Gosh, a thoughtfully-written general level (more or less) article on some of the general outcomes of string theory research! It’s written by Matthew Chalmers, and is in the Sept. ’07 edition of Physics World*. The article can be read online here, and downloadable pdf is here. The graphic on the right came with the article. I don’t fully understand what it is, but the title, like that of the article, is “stringscape”… Look, let’s not over-think this cvj – it’s a pretty decoration.
I’ve done a quick read of it (should re-read more carefully later on – it will no doubt have some emphases with which I disagree somewhat**) and I’d say it is very much worth reading. While not a perfect summary (what is?), compared to a lot that’s been out there, you’ll find it rather more informed, less sensational, (refreshingly unpoisoned by various prejudices, such as the presentations of Smolin and Woit – see numerous earlier discussions in the “More Scenes from the Storm in a Teacup” series of posts, and others), and unafraid to go to some length to unpack the issues somewhat carefully.
Very importantly, it contains numerous quotes from various respected researchers in physics (some working on string theory and some not), and it is good to read to get a sense of the layers of views that prevail- contrasting, disagreeing, agreeing, hopeful, pessimistic, doubtful, optimistic – and the focus is the science, not sociology. Such a diversity of views, with a prevailing pragmatism (i.e.: “we’ll work on whatever good idea helps us make progress, strings or not strings”), is present in any healthy scientific endeavour, at any point in history.
As far as I can see, the short summary of the summary seems to be what I’ve been saying time and again here (but read it yourself for some of the reasons why, and maybe also to come up with your own summary, which could well differ from mine):
Will it tell us important new things about nature? It’s a work in progress – Too soon to tell.
(I should add, as usual: …And in the meantime we’re learning so much from it, shaping useful tools with many potential applications, and training so many young people in important techniques from all over physics and mathematics… etc, etc.,…)
*Thanks Oliver! (It’s been out for a while, and I completely missed it!)
** For example, I don’t agree that “most string theorists think […] that it is only a matter of time before the gravity `dual’ of real-world QCD is worked out”. The issue is much more interesting and subtle than this. See my thoughts about this issue here.