Not Even Wrong in the Sunday Times

Today’s edition of the London Sunday Times has a review of Not Even Wrong by John Cornwell in its book review section. Cornwell is a British historian of science, based at Cambridge University.

The review is very positive and pretty much gets things right, so of course I’m quite pleased by it. It does get one thing wrong, or at least expresses it in a misleading way: David Gross is listed as an ally, which is certainly not the case as far as criticism of string theory goes (although we both agree about the string theory anthropic landscape). A more minor quibble would be with his description of the significance to Pauli of the phrase “Not Even Wrong” (it wasn’t purely a term of abuse, but also refers to the untestability of a theory). But on the whole I think Cornwell does a very good job of describing the more controversial parts of the book and what its concerns and arguments are about.

Lubos already by last night had posted his trademark ad hominem attack on the reviewer. By now, his ranting response to any one who publicly criticizes string theory or agrees with me on this topic is tediously familiar, involving launching a personal attack on their professional qualifications, then comparing them to dogs, assigning extremely low numerical values to their intelligence, etc., etc.

Cornwell expresses the opinion that

Now that Woit has thrown a wild cat among the theoreticians, we can be sure that the ruffled string-theory advocates will be preparing a rebuttal.

So far the only rebuttal to be seen is that from Lubos, who tells us that most string theorists agree with him, writing that:

Cornwell predicts that string theorists will be preparing a rebuttal to the dean of the crackpots. I am afraid that with exactly one exception, they have much more serious work to do than to talk to cranks. My simple statement that the dean of all crackpots much like John Cornwell could not become graduate students of physics today because they are unable to understand some very elementary questions about science will probably remain the only reaction.


Most string theorists much like most high-energy physicists in general are extremely nice people – too nice people – so they won’t say that Cornwell is a breathtaking moron in the public. But be sure that they agree with me and many of them are saying these things in between the physicists. In the public, the only question is how to explain that Cornwell is a complete idiot without making anyone upset.

Lubos claims that most of his string theory colleagues believe that I’m a crank and my arguments about the problems with string theory are not worth responding to. This may or may not be true, but even if it is, I find it hard to understand why they allow him to go on in this way, claiming that he represents their viewpoint, given the immense amount of damage he is doing to the public perception of their field. If you believe Lubos, some of his senior colleagues seem to even think it is a good idea to egg him on in what he is doing. He reports that one senior physicist sent him last weekend’s Financial Times piece, describing it as

a tendentious, malicious attack on scientists and through that on science itself

and that another “very famous physicist with more than 10,000 citations” told him:

WOW. I can’t believe the FT article. Holy Shit, the world has gone completely bananas.

Update: In case anyone is following the comment section over at Lubos’s blog about this, note that his policy there is to delete any comments from anyone he disagrees with. I wrote in a comment answering an attack on me from “LambChopofGod” which was swiftly deleted, and others have had similar experiences. Did make me sit back and think for a moment: what am I doing spending my Sunday evening responding to nasty personal attacks from some fanatical kid hiding behind the pseudonym “LambChopofGod”? This is getting very, very weird…

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42 Responses to Not Even Wrong in the Sunday Times

  1. george says:

    Lubos is just a crazed, socially inept, but brilliant scientist. Anyone who reads Lubos’s comments can figure this out, and turn on the appropriate mental filter.

    No, unfortunately, it is you Peter who is doing the greatest amount of damage to the public perception of string theory.

  2. knotted string says:

    Every single journalist and every single publication that prints the truth about the lack of science in string theory will be called ‘science-hater par excellence’ or ‘crank/crackpot’. Intimidation strategy:

    1. ‘Discredit’ people by simply calling them names.
    2. Feign anger: claim objective criticism ‘hurts science’, etc.
    3. Ignore/suppress alternatives, then claim none exist.
    4. Claim without any evidence that critics have low IQs.
    5. Claim ‘string theory’ theorists can criticise themselves.
    6. Claim without evidence that all critics are ignorant, etc.
    7. Fabricate/exaggerate false/trivial/straw-man technical ‘errors’ in criticisms and try to use these to dismiss the entire criticism.
    8. Claim without any evidence that their work is science by definition because they have had a 20-year honeymoon in the media, and then claim (again without evidence) that by criticising it you are objecting to science, rather than encouraging science (objectivity).

