Peter Woit

Department of Mathematics 
Columbia University 
2990 Broadway 
New York, NY 10027, USA 
Office: 421 Mathematics 
Phone: (212)-854-2642 
Fax: (212)-854-8962 

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 2016.

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.


Current course:

Mathematics GU4032: Fourier Analysis (Spring 2017)

Older courses:

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

Mathematics G6434: Quantum Field Theory and Geometry

Mathematics G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2003)


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 as hep-th/0206135 June 2002.

BRST and Dirac Cohomology (draft version).


Since 2004 I've maintained an active blog called Not Even Wrong, which deals with topics in physics and mathematics.  At the end of 2011 it had 13,378 subscribers at Google Reader.  It now contains over 1000 postings that may be of some sort of interest.


        Even Wrong

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.


Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations: An Introduction
In progress, completion expected mid-2015.

Some Popular articles

String Theory: An Evaluation
Posted at 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?


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, etc.

Interview with John Horgan 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.

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.