More Scenes From the Storm in a Teacup, I

Aaron Bergman has written an extensive review of Peter Woit’s attack-book on string theory. I’ll let you read the thoughtfully written 11-page pdf document linked there. I think that Aaron deserves some sort of medal or other award for making the effort. Peter responded here.

Note from the title that this post is part I of II. Part I was to be a quick rundown of my thoughts on the recent Science Friday program featuring a head-to-head between Brian Greene and Lee Smolin over string theory research. I never finished writing it. I’ll try again in a day or two, and make it part II of this.

You can pretty much tell from the title of this post what I’m going to say. This is all just mostly media-inflated nonsense, which will continue for some time. In case it is not obvious why, I’ll summarise my reasons for saying this (again) in that post.

Summer has ended for me. Tons of stuff to do during first day of semester tomorrow.


(Spotted at Uncertain Principles.)

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7 Responses to More Scenes From the Storm in a Teacup, I

  1. Aaron Bergman says:


  2. Clifford says:

    No, no no… Thank you….


  3. amanda says:

    One of the best things about AB’s review is the way he handled the “innuendo” bit; though I think he might have been a bit more explicit. The sad thing about PW is that he [I think] genuinely never understood how offensive his original broadside on the arxiv was; he really doesn’t seem to understand that it was he who started this fight.

  4. Peter Woit says:


    Are you insinuating that Aaron was engaging in innuendo in his criticism of my book, rather than making his criticisms explicit?

    Actually I thought Aaron’s review was quite reasonable, it’s the kind of reaction to the book and to my arguments against string theory that I was always expecting from serious string theorists and that I’m happy to discuss further with them.

    As for the orignal arxiv posting, I’ll just point out that it in no way criticized anyone in particular, explicitly or implicitly. The kind of material in the book about the Bogdanovs, Capra, Hagelin that Aaron objected to made no appearance at all in arxiv article. That article made no personal attacks on anyone or on any group, it basically just made a scientific argument that string-theory based unification had failed, and a sociological argument that the heavy dominance of particle theory by string theory was unhealthy.

    I certainly was aware that some people would be offended by my claims that their research program had failed and deserved less support than it was getting. But as far as I know there is no speech code in the physics community that makes it unacceptable to ever offend anyone by criticizing their scientific ideas. I was not “starting a fight”, I was making an argument and hoping to encourage discussion. I had been making the same arguments privately for many years, often in personal discussions with string theorists, and had never had any troubles having a civil discussion on these topics. Quite often I found that even string theorists agreed with a lot of what I was saying. The personal attacks, unprofessional and unethical behavior that I’ve experienced from a small number of people in recent years has been a bit of a surprise. By now I’m kind of used to it, and take comfort in the fact that the people who do this seem to be doing a good job of damaging their own cause.

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