Anthony Zee’s Joke(?)

So I’ve been waiting for some time to tell you about this clever joke by eminent physicist Anthony Zee. Well, I think it is a joke, I’ve not checked with him yet: The final production period for The Dialogues was full of headaches, I must say, but there was one thing that made me laugh out loud, for a long time. I heard that Tony had agreed to write a blurb for the back cover of the book, but I did not see it until I was finally sent a digital copy of the back cover, somewhat after everything had (afaik) gone to print. The blurb was simple, and said:

“This is a fantastic book — entertaining, informative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.”

I thought this was rather nicely done. Simple, to the point, generous…. but, after a while… strangely familiar. I thought about it for a while, walked over to one of my bookcases, and picked up a book. What book? My 2003 copy of the the first edition of “Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell”, by A. (for Anthony) Zee. I turned it over. The first blurb on the back says:

“This is a fantastic book — exciting, amusing, unique, and very valuable.”

The author of that blurb? Clifford V. Johnson.

Brilliantly done.


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6 Responses to Anthony Zee’s Joke(?)

  1. Axl Rose says:

    QFT in a Nutshell, not QT in a Nutshell

  2. Axl Rose says:


    Can one in principle find the correct string theory vacuum if you perform Planck scale experiments? Aren’t there any generic string theory predictions you can in principle test if you can perform those ultra high energy experiments, like extra dimensions or string-like or Brane-like behavior? In principle at least?

  3. Clifford says:

    I’d say it differently. If we could do planck scale experiments, we’d have direct access (probably) to whatever the theory of quantum gravity is, and then we could find out if it had a string theory description, or something else. Cheers, -cvj

  4. Axl Rose says:

    How would we know we were looking at somethin that has a string theory description? Are there generic things to look for at that scale that, if observed, would imply a string theory description? Or do we need to learn more about the non perturbative theory before we can arrive at an answer?

  5. Clifford says:

    Well, there very string-like features of scattering amplitudes that would be a signature of having an underlying string description. Lots of string theory text books start out with such features. If the quantum gravity regime that turns on at the Planck scale allowed a description in terms of scattering of quanta, one could perhaps test out whether such features are there. Indeed there is no guarantee that any of our usual language learned from perturbative quantum processes here at low energy will apply, but you never know. And yes, we could end up in a strongly coupled mess with no localized degrees of freedom… but maybe we’d be lucky. Look at what happened with the strong interactions. I do not know if there is anything generic about strings that one can look for in general. I don’t thing we understand string theory that well. Maybe duality? Maybe dynamically changing spacetime dimension? I’d bet on those if I had to bet at all…. but it is probably ly too early to be betting. –cvj