Quick Links

I’ve been much too busy the past few days, so haven’t had time to write anything new here. One thing that has been keeping me busy is going over the copy-edited version of the American edition of my book, which will be published in September by Basic Books. The British edition, published by Jonathan Cape, should be available June 1, both in Britain and Canada, and presumably one can order it from the British or Canadian versions of Amazon. The American version will have a somewhat different preface, and has been separately copy-edited, so there will be minor changes (beyond just changing British spellings back to the American ones I first wrote down…). Late last week I was sent an early copy of the British version of the book itself, and I’m very happy with how it looks.

Last week I also spent a significant amount of time at my colleague John Morgan’s 60th birthday conference, which was held here in the math department. Morgan is one of the leading figures in topology, and over the years has worked on a wide range of different kinds of mathematics, often bringing the subject together with other very different parts of mathematics. At the moment he’s involved in at least two projects, one involving Calabi-Yaus with Chuck Doran, another an ambitious attempt with Gang Tian to work out the details of Perelman’s proof of the Poincare conjecture. He’s also doing a stellar job as chair of our department.

Morgan has collaborated with and interacted significantly with Witten over the years, and Witten gave a wonderful talk at the conference on Gauge Theory and the Geometric Langlands Program. This was really just a taste aimed at mathematicians of his recent work on geometric Langlands and gauge theory. He explained some of the history of Montonen-Olive duality, some of the relevance of supersymmetry to mathematics, and then explained what an ‘t Hooft operator in gauge theory is, and that it is related to the Hecke operators studied in geometric Langlands.

Here are some quick links to interesting things I’ve run across recently:

John Baez has a new edition of his proto-blog “This Week’s Finds in Mathematical Physics”. It contains a beautiful exposition of the circle of very different sorts of mathematics that all gets related via Dynkin diagrams.

Greg Moore and his recently graduated student Dmitriy Belov had a beautiful new paper on self-dual field theory in 4l+2 dimensions.

Christianity Today has an article entitled Science in Wonderland, which mentions Susskind and string theory and notes:

This theory has not met with, shall we say, universal approbation, not least because it can’t be empirically tested. You could even say it’s not science, and some have said that, but they don’t hiss the way they do when they talk about Intelligent Design.

The AMS has a new web-site devoted to Mathematical Imagery.

In the comment section here, Bert Schroer pointed to some web-sites I wasn’t aware of that contain all sorts of links to various material related to the algebraic approach to QFT. These include the home page of Stephen Summers and the Local Quantum Physics Crossroads” hosted at Gottingen.

Update: If you want to know why the mathematics associated with Dynkin diagrams can’t be usefully explained or viscerally understood without string theory, as well as why John Baez is a proto-human, you can consult the blog of a prominent Harvard faculty member. He also notes that

Peter Woit is another proto-human who eats everyone who dares to look in between the clouds. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

and explains in great detail why

it is important not only to learn string theory well but also to emphasize that and explain why people like Peter Woit are intellectual barbarian cannibals. 😉

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40 Responses to Quick Links

  1. Deane says:


    Did you notice this:


    Zhu spent last year at Harvard working through all of this in a weekly seminar run by Yau.


  2. knotted string says:

    June 1 is a Thursday, the traditional book publishing day in England. Is Jonathan Cape making a real marketing effort for NOT EVEN WRONG?

    Can you give anti-stringy interviews on TV when the book comes out? Or is it just going to be a case it going quietly on to bookshelves, largely unnoticed. I suppose you should have an agent for a book for publicity bearing in mind it isn’t a textbook.

    The girls who do the marketing just post off a few complimentary copies of the book to magazines, who rarely review them.

    Really you should be granted some interest from the media on this. What you’re doing is defending the right to argue that the mainstream is headed down a blind alley. Any string theorist who takes offense or makes a show of ‘getting angry’ needs to grow up.

    Is there going to be any publishing party in London or New York? Invite your fellow Princeton student Brooke Shields along, that will help attract the media. Seriously, I hope you are not going to be a loser with this book. (You face the risk of getting a bad reputation if it doesn’t sell, which may stop you publishing any other book.)

