The August edition of Seed magazine is out on the newstands, and it contains a joint review entitled “No Strings Attached” by Charles Seife of my book and of Lee Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics. The article and magazine issue are not online at the moment. The latest issue of Physics World contains a review by Gordon Fraser, entitled String theory gets knotted.
Both reviews give a reasonable description of what the book is about, and take the first part of the book to task for being hard going, worrying that the reader may give up before getting to the less technical later parts. Seife writes “the level of detail is inconsistent” and Fraser describes “a level of detail that is unpredictable”, and this is