Week246: What does John Baez have to say about TWP and NEW?

  • Thread starter ccdantas
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In summary: John Baez takes over summarizing the conversation. In summary, John Baez suggests that physics may need a new approach and that Smolin and Woit's books provide some of this new approach. He believes that all the debates around these books have been done before, but that the message is still important.
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  • #2
Always delightful to hear you chime in, cc. John Baez is my hero. He explains things in terms even a dimwit like I can grasp.
 
  • #3
It's a kind of unusual post from Baez, a comment to the effect that physics really is in trouble and needs a new approach. But who knows what it is.

My feeling is that if you can't explain the basic underlying principle of your theory to a high school student, it may not be wrong, but it will not be the final theory.
 
  • #4
CarlB said:
My feeling is that if you can't explain the basic underlying principle of your theory to a high school student, it may not be wrong, but it will not be the final theory.
A great thought! :approve:
I think I will cite it sometime and somewhere.

There is also a similar one (I am not sure who said that, but it was somebody famous, perhaps Einstein):
If you cannot explain a theory to a layman, then you do not really understand that theory.
 
  • #5
John Baez is one of the best expositors I can think of (and, of course, a leading mathematical physicist).

One thing that I also found out is that he is a very patient and attentive person. I've been drawing figures for his quantization and cohomology course and from this process I have learned a lot from him.

Yes, I also think this particular TWF unusual. A lot has been said and written about these books for a while now and I believe it is the first time he openly writes something about them.

I think all that he wrote is reasonable, mainly:

- "(...) casual observers must have gotten the impression that physics was always on the brink of a Theory of Everything... but mysteriously never reaching it. These books correct that impression."

- "It's true there's no obviously better theory than string theory. Loop quantum gravity, in particular, has problems that are just as serious as string theory. But, the "only game in town" argument is still flawed."

- "If everyone pursues the same approach, we'll all succeed or fail together - and chances are we'll fail. The reason for backing some risk takers is that it "diversifies our portfolio". It reduces overall risk by increasing the chance that someone will succeed."

These are the main messages of the books by Smolin and, as far as I can tell, by Woit (I didn't read the latter). All this has been said and debated endlessly elsewhere, but it's nice to read them from John Baez, who has this great capacity of explaining things so that anyone can understand.

Christine
 

What is TWP and NEW?

TWP stands for The World of Physics, a popular physics blog run by physicist and mathematician John Baez. NEW stands for Not Even Wrong, a blog that focuses on theoretical physics and mathematics.

How did Baez become involved with TWP and NEW?

Baez started TWP in 2006 as a way to share his love for physics and mathematics with a wider audience. He later joined forces with mathematician Peter Woit to create NEW in 2004.

What topics are covered on TWP and NEW?

TWP and NEW cover a wide range of topics in physics and mathematics, including quantum mechanics, general relativity, string theory, and more. Baez and Woit also often discuss current events and controversies in the field.

Who is the target audience for TWP and NEW?

The target audience for TWP and NEW is anyone with an interest in physics and mathematics. Baez and Woit aim to make complex concepts and theories accessible to a general audience through their writing.

Are there any other notable contributors to TWP and NEW?

Yes, Baez and Woit often feature guest posts from other experts in the field of physics and mathematics. Some of the most notable contributors include mathematician Terry Tao and physicist Luboš Motl.

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