    The basic facts are free on here on the internet. Hence the book isn’t something to be guilty about, it’s democracy in action – in the bookstore. The expert case against extra dimensional speculation must be studied carefully by string fanatics, it can’t be ignored.

  3. Thomas Love says:

    I don’t know about the accuracy of that Christianity Today report.
    I hiss about String Theory in the same Tones I use for “Intelligent Design”.

  4. MathPhys says:

    Every time I glance at Greg Moore’s most recent paper, I seem to think that he works in 41 space and 2 time dimensions.

  5. woit says:


    Thanks for pointing that out, I had heard rumors about it. Do you know if it has been refereed, and if it is now publicly available.

  6. Richard says:

    What is the current status of Perelman’s proof of the Poincaré conjecture? Is he essentially, at this point, leaving it to others to complete his work?

  7. woit says:


    As far as I know, Perelman has moved on to other things and seems to have no intention of writing down the details of a proof. The Cao-Zhu work Deane mentions and the Morgan-Tian work underway are two projects I’m aware of to write out a detailed proof.

    At this point, I think most people believe that Perelman’s outline of a proof can be turned into a real proof, since no serious problems in doing this are known to have turned up. Once one or more detailed proofs have appeared in print, and experts have had a chance to examine these carefully, then it should be well-accepted that the Poincare conjecture has been proved.

    And then the Clay Foundation can start trying to figure out who if anyone get the million bucks. Supposedly Perelman doesn’t really want it….

  8. Richard says:


    I suspected that he may have gotten bored and moved on to other things. Still … how can he leave his baby to others to raise? How could we have produced someone with this brilliance who apparently does not apparently understand the craft (and satisfaction) of bringing theory to complete and completely rigorous presentation and fruition? None of us will always do the latter with brilliance, but to not even try is [ fill in the blanks ].

  9. Deane says:


    As far as I know, the full Cao-Zhu paper will only be available when it is published. I have not seen any preprint. I don’t know anything about how it was refereed. I was up at Harvard last week and did talk to Yau about it. Yau now also believes that the Hamilton-Perelman program does yield a complete proof of Thurston’s conjecture. Yau says that not only does the Cao-Zhu paper fill in all the details of the program, it also fixes errors that he says are in Perelman’s work.


  10. SomeBody says:

    Richard, it is not unreasonable for somebody truly brilliant to consider it more interesting to look for big new ideas, point out overall directions and then leave it to the so-called rank and file to work out the details while they move on. It’s just efficient distribution of labor. Perhaps if there were more such people and a little fewer navel gazing nitpickers in physics we wouldn’t be stuck you-know-where…

  11. anon says:

    What Oh! No Lubos review yet at amazon uk of Not Even Wrong? C’est pas possible. I think Lubos must be getting old. His response times are slowing down.

  12. sunderpeeche says:

    If the book is not yet on public sale (~June 1) and you do not have an advance copy, how do you review the book? Chris Oakley evidently received an advance copy, and reviewed it, and his review is available for all to read.

    FWIW, in French the “ne” is mandatory to indicate negation. “Ce n’est pas possible”, “Ce n’est rien”, “Je n’ai jamais visite’ Paris” …..

  13. Chris Oakley says:

    Well actually, Sunderpeeche, my review was based on a January 2005 copy of the manuscript that Peter gave me when I visited him at Columbia (my visit being funded by the Illuminati and the Freemasons as part of their campaign to destroy Superstring theory). He may have completely re-written the book since, but if so, he never told me.

  14. Chris Oakley says:

    I should add that when I last saw the Grand Imperial Wizard of the Illuminati and Senior Master JCB Driver of the Freemasons, they were well pleased with Lubos. They noted that the number of hits on Peter’s weblog always goes through the roof when he posts comments here, and that most people would not even be aware of the issue but for his invective.
    Personally, I kind of like him. Having had a lot of experience of mealy-mouthed academics with zero moral courage I find it quite refreshing to discover someone so apparently unconstrained by the normal rules of the game. I am sure that they will eventually take steps to shut him up, but I think that in the meantime, we should all just enjoy it.

  15. Deane says:

    …”FWIW, in French the “ne” is mandatory to indicate negation. “Ce n’est pas possible”, “Ce n’est rien”, “Je n’ai jamais visite’ Paris” …..”

