Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Physics speaks up: The trouble with Smolin

Lee Smolin has written a surprisingly popular book that's critical of the dominance of string theory in modern physics. It sounds like a solid book, but it's odd that it's so popular. I'm not sure why it's gotten so many reviews, etc. In some circles it seems to fit the "political correctness" conspiracy theory that "the truth" is being denied by incumbents who probably vote democrat.

In any case, Cosmic Variance has a gentle response, saying that Smolin is reasonably correct about the dominance of string theory, but his enthusiams for alternate theories are unpersuasive. String theory has won some interesting results, and the alternatives are doing less well than Smolin suggests.

It's an excellent review, and a readable introduction to what's topical in modern physics. We are dealing with the very tough problems; we're pretty much stuck waiting for either a new conceptual breakthrough or some unexpected experimental results.

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