This month, the New York Times book review has been the place to follow the latest debates about what is going on in particle theory. This started with an essay by John Horgan on January 1, which drew letters to the editor from Lisa Randall on January 15, and Lawrence Krauss and Leonard Susskind on January 22 (this last letter was discussed here).
The January 15 issue also had a not very positive review of Susskind’s recent book (discussed here). In today’s (January 29) issue, Burton Richter has a letter commenting on and contrasting the recent work of Randall and Susskind. He’s positive on Randall, since he sees her as trying to come up with testable predictions, but about Susskind he has the following to say:
Susskind and the Landscape school have given up. To them the reductionist voyage that has taken physics so far has come to an end. Since that is what they believe, I can’t understand why they don’t take up something else — macramé, for example.
Richter is an emeritus Stanford professor, ex-director of SLAC, and won a Nobel prize in 1976 for his role in the “November Revolution”: the discovery at SPEAR in November 1974 of the “Psi” particle, a bound state of a charmed and anti-charmed quark (also found by a group at Brookhaven led by Sam Ting, who called it the “J” particle). Since he is emeritus, presumably Richter doesn’t attend Stanford physics department faculty meetings anymore, which is too bad, since I for one would love to see Susskind, Richter and Robert “string theory is like a 50-year old woman trying to camouflage her flaws by wearing way too much lipstick” Laughlin debating department hiring policy.
On the same page as Richter’s letter, there’s an ad for a book called “Reality Check”, by David L. Weiner. I don’t know anything about the book but the advertising blurb goes like this:
It turns out that the ape-like mechanisms that remain in our brains not only can create mental turmoil if we don’t meet their primitive expectations, but their penchant for pecking order and status can create far-out realities we think are absolutely true. These may cause us to inflict unwarranted harm on others, limit our own potential, or both.
Seems to me this book might explain some of the reaction to the recent interview in Discover magazine.