    In fairness, there are two types of ‘science’: dogmatic defense of abject speculation, and objective investigation.

  3. David says:

    In general, I agree with knotted string with two exceptions.
    1. Not all string theorists behave this way. For example, Zwiebach, in Chap.1 (p.8) of his book, says there is no experimental verification of string theory because of the lack of a sharp prediction.If he chooses to spend his time looking for one that’s OK with me. It would be nice to hear something from him about some of the wilder claims by some others(e.g. God used string theory to write the universe).
    2. Consider knotted strings last sentance. I know he/she wants to be fair but I think the only type of science is objective investigation as best we can do it.

  4. wolfgang says:


    let me complete your quote:
    “String theory is still at an early stage of development, and it is not so easy to make predictions with a theory that is not well understood. Still, some interesting possibilities have emerged.”

    He then goes on to explain what type of experiments could provide support for string theory.

    If you have a copy you can read this from p.8 to p.10.

  5. ks says:

    I do think that most of Lubos behaviour is already socially accepted among scientists for quite some time. And he will likely know this. What can originally be attributed to him is the inflationary use of the term “crackpot” to all colleagues / journalists who fundamentally disagree with his views and of course the puberal rudeness of his insults. But qualifying people as “crackpots” or “cranks” or making any other layman diagonsis of mental disorder is not his invention and it is not specific to string theorists and their excommunication rites.

  6. anonymous says:

    Seriously, what’s the deal with Mr. Motl? I’ve never met him, but after repeatedly encountering his seemingly inescapable web-presence, I can’t help but imagine him as television’s Tucker Carlson, typing away furiously under a pseudonym.

  7. Peter,

    Congratulations! Your book is clearly getting a lot of good press and driving the string theorists “bananas.”

    Why is its publication so much later in the US?


    Professor Motl is quite real, and an assistant professor in the most imprtant university in the US (and world), Harvard.

    Whatever else we may think about him, and I do think (and write)about him frequently, he is definitely an original.

  8. woit says:



    The reason it\’s being published at different dates in the UK and the US is just that the publishing business is kind of funny, with different publishing houses operating in the two different countries. So you end up having to have two different publishers. My book was originally bought by a UK company (Jonathan Cape), which got interested in it after hearing about the book from Roger Penrose, one of their authors. The deal I made with Cape involved selling them world rights to the book, and they then went looking for a US company to publish here, finally settling on Basic Books. The whole process ends up taking quite a while, and Cape ended up publishing before Basic. This isn\’t particularly unusual, Lisa Randall\’s recent book was also first published in the UK.

  9. anon says:

    very famous physicist with more than 10,000 citations” told him:

    “WOW. I can’t believe the FT article. Holy Shit, the world has gone completely bananas.”

    A coward, letting Lubos do the dirty business. It’s cowards and dirty politicians like that who decide which physics phds get jobs in the field and which don’t.

  10. George P says:

    Being a “brilliant” scientist isn’t enough. Hitler had plenty of those. One needs stewardship and some “street smarts” about what to study, why, and when. One needs to guard against pursuing blind alleys or going down a destructive path. Sometimes you gotta use outside feedback to do that.

    Lubos’ only response to feedback is childish ad hominem attacks. Also disturbing is his devotion to nutty right-wing causes. He repeatedly demonstrates that he tragically lacks this “meta-intelligence” and that his EQ is so low that it cancels out his ability to put his “book smarts” to any good, worthy use. A pretty smart person with stewardship and discipline is more effective than a whiny “boy genius” brat like Lubos.

  11. MathPhys says:

    Lubos is not a genius. He’s smart, but so are many other people.

    It’s been about 4 years or more since his PhD and, in spite of the fact that he’s always been right in the middle of the US theoretical physics establishment, his achievements are minor, compared to many others at the same stage of their careers.

    Sorry, Lubos.

  12. MathPhys says:

    I think I see what you mean. Someone gets irritated by something anti stringy in a newspaper. He finds it below him to react to it directly, or maybe just doesn’t have the time. He brings it to Motl’s attention, knowing that the pitbull will bite and never let go.

    Yes, Lubos, I’m afraid you’re being used.

  13. Arun says:

    If Peter Woit was wrong, it would be very easy to refute him, maybe even in one sentence, e.g., like “the XYZ experiment makes Woit’s arguments irrelevant”.