    In proper written French, yes. However, in French spoken by the natives, it is practically impossible to hear the “n'”. Some of us suspect it’s not even pronounced by the natives and therefore used to detect foreigners in their midst. The extreme example is “Je ne said pas”, which the natives pronounce as “chez pas” (at least to my non-French ears). So “C’est pas possible” may look incorrect, but it sounds correct.

  16. Who says:

    anon: C’est pas possible.

    I believe this is ordinary vernacular. anon sounds like he knows idiomatic French.
    sunderpeeche correction “FWIW, in French the “ne” is mandatory to indicate negation. “Ce n’est pas possible”, “Ce n’est rien”, “Je n’ai jamais visite’ Paris” …..” is textbook correct. but I think in French streets or movies they don’t always talk like that.

    Chris, it takes courage to be a mealy-mouthed academic. And screw the Grand Imperial Wizard of the Illuminati.

  17. sunderpeeche says:

    If we’re going to get into the business of idiomatic French, I suggest you drop the French altogether and go stand in the middle of Times Square NYC and listen to the Queen’s English and submit it in your next essay in English Lit class. See what happens.

  18. me says:

    > If the book is not yet on public sale and you do not have an advance copy, how do you review the book?

    In the past Lubos had no problem reviewing books he did not read.

  19. sunderpeeche says:

    Let’s not be stupid about this. Amazon will exercise some quality control to maintain the integrity of the reviews on its web page. If a review is written (without reading the book) and posted on a blog, then that’s something else. But Amazon needs to turn a profit, hence it needs to be credible, hence it cannot (overall, anyway) allow nonsense.

  20. John A says:

    I think you should know Peter, that I don’t agree with Lubos describing you and John Baez as “proto-human”. I think its beneath contempt to use such language between two very intelligent people, and I’ve said so on his blog. Lubos goes on to talk about the “explanatory power of string theory” to explain the linkages between concepts in physics but nowhere does he establish uniqueness of string theory as the only way those linkages can be made.

    To describe string theory as a “proto-science” is nothing more than a statement about where string theory is in relation to experimental physics. It might predict an unambiguous experimental result one day and then you’ll have to change the name of your blog.

    I’d have to say that I wait for that day before I commit mental energy to the string hypothesis. Experimental falsifiability is a key concept for me. Mathematical consistency is not enough.

  21. JC says:

    I wonder what would happen if Harvard decides to award Lubos with a tenured professor job. 😉

  22. Lord says:

    String theory may not be science, but it would still be math, which is a lot more than one can say for ID.

  23. Ryan says:

    sunderpeeche… Apparently you have never seen David Hasselhoff – The Very Best Of.

  24. woit says:


    I haven’t looked at many Amazon reviews, but there are some pretty weird things there. They do seem to have a policy of mostly deleting one-star reviews. Lubos is well aware of this (he’s been involved in a campaign to get one-start reviews of a crackpot physics book allowed), so when he wants to attack something he gives it two stars. Check out his review of Lawrence Krauss’s recent book that was critical of string theory. I believe it was the first one posted.

    String theory doesn’t make any predictions, but I can make one: Lubos will be among the first reviewers of my book on Amazon, and I’ll get two stars.

    John A. and Lord,

    No, string theory on the whole is not math and it’s not mathematically consistent. Some work on string theory has led to important new ideas about mathematics, but those parts of string theory that try and connect up to the real world generally haven’t, and much of them is not even mathematically consistent. The “Landscape” is even less mathematics than it is physics.

  25. Chris W. says:

    Learned and leisurely hospitality is the only antidote to the stance of deadly cleverness that is acquired in the professional pursuit of objectively secured knowledge. I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship.

    Ivan Illich

  26. anon says:

    Lubos seems to have edited the mean personal comments a bit:

    “A mathematician who thinks about the ADE classification without string theory is like a proto-human who knows something about the summer and the winter but who can’t understand why the seasons change because he does not want to look in the skies and see the motion of the Sun. In this metaphor, an anti-string-theory blogger is another proto-human who eats everyone who dares to look in between the clouds. Be afraid. Be very afraid. :-)” http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/05/ade-classification-mckay.html

    So “Peter Woit” has been edited to “an anti-string-theory blogger”. 😉

  27. woit says:

    Glad to see that Lubos doesn’t believe in personal attacks. I wonder what “anti-string-theory blogger” he has in mind?

