Peter Woit
About Me
I'm currently a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics department at
Columbia University, where I teach, do research, and am responsible
for the department Computer system. At various times, I've
also been our Calculus Director, coordinating Calculus
teaching. Now I am setting up and overseeing our use of
the WebAssign online homework system in some of the Calculus
classes. My current main project is a textbook
on quantum mechanics and representation theory, to be
published by Springer late 2017.
My academic background includes undergraduate and master's degrees
in physics from Harvard, a Ph.D. in particle theory from Princeton,
and postdocs in physics (ITP Stony Brook) and mathematics (MSRI
Berkeley). I've been at Columbia since 1989, starting here as
Ritt assistant professor.
Teaching
Current course:
Mathematics
GR6402: Modern Geometry (Fall 2017)
Older courses:
Mathematics
GU4032: Fourier Analysis (Spring 2017)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2016)
Mathematics
V1102: Calculus II
Mathematics
W4392: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Spring 2015)
Mathematics
W4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2014)
Mathematics
G4343: Lie Groups and Representations (Fall 2013)
Mathematics
W4392: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (continuation)
Mathematics
W4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2012)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2012)
Mathematics
G4343-4: Lie Groups and Representations (Fall 2007-Spring 2008)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2007)
Mathematics
V1202:
Calculus IV
Mathematics
G4402-3:
Modern Geometry (Fall 2003-Spring 2004)
Mathematics
G6434: Quantum Field Theory and Geometry (Fall 2003)
Mathematics
G4344:
Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2003)
Research
My general area of research interest is the relationship between
mathematics (especially representation theory) and fundamental
physics (especially quantum field theories like the Standard
Model). Recently I've been working more specifically on
understanding whether certain quantum field theories can usefully be
formulated in terms of a generalization of the notion of an
"automorphic representation", which is central to the Langlands
program in number theory.
Quantum
Field Theory and Representation Theory: A Sketch
Posted at www.arxiv.org as hep-th/0206135
June 2002.
BRST
and Dirac Cohomology (draft version).
Blog
Since 2004 I've maintained
an active blog called Not Even
Wrong, which deals with topics in physics and
mathematics. It now (mid-2017) contains over 1600 postings
that may be of some sort of interest.
I wrote a few articles in 2016 for Heidelberg Laureate Forum blog,
see here.
Book
My book Not
Even Wrong was published in June 2006 in England by Jonathan
Cape, in the US in September 2006 by Basic Books. Translations
have appeared in French, Italian, Czech and Korean. I'm
maintaining web-pages for links
to reviews, and errata.
Textbook
Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations: An Introduction
To be published by Springer, late 2017.
Some Popular articles
String
Theory: An Evaluation
Posted at www.arxiv.org as physics/010251
February 2001.
Russian translation
courtesy of SciPosts.
Is
string
theory even wrong?
Published in the March-April 2002 issue of American Scientist.
The
problem with physics
Cosmos Magazine, August 2007
String
Theory and the Crisis in Particle Physics
Based on a talk at the Gulbenkian Foundation Conference in Lisbon on
Is Science Nearing Its Limits?
25-26 October 2007. This appears in the conference proceedings
volume, available here.
Polish translation by Alica Slaba available here.
The Nightmare
Scenario for Fundamental Physics
Edge 2013 question contribution, published in
What
Should we be Worried About?
The "Naturalness"
Argument
Edge 2014 question contribution, published in
This
Idea Must Die: Scientific Ideas that are Blocking Progress
String
theory and post-empiricism
Scientia Salon, July 10, 2014
Towards
a Grand Unified Theory of Mathematics and Physics
Essay written for FQXI contest, February 20, 2015.
Ancient material from the earliest days of the string theory
controversy
Some reactions
to these articles, various outrages,
and a few voices of
reason.
Anyone interested in a bet?
Talks
For technical audiences
Transparencies
from a talk on Quantization and
Equivariant K-theory at the Wigner Conference in New York,
May 27, 2003.
Slides from
a
talk on Quantum Field Theory and
Representation Theory at the Dartmouth Math department,
June 3, 2004.
Slides
from talks on Is String Theory
Testable?, March 8 (INFN Rome) and March 15 (INFN
Pisa), 2007.
Slides
from a talk on BRST and Dirac
Cohomology at Dartmouth, October 23, 2008.
Slides
from a talk on Quantum Mechanics and Representation Theory at Texas
Tech, November 21, 2013.
Slides
from a colloquium talk in the physics department at Rutgers,
February 3, 2016.
For popular audiences
Slides
from a talk to students at Collin College, March 24, 2010.
TEDxFlanders
talk. Joint performance with Tommaso Dorigo at the
Antwerp Opera House on September 24, 2011.
What We Don't Know About Fundamental Physics, Talk at the
Blind Tiger on Bleecker Street, April 29, 2014, part of Raising the Bar.
Interviews, podcasts, profiles, etc.
Interview
with John Horgan 2006.
Interview
at Scienceline, December 28, 2006.
Bloggingheads
conversation with Sabine Hossenfelder, July 9. 2008.
Bloggingheads
conversation with Craig Callendar, September 10, 2009.
Rationally
Speaking. April 2010.
Big Think. June 6,
2010.
The
Admiral of the String Theory Wars, Nautilus, May 7, 2015.
Still
Not Even Wrong, Physics World podcast, September 2016.
Why
String Theory Is Still Not Even Wrong, Scientific American
blog, April 27,2017.
Book Reviews
I've written quite a few book reviews on the blog, the ones from the
past few years are easily accessible here.
Some reviews I've written for publication include:
Grappling
with Quantum Weirdness, American Scientist, September-October
2005. Review of Giancarlo Ghirardi's Sneaking a Look at God's Cards.
What
Happens In the Dark, Wall Street Journal, January 31,
2011. Review of Richard Panek's The 4% Universe.
In
the End Is the Beginning, Wall Street Journal, May 27,
2011. Review of Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time.
Fun
with Fysiks, American Scientist, July-August 2011.
Review of David Kaiser's How the
Hippies Saved Physics.
Our Mathematical Universe, Wall Street Journal, January 17,
2014. Review of Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe.
Also available here.
The
Half-Life of Physicists, Wall Street Journal, May 1,
2015. Review of Paul Halpern's Einstein's Dice and
Schrodinger's Cat.
Fashion,
Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics, MAA Reviews, September
15, 2016. Review of Roger Penrose's Fashion, Faith and
Fantasy in the New Physics
Searching
for God at the Center of the Big Bang, Wall Street Journal,
February 17, 2017. Review of Zeeya Merali's A Big Bang in a
Little Room
Search
for the "Perfect" Theory, Physics World, May 2017.
Review of Frank Close's Theories of Everything