    John Q. Public may not know much science, but would be able to spot the absence of such a simple argument from the string theorists. Furthermore, he will see the message from Harvard – we cannot discuss physics with morons such as you. He will see “Cornwell explains that the colliders are a waste of money” but read “Even the proposed prodigiously expensive class of accelerators known as Superconducting Super Colliders (SSCs), he claims, would have failed to provide the merest clue as to whether the theory had merit.” – which is only about the uselessness of SSC for string theory. In any case, if the Harvard attack gets as much circulation as the Cornwell review, it will leave little room for doubt on the part of the public.

    String theorists might have better luck with the argument that Peter Woit is not entirely right. 🙂

  14. David says:

    I admire your patience. It is considerably more than I have.

  15. David says:

    I learned a lot tonight. The final portions of my discussion with Motl were deleted which leaves the reader, following Motl’s misquotes, with the impression that I said that you said Polchinski’s book had an error. I never said that. I said I thought there was an error and you told me how Polchinski got his result. That’s all you said. Please leave this up so somewhere it’s clearly stated. I hope you saw the end before it was deleted. I have new thoughts about Motl as a scientist.

  16. John Stanton says:

    A friend of mine told me once that internet
    and other ad hominem attacks as a reaction
    to an idea are a complicated way to say:

    “You are possibly right, but your idea goes so
    much against my deeply held convictions that I can
    only express this by insulting you.”

    Keeping this in mind, one can be more relaxed about
    the issue. I know people who use this to check their
    ideas: if they get counter-arguments, they think
    about them; if they get insulted, they know they are
    on the right track.

  17. knotted string says:


    If the definition of ‘science’ is to be kept objective, then we should do the same with ‘theory’ and not associate that with strings. The key strength of ‘string theory’ is incompleteness and vagueness. As ‘t Hooft says, ‘string theory’ is like being given a chair minus arms, legs, back etc. It is just an idea, a hunch.

    So calling strings a ‘theory’ elevates it to a status it doesn’t really have. And then calling vacuous ‘string theory’ actual ‘science’ to defend it from critics is just absurd.

    I either have to keep denying string theory is science, or I have to invent a new type of science – metaphysics – in which to place string. Interesting summary of a relevant subject:

    ‘Groupthink is a mode of thought whereby individuals intentionally conform to what they perceive to be the consensus of the group. …

    ‘The term was coined in 1952 by William H. Whyte in Fortune[1]:

    ‘”Groupthink … is a rationalized conformity — an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.” [2]

    ‘Irving Janis, who did extensive work on the subject, defined it as:

    ‘”A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” [3]

    ‘The word groupthink was intended to be reminiscent of Newspeak words such as “doublethink” and “duckspeak”, from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    ‘Irving Janis originally studied how groupthink affected the Pearl Harbor bombing, the Vietnam War, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion…

    ‘Causes and symptoms of groupthink…

    ‘Illusion of invulnerability
    ‘Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
    ‘Collective rationalization of group’s decisions
    ‘Shared stereotypes of outgroup, particularly opponents
    ‘Self-censorship; members withhold criticisms
    ‘Illusion of unanimity (see false consensus effect)
    ‘Direct pressure on dissenters to conform
    ‘Self-appointed “mindguards” protect the group from negative information

    ‘… symptoms of a decision affected by groupthink:

    ‘Incomplete survey of alternatives
    ‘Incomplete survey of objectives
    ‘Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
    ‘Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives
    ‘Poor information search
    ‘Selective bias in processing information at hand (see also confirmation bias)
    ‘Failure to work out contingency plans

    ‘Social psychologist Clark McCauley’s three conditions under which groupthink occurs:

    ‘Directive leadership

    ‘Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology
    ‘Insulation of the group from outside sources of information and analysis …

    ‘One mechanism which management consultants recommend to avoid groupthink is to place responsibility and authority for a decision in the hands of a single person who makes the decision in private and can turn to others for advice. Others advise that a preselected individual take the role of disagreeing with any suggestion presented, thereby making other individuals more likely to present their own ideas and point out flaws in others’ and reducing the stigma associated with being the first to take negative stances (see Devil’s Advocate).’

