The February AAAS press event (discussed here) designed to get out the word that the critics are wrong and string theory is making predictions about physics that are getting tested has finally made it to Slashdot, via an article in Science News by Tom Siegfried.
Siegfried has been making his living selling string theory hype since at least the mid-nineties when he wrote quite a few articles for the Dallas Morning News with titles like “Physicists sing praises of magical mystery theory”. In 2000 he published The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M-theory, which somehow manages to put together quantum computing, consciousness, and string/M-theory. His next book, in 2002, was Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time, 300 pages of solid hype for problematic speculative ideas, with branes and superstrings playing a leading role. More recently, he has been at work hyping cosmic superstrings in the pages of Science magazine (see here) and trashing me and my book for claiming that string theory doesn’t make predictions (see here).
Most of the Science News article actually gives a reasonably sensible description of the story of attempts to use string duals and holography to study strongly coupled systems in 3 and 4 dimensions. But in the concluding paragraphs this story is shanghaied into service in the string wars, in a section entitled “Strings strike back” which begins:
In recent years it has become popular to criticize string theory as out of touch with reality. Popular books have been written by scientists, some prominent and others not so prominent, arguing that string theory makes no predictions that experiment can test, that its fundamental objects can’t be observed, that physicists have wasted their time on an enterprise that isn’t even scientific to begin with.
Such arguments leave an impression of utter unfamiliarity with the history of science. In times past, the same kinds of aspersions were cast against quarks, neutrinos, even the very existence of atoms. Superstrings are in good company.
You see, some critics of string theory are such ignorant idiots that they question the existence of superstrings even though any student of history knows that they are no more problematic than quarks, neutrinos and atoms. And experiments at RHIC show that string theory does make predictions, ones that have been successfully tested by experiment….
Update: I just read through some of the comments by Slashdot readers. The level of hostility towards string theory and string theory hype is remarkable.
Update: Commenter Hendrik points to a new piece from New Scientist where they have helpfully gathered together in one place all the outrageous string theory hype that has appeared in their pages in recent years.