22. Aug 23, 2005 #21
    True. It's a bit rich for my blood. I hope that Peter Woit will elaborate on his blog in the near future on the contents of his book. Perhaps it will be cheaper later, or second hand as you suggested.

    When I said fundamentally unable to make predictions I should haved added without significant modifications. I thought that it was implied. Sorry.
  23. Aug 23, 2005 #22


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    I see, well there seems to be some difference of opinion among string theorists as to whether the theories IN THEIR PRESENT STATE can make a falsifiable prediction

    if they (or it) can't make a prediction now then any modification that would lead to an unambiguous prediction would have to be considered SIGNIFICANT would it not?

    So if you are excluding significant modification, it would seem that you are talking about string theory in its present state, and whether it predicts anything.

    And you are absolutely right Berislav! Woit does say it isnt predictive at present and he will have to stand up and defend that. It will certainly be argued about. However fortunately for him there are some prominent string people who seem to agree with him about that.

    I cant really discuss this intelligently.

    But I would say that for you, you should study what you love and what fascinates you the most. I think that you can afford to ignore the arguments in the US around string theory. (these have to do with a power monopoly by a certain group, and gross overinvestment in a single research program, it would all be settled if the number of string research positions were cut in half in the US).

    If you love string theory, you should study it, and ignore what Peter
    Woit or Lee Smolin say about diversifying the support for US theory research. Don't let that stuff bother you. It will all eventually get worked out.

    I say this because i see you as potentially a mathematician. In mathematics it DOES NOT MATTER if there is no empirical contact with nature. An idea is intrinsically interesting and valuable and beautiful if it APPEARS SO to the talented and trained mathematician. It does not have to be tested against nature.

    If you are a mathematician, then YOU CANNOT LOSE if you study the most mathematically interesting things that you are capable of studying.

    I am not complimenting you. What I say is neutral in that regard. I am advising you not to be disturbed by the present trouble that string theory seems to be in, and to ignore the bitter arguments

    study what you find yourself wondering about at night when you go to sleep and then you wake up in the morning having discovered a new way to look at it. no matter if it is string or non-string. this even works for homework problems as you may have discovered :smile:
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  24. Aug 23, 2005 #23
    A bit more about the book: I was trying to write something that both a general audience interested in math and physics as well as professional mathematicians and physicists would be able to get something out of. There aren't really any equations, but some of the sections are rather technical. It was a very interesting exercise to see how much one could explain about some of these highly technical topics without using equations. The book was written before Penrose's appeared and showed that it was possible to get a wide audience for a book with equations. Knowing this was possible, I might have made a different choice and used equations in some sections.

    Unfortunately people who know a lot about the subjects I'm writing about may at times find the lack of equations and the attempt to make things accessible to as wide an audience as possible to be kind of frustrating. We'll see. If there's interest I might write up some elaborations of some sections in more detail, with equations, and make these available via the weblog or something.

    As far as I know, a deal with a U.S. publisher hasn't yet been made, so certainly the U.S. price of the book hasn't been set. But as far as I'm aware, the intention of Cape and of whoever publishes in the U.S. will be to market the book as a popular science book like many others around these days, and the pricing should be in line with other such books. The book is not especially long, maybe 250 or so pages.

    About predictivity. Current versions of string theory based unification are not predictive. One can't say for certain that no unified theory involving strings will ever be predictive, but prospects don't look promising to me.

    Marcus: thanks for the kind words. I do my best to keep my cool, even under quite a lot of provocation. Not that I always succeed....

  25. Aug 24, 2005 #24
    This book could actually be the catalyst that "snaps" the String!

    Stringtheorists have motioned themselves into breaking point, by their own doing. As Stringtheory has become more and more extended, weaving into more complex and mathematically obstruse arena's, the "string" has become "thread", and the "thread" has become longer, changed into "wool", the "wool" has been knitted and knotted into M-'any' Jumpers and Pulovers garment.

    These Garments have been worn and tried on by many, sometime's a new theorist appears before an audience, parading his/her new garment, like a model at a parisienne fashion show. When someone from the audience asks a simple question:How much does it cost?..and will it protect me from the storm?..is it "weather-proof"?..the garment designer usually retort's..its Expensive..It's elitist..and it is not for you, you are of the "mostly-wrong" type of user, these Garments are for only, who understand Fashion!

    Woits Book may well provide enough tension, to snap any String!
  26. Aug 24, 2005 #25


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    Who knows, Spin_Network?
    you and I have not seen the book. we had better not have any big expectations one way or another. it may accomplish much or it may not. the situation of physics (and perhaps also the Baconian scientific tradition) calls for more than one book and more than one courageous voice. this may be one of the needed books.

    we know Peter intends that. he is serious.

    BTW I think more people should learn to read German. It is a good language. And I was thinking about Peter and about Berislav and about seriousness. In Peter's case it is a moral and intellectual seriousness. In Berislav case one feels it but doesn't know what kind it might be---still too young. I decided that in honor of Peter announcing publication of his book I would post a Rilke poem in German, which I translate in a way that preserves some of the original rhyme and music:

    Rainer Maria Rilke
    Gott spricht zu jedem nur eh er ihn macht

    God speaks to each of us before we are,
    before he forms us — then, in cloudy speech,
    but only then, he speaks these words to each
    and silently walks with us from the dark:

    Driven by your senses, dare
    to the edge of longing. Grow,
    like a fire's shadowcasting glare,
    projecting Things, so you can spread
    their shapes on me as clothes
    lest I be bare.

    Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
    Simply go — no feeling is too much —
    and only this way can we stay in touch.

    Near here is the land that they call Life.
    You'll know when you arrive, because it's serious.
    Give me your hand.


    Gott spricht zu jedem nur eh er ihn macht,
    dann geht er schweigend mit ihm aus der Nacht.
    Aber die Worte, eh jeder beginnt,
    diese wolkigen Worte, sind:

    Von deinen Sinnen hinausgesandt
    geh bis an deiner Sehnsucht Rand;
    gieb mir Gewand.
    Hinter den Dingen wachse als Brand,
    dass ihre Schatten, ausgespannt,
    immer mich ganz bedecken.

    Lass dir Alles geschehn: Schönheit und Schrecken.
    Man muss nur gehn: Kein Gefühl ist das fernste.
    Lass dich von mir nicht trennen.

    Nah ist das Land, das sie das Leben nennen.
    Du wirst es erkennen an seinem Ernste.
    Gieb mir die Hand.

    Last edited: Aug 24, 2005
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