  18. island says:

    I’ve had comments deleted by Peter and I’ve never questioned his reasoning. Lumo is a completely different story, as he deletes stuff because he doesn’t like the message, but not because it isn’t relevant and/or valid.

    The most frustrating counterargument is the kind that you get when the people that you’re talking to simply go silent because they can’t refute your physics, but still won’t buy it, so their stategy becomes that of sitting back and waiting for a refutation to come along rather than to admit that you have a point.

    Fifty hard facts gets you nothing but air.

    Dogma at it’s finest.

  19. Pingback: It’s Equal but It’s Different » Blog Archive » A Copa do Mundo nossa…

  20. hack says:

    Lubos is not a boy genius, more like an ageing wunderkind. He had some early success, but now he’s 32 or 33 and there are many who have achieved more than he has at that age. I’ve read that it can be very depressing for a former wunderkind to come to the realization that he is no longer the youngest guy in the room so to speak. I can imagine how he might cope with this in bizarre ways, such as cultivating an adolescent internet persona. But acting like a teenager when you’re in your 30’s doesn’t make you young, it makes you pathetic.

  21. anonymous says:


    I don’t think its a good development that what should be a scientific controversy is discussed in public on such a mediocre level. It is sad, it is very sad, that the physicists community is apparently not able to solve the problem on its own. This tells a lot about what is going wrong in physics research.

    How many people who read the book, or the article, can judge on the actual issue? What is created is the impression that theoretical physicist don’t know what they are doing, or why they are doing what they are doing. Instead they call each other crackpots, morons, or debunkers, and blame each other to be on the wrong track.

    If I were to decide whether tax money goes into theoretical physics on base of that, I’d say: let’s wait till they have sorted out their problems before we invest money.

    Do we want that?

    Best, B.

    I don’t.

  22. xpinor says:

    Is the reviewer John Cornwell identical with the professor at St. Andrews and author of the three-volume book on group theory?

  23. Pingback: physics musings » Blog Archive » Nobody expects the Strings Inquisition

  24. amused says:

    This will no doubt test the limits of Peter’s tolerance but I’ld like to abuse the hospitality of this blog to respond to Lubos’ latest post on his blog, “Science vs Democracy”. Lubos usually deletes my comments there, and since he seems to spend almost as much time here as on his own blog, responding to him here seems the only option. His post was in response to comments by someone called “B” on his earlier post attacking the Sunday Times review of Peter’s book; so, with more than a little good will, the following is arguably not completely off-topic here.

    Lubos, you are being disingenious as usual. Obviously in a string-dominated environment you and your colleagues are going to be all in favour of “leaving the selection of the good ideas to the usual free mechanisms in science”, just as the bosses of Microsoft wish for a free market free of those annoying anti-monopoly laws that governments try to harrass them with.

    The relevant question is whether string theory deserves its current level of dominance in theoretical hep (at least the non-phenomenological side). As far as I can tell, you guys have two main arguments for this: First is the claim that David Gross likes to make, that the situation in string theory now is analogous to the one prior to the formulation of QM in the early 1900’s, where people were groping for the right understanding and formulation of the new physics. The implication being that “Hey guys, major new physics is on the verge of being discovered, everyone should be working on this!”. Second is the retort “If we’re not to do string theory, then what else? Show us a more promising alternative.”

    Actually I have some sympathy with both of these arguments. But not much. On the one hand it’s certainly a big deal to have found a not obviously inconsistent theory of quantum gravity which has a possibility to unify gravity with the other forces. On the other hand, despite 30 years of effort by some of the best brains in physics, the results so far are spectacularly unimpressive: you have nothing more than hints that string theory (or some parts of it) may have something to do with nature. Contrast this with Bohr’s result – in his atom model – where he was able to derive the Ryberg constant in terms of other basic constants of nature. This is the kind of result you guys need to come up with before the claim that the string theory situation is analogous to pre-QM can be taken seriously. You are nowhere near to obtaining such a result, and there is no sign that this is going to happen anytime in the forseeable future.

    Now let’s consider the “show us a better alternative” argument. To that my reply is: When a completely “top-down” approach like string theory gets bogged down, it might be a good idea to permit some work to be done on “bottom-up” approaches. I emphasise *permit*, because at present you do not permit it – young people who choose formal theory topics which are non-string are seriously harming their career prospects. String theorists and higher-dimensional types are mighty proud of themselves when they make applications of brane stuff to low energy QCD, or lattice chiral gauge theories, but woe betide any young fool who is naive enough to work directly on these topics. They are only considered of interest to the extent that string theory can say something about them, and it is only the results that come from string theory that are considered to have value.