  28. Michael says:

    “I’ve been much too busy the past few days”

    Publishing too much these days, I guess!? 😆

  29. woit says:

    Question of the day: Are all string theory partisans moronic assholes, or it’s just the ones who post things on the internet?

    At least one of them, Michael the anonymous coward from suburban Boston never seems to tire of this.

  30. Michael says:

    Better an asshole than a proto-human… 😆

    I live near Needham, Massachusetts, know lots more about string theory than stupid people like you, and Lubos Motl is my hero. I think he’s almost as cool as Spiderman.

  31. Michael says:

    “I live near Needham, Massachusetts”
    not quite, but my ISP does. 😉

    “know lots more about string theory than stupid people like you”
    That’s for sure.

    “and Lubos Motl is my hero. I think he’s almost as cool as Spiderman.”
    Spiderman is *way* cooler!

  32. Arun says:

    If string theory had even one connection to physical reality, it wouldn’t be necessary for Motl to tear down Woit at every opportunity.

  33. sunderpeeche says:

    I notice that many of these posts degenerate into idiotic polemics to/from/about Lubos, whether written in idiomatically correct French or otherwise. It’s just foolish. (I looked up Motl’s website about twice, decided it was rubbish, and haven’t been back. Proto-human? I wouldn’t even have known if the matter had not been repeated on this blog.)

    Amazon/David Hasselhoff? No, I hadn’t seen it before. Amazon has to cater to many tastes, and I expect those who like DH will like those reviews. Lawrence Krauss book? I saw reviews by Tom Appelquist and PW, in addition to LM. It’s impossible to tell if LM (or anyone else) actually read the book. I do not doubt (and I do not care) if LM publishes a bad review of NEW. But to try and publish a review BEFORE the book goes on sale, and without an advance copy, that would raise a red flag.

    I guess nobody has anything to say about John Morgan. As for myself, I’ve never heard of him. John Baez/TWF has some nice stuff, and the AMS Mathematical Imagery is also worth further attention. Such is the life I choose to lead. You’ll forgive me (or not, as the case may be) if I have no interest in nonsense.

  34. David says:

    Please don’t let the level of discourse on this blog drop. The distinguished faculty member suggested that I can’t tell an electron from a dog when I tried to suggest that some biology articles are worth reading even if they might not support your favorite newspaper report about global warming or your view on how climate science should be done. Thus, I will spend less time over there. Your blog offers interesting and useful discussions of topics I’m interested in. Keep up the good work.
    From a proto-proto-human,

  35. Thomas Love says:

    It occured to me as I read the above comments that Motl posts a lot. That would indicate that he has nothing better to do, which is proof that there is no substance to string theory. If there were substance to sting theory, he would be working on it rather than posting absurd comments. Back to work.

  36. secret milkshake says:

    Lubos likes to spread visceral understandig by disembowling his oponents.

  37. You says:

    I bet the last five comments were from the same person.

  38. woit says:


    How much do you want to bet? If it’s enough to make it worthwhile, I’ll put you in touch with all five of them so you can write them a check. One of them is using his full, real name and I’ve corresponded with him via e-mail. The others have valid, different e-mail addresses, and are accessing the blog from very different locations.

    That’s the story of the last few Lubos critics. Lubos supporters like “You” seem to prefer anonymity like “Michael”, who didn’t leave an e-mail address, but splits his time between his home in suburban Boston, the HEP group at Brandeis, and the HEP group at UMass Amherst. Probably anyone who cared could figure out who he is.

  39. Who says:

    we didn’t yet get any comment on the paper that Peter pointed to by Freidel Minic Leigh about 4D Yang Mills
    Towards a solution of pure Yang-Mills theory in 3+1 dimensions
    someone mentioned possible relevance to the megadollar Clay Prize
    so far on this thread we are getting mostly technical discussion of assholes by Michael and others whether they are better or worse than proto-protos etc. and about the Harvard Ranter and so on. this is OK but it might also be interesting if someone explained the interest of Freidel Minic Leigh if any.

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