Show Book List

Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Times Online
John Horgan
Aaron Bergman (pdf)

Peter Woit

Not even wrong

Peter Woit has a blog with the same title as this book, which has a popular following, and from the advanced sales it looks like the book's performance may be equally impressive. Woit's arguments against string theory are certainly very persuasive. One reads how initial hopes that the theory would lead to a unique explanation of quantum gravity were disappointed, and how the predictions of eventual success of the theory are being pushed ever further into the future.Woit also expresses his frustrations at some of the failings of the academic establishment, which will make the book useful reading for anyone considering a scientific career.

The trouble is all that is in the last third of the book. Woit clearly feels that he has to give some background to the subject, and the first two-thirds are taken up with a history of theoretical particle physics. Now I appreciate that Woit is trying to make the book into a consistent whole, which is not possible for a blog which relies on external links. However I think he is facing an impossible task trying to explain gauge theory and group representations to his intended audience and I feel that many readers will struggle and give up with this material and the rest of the book will remain 'not even read'. That's not to say it isn't well written - I found that it helped to link together various parts of the subject - but I didn't think it was needed in order to appreciate the rest of the book. info
Hardcover 320 pages  
ISBN: 0465092756
Salesrank: 481418
Weight:1.25 lbs
Published: 2006 Basic Books
Marketplace:New from $14.80:Used from $1.37
Buy from info
Hardcover 304 pages  
ISBN: 0224076051
Salesrank: 120908
Weight:1.28 lbs
Published: 2006 Jonathan Cape Ltd
Marketplace:New from £16.80:Used from £3.44
Buy from info
Hardcover 291 pages  
ISBN: 0465092756
Salesrank: 909229
Weight:1.25 lbs
Published: 2006 Basic Books
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 61.15:Used from CDN$ 2.53
Buy from

Product Description
At what point does theory depart the realm of testable hypothesis and come to resemble something like aesthetic speculation, or even theology? The legendary physicist Wolfgang Pauli had a phrase for such ideas: He would describe them as "not even wrong," meaning that they were so incomplete that they could not even be used to make predictions to compare with observations to see whether they were wrong or not. In Peter Woit's view, superstring theory is just such an idea. In Not Even Wrong , he shows that what many physicists call superstring "theory" is not a theory at all. It makes no predictions, even wrong ones, and this very lack of falsifiability is what has allowed the subject to survive and flourish. Not Even Wrong explains why the mathematical conditions for progress in physics are entirely absent from superstring theory today and shows that judgments about scientific statements, which should be based on the logical consistency of argument and experimental evidence, are instead based on the eminence of those claiming to know the truth. In the face of many books from enthusiasts for string theory, this book presents the other side of the story.