    An example of a formal theory topic which has seen major progress over the last decade, and where there is much of interest that remains to be done, but which would be career suicide for a young person to work on, is lattice formulation of chiral gauge theories. (I choose this example since it happens to be dear to my heart; no doubt there are other equally good ones.) A nonperturbative formulation of chiral gauge theories would be quite a nice thing, don’t you agree Lubos? It is at any rate a prerequisite for being able to properly investigate the nonperturbative phenomenon of spontaneous electroweak gauge symmetry breaking. And who knows, maybe results from this “bottom-up” topic could later inspire new insights in “top-down” string theory. But with things the way they are now we will never know, because, thanks to string dominance, such topics are not a viable option for anyone who hopes for a career in physics.

  25. Peter Woit says:


    I pretty much agree with you, and it’s remarkable that Lubos now feels that the only way he can handle those with a different point of view about string theory is to delete their comments. Perhaps I should set up a “Lubos’s deleted comments thread” here.

    “B” is Sabine Hossenfelder, her blog is, and you might want to try and carry on this discussion over there with her.

  26. amused says:

    Ok, thanks for the info Peter, and for allowing the comment to stay.

    “Perhaps I should set up a “Lubos’s deleted comments thread” here.”

    Lol. Yes, please do!

  27. Aaron Bergman says:

    I’m somewhat confused by your comments, amused. I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining all the lattice gauge theorists in the world. Are you saying that the job prospects for a lattice gauge theorist are worse than that for a string theorist. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but I’m just trying to see if I’m interpreting you correctly.

  28. Ponderer of Things says:

    Quote from earlier: “Lubos is not a genius. He’s smart, but so are many other people. It’s been about 4 years or more since his PhD and, in spite of the fact that he’s always been right in the middle of the US theoretical physics establishment, his achievements are minor, compared to many others at the same stage of their careers.”

    I was going to defend Lubos, as I was under the impression that he was publishing a lot lately. But when I went to ISI, there are only 10 published refereed papers for Lubos, only one in the past 3 years and none in the past 2 years. Well, I have to say I am surprised. And only 2 out of 10 papers as first author?

    I personally know plenty of grad students with more impressive publication record than that.

    Sorry, Lubos, but arxiv is no substitute for refereed publication process…

  29. Aaron Bergman says:

    Just a factual correction: in string theory, authors are in alphabetical order.

  30. amused says:

    Aaron, regarding the job situation for lattice gauge theorists you need to distinguish between people doing “bread and butter” lattice QCD research – i.e. numerical simulations, algorithms, & phenomenological chiral perturbation theory stuff needed to extract physical results from the simulations – and those (few) people doing formal stuff like construction of chiral gauge theories. For the former the job situation is not too bad, at least at postdoc level. It’s tough at the faculty level, but that’s also the case for many other fields. I’m not sure exactly how it compares to the job situation for string theorists; certainly there seem to be a lot more of them on the jobs rumour pages, but that could to some extent just reflect that there are more stringers than lattice QCD’ers. On the other hand, for people doing formal lattice gauge theory stuff the situation is pretty hopeless. Almost all traditional lattice gauge theory groups focus on the bread and butter stuff and are simply not interested in hiring people who only want to do formal things. The natural home for the formal types would be in a regular formal particle theory group. But “most” of these groups happen to be focusing on string theory, branes etc and are not interested in people from other fields…

  31. Peter Woit says:


    I don’t think it is that John Cornwell.

  32. Anon-e-mus says:

    “L*b*s’s deleted comments thread” — me, too! I was even permanently banned from commenting on his blog after repeatedly pointing out that he had misread what various people whom he accused of saying various nasty or stupid things actually wrote. Of course anybody able to “read, mark and inwardly digest” English prose can still see that to be the case even without my comments pointing it out…

  33. Ponderer of Things says:

    Thanks for correction on string publication order – now I recall that it is indeed the rule.

    Still, no published papers over the past two years – according to arxiv this doesn’t even qualify Lubos as an “active researcher”.

