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Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory & the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics Hardcover – April 25, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224076051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224076050
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,868,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Peter Woit's book Not even Wrong is an authoritative and well reasoned account of string theory's extremely fashionable status among today's theoretical physicists...I regard it as an important book.' Professor Sir Roger Penrose, author of The Road to Reality."

About the Author

Peter Woit is a physicist and mathematician who is currently a Lecturer in the Mathematics Department at Columbia University. He graduated in 1979 from Harvard University with bachelor's and master's degrees in physics, then went on to get a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Princeton University. He has been a postdoc at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook and at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Berkeley. Since 1989 he has been teaching at Columbia where in recent years he has taught graduate courses in quantum field theory, representation theory and differential geometry.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I have a background in Physics and still love Physics.
Paulo C. Rios Jr.
He has had the courage to tell the story how it really is, and the truth is all that really matters in the end...
Damysus
Its criticism of String Theory is very effective, even devastating.
njdj

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Couder on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading popular accounts of physics, esp. cosmology and quantum physics, for the past 30 years. Inevitably, the past 10 - 15 years or so a lot of these books contained many pages extolling the virtues of the new miracle theory (perpetually) on the horizon aka "string theory".

I was always led to believe this theory would finally merge quantum field theory and general relativity, and soon the very first moments of the Big Bang would be a mystery no more.

I should have known something was amiss. Whereas one (a non-physicist I mean) can at least understand the gist of quantum physics and general relativity with at least a minimal understanding of calculus or topology, no such luck with string theory. The message always seemed to be: "string theory involves very, very complicated mathematics, and except for a very few lucky people everyone is just too much of a moron to understand any of it".

After reading Peter Woit's book, I understand why none of the popular books on string theory seem to make much sense. String theory is a dream that someday the magical formula that explains everything will pop out of the vacuum (sorry, infinite number of vacua).

I will continue reading popular science books, including those of the string lovers. But this book is certainly a must read for everyone interested in the frontier of physics.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Paulo C. Rios Jr. on July 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
After I read Lubos Motl's review below, I became interested in this book. After I saw that Lubos called Woit and his collegues crackpots in Woit's blog, I became even more interested. As Lubos is a String Theory researcher, one could expect a reaction. But not of this dimension and depth. I have a background in Physics and still love Physics. If this book makes an active Hardvard physics professor spend time on it and call its author a crackpot and the author is an active Columbia physics professor, then it must have something worth it. As the only game in town, String Theory should be challenged. This book does it.
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35 of 45 people found the following review helpful By LEJ Brouwer on June 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Before I begin, let me just mention that my PhD supervisor was (and is) a leading string theorist and author of the recently published 'A First Course in String Theory'.

It is interesting to read the review by Lubos Motl, who is a somewhat extreme example of an outstanding young 'establishment' theoretical physicist who like so many others has been lured onto the string theory bandwagon, which for him has now become an obsession. While attacking Woit's blog, he fails to mention that he himself also has a well-known blog which panders to the cravings of fellow string theory devotees.

His review of Woit's book, like many of his writings, is an exercise in intellectual nit-picking, where the underlying argument can be summarised as, "my (our) mathematical ability and knowledge of theoretical physics is far superior to yours, therefore I (we) are right, and you are (not even) wrong". Motl is the kind of person who would have considered Einstein to be a mathematical lightweight who most likely stumbled upon his theory of relativity more by chance than skill. Indeed, Motl would certainly have been amongst those who poo-pooed Einstein and his ideas until his death. While it is probably true that Motl and many other string theorists like him are technically more sophisticated than Einstein ever was (or could even hope to be back in those days), in terms of originality, creativity and raw insight, Einstein really would put Motl and his ilk to shame. That is why Einstein will always be 'Einstein', and Motl will always be plain 'Motl'. Motl is nothing but a sheep in wolf's clothing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marion Delgado on September 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The "science fictional" elements of string theory have a tremendous appeal to me, frankly, so the physics presentations I've gone to and seen on video were virtually always string-theoretical in nature. Since I'm not paid to do physics, I only paid attention to the most exciting stuff. We were lucky enough to have Fenyman lecture to a couple of my physics classes, but the presentation I went to by him later was on nanoengineering, for instance, because that's cool and scifi-ish. I read the Feynman Lectures and lately worked my way through Penrose's Road to Reality. I have to say, the periodic admission or criticism that string theory, M-theory, branes+string etc. had not progressed made me wonder why it was so prominent, but I basically assumed that it was the high cost of testing it at fault, and also assumed that, frankly, the top physics researchers, including people like Hawking, knew what they were doing. I can't blame my professors, my physics study was very basic, Standard Model stuff in my 1st year of grad school (after which I stopped taking physics courses). And then and undergrad I wasn't that big on cosmology, I was into energy and thermal statistical physics and basic math tools. It was after that when a lot of my reading was popular physics books like The First Three Minutes that I basically assumed string theory had won out.

Thanks to this book (kind of the straw that broke the camel's back, frankly), I am going to look at and attend no more presentations on tachyon theory and smeared branes and so on. (You could do a whole geek-zombie comic book, I think, about students who turn into zombies studying the d-braned theories of inarticulate p-branes, shambling around calling out braaaanes.).
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