Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article by Sharon Begley entitled Has String Theory Tied Up Better Ideas In Field of Physics? (sorry, subscription required for on-line version). The summary of the article goes
After two decades in which string theory has been the doyenne of best-seller lists and the dominant paradigm in particle physics, some critics say it may be tying up better ideas.
and in some sense it covers for the public in simplified form the discussion going on over at Cosmic Variance at the moment. It quotes Lee Smolin and me as critics, with Mike Peskin as the only defender of string theory. Peskin acknowledges the compactification problem, and then makes only a strikingly weak argument for string theory: that it can claim some success because it explains the number of generations. This “explanation” in terms of the topology of the Calabi-Yau is no explanation at all, since you can get any value for this number you want. I don’t see how changing the parametrization of your ignorance from that of a single natural number to that of the topology of a Calabi-Yau is any improvement.
I assume that any moment now Lubos will be producing a rant comparing Sharon Begley to one sort of animal or another.
There’s also a long review of Not Even Wrong from John Walker over at his blog called Fourmilog. He does a good job of laying out the controversial argument of the book, and we seem to be mostly in agreement, although I don’t share his conviction that government funding is a major source of the problem.
Update: I just heard that official publication date in the US is September 8, although books should be for sale a bit earlier than this. Lubos has a posting about the WSJ article, less of a rant than some of his recent ones. He has restored his anti- Sean Carroll screed, which was a classic that many people were sorry to see suppressed.
Update: A commenter points out that the WSJ article is available on-line here. There’s also a mention at Slashdot. The extensive discussion there is heavily anti-string theory which is an interesting sign of the times, but also convinces me that the idea of moderating this kind of discussion by having participants vote on which comments are worthwhile just doesn’t work at all.
Update: There’s commentary on this from science writer David Appell here, who pretty much gets the situation right.
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