  34. Peter Woit says:


    All the evidence so far is that the arXiv official definition of “active researcher” is “not Peter Woit”. Attempts to get them to set a well-defined standard based on number of publications foundered when it became clear that the arXiv moderator, Jacques Distler, wouldn’t meet the standard (which was just number of papers, not counting whether they were published). As far as I can tell, neither he nor Lubos would meet suggested numerical standards based on published papers.

  35. Lionell Griffith says:

    All this hoha could be avoided if reality were determined by equations. One could simply write the equation and *poof* the feature would exist in reality. All problems could be solved by scribbles on a scrap of paper.

    Unfortunately, the equations must conform to reality. Until that conformance is demonstrated, the equations are nothing but bad fantasy and science fiction. More importantly, they are Not Even Wrong.

    I suggest most of the string hoha is about getting grants and writing papers. The last thing they want is a real solution to real problems. If that happened, they might have to get a real job and actually earn their keep. We can’t have that. Can we? We common folk have to pay the bills so the “superior” types can play forever without having to produce anything having meaning or value.

  36. Aaron Bergman says:

    I suggest most of the string hoha is about getting grants and writing papers. The last thing they want is a real solution to real problems. If that happened, they might have to get a real job and actually earn their keep. We can’t have that. Can we? We common folk have to pay the bills so the “superior” types can play forever without having to produce anything having meaning or value.

    So, Peter, do you think this is true?

  37. Aaron,

    I, at least, think it’s implausible that string theorists don’t want “real solutions to real problems.”

    At the same time, you can’t neglect Upton Sinclairs principle that “it’s amazing how hard it can be for someone to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    String theorists all have very high IQs and the ability to work very hard, so unless they are otherwise psychologically disabled, they should mostly be able to make a lot more money doing something else.

  38. woit says:


    No I don’t think it’s true (by the way, I disagree with many if not most of the comments posted here). I was about to delete it, but didn’t partly because I was busy, and partly to show what a lot of everyday people’s reactions to the string theory mess is likely to be. I’ve written elsewhere about the unfortunate backlash against any ambitious work on the fundamentals of theoretical physics that is starting and likely to increase due to the way string theory has been oversold.

  39. Aaron Bergman says:

    Thank you for that. I asked because I figured people would ignore me if I said that it wasn’t true, but people might listen to you. Whatever one thinks of string theory as a research programme, I hope things don’t degenerate too much into arbitrary attacks against string theorists.

  40. Ponderer of Things says:

    Peter, I find it somewhat ironic that arxiv, with it’s supposed aim to “free” the scientific community from delays or restrictions of paper-based publications and sometimes lengthy refereeing process, has been recently busy creating rules for rejecting unpopular among certain circles (but scientifically valid) ideas, blocking trackbacks etc.

    I am especially surprised since I was able to post and to quickly become an endorser without any endorsing, but then again, my research is not controversial.

    I happen to think that arxiv should be totally “free for all” – if crackpot start posting junk, so be it – let people figure out what is what. As if regular publications are free of junk – surely enough if you go down low enough on the foodchain, you can publish just about anything.

    As a product of former soviet block system, I also find somewhat ironic that Lubos, who claims to be self-proclaimed anti-commie right-winger, uses very much the same tactics commonly employed by communists (scientifically or politically – be it Lysenko-Michurinism or Sakharov) to limit critisism – such as simply deleting undesirable comments, and responding to reason with demagogery, namecalling and personal attacks. You’d think he lshould have learned a thing or two about character assasination vs. respectful and civil free exchange of ideas.

  41. Who says:

    CapitalistImperialistPig mentioned:

    …you can’t neglect Upton Sinclairs principle that “it’s amazing how hard it can be for someone to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    String theorists all have very high IQs and the ability to work very hard, so unless they are otherwise psychologically disabled, they should mostly be able to make a lot more money doing something else.

    reminds me that part of the payment must be in real or fancied prestige.
    the importance of importance was one of the themes in NEW recent thread about Open Access Publication. (the prestige conferred by publication in top journals balances simple dollar and time considerations)

    besides pure interest and excitement, besides money rewards, people work for recognition and status. so one thing that open criticism of the string monopoly in the US might eventually do is change the prestige payoffs a bit. don’t know if this has much or any significance compared with the plain bread and butter issues of postdoc contracts and junior faculty hires—-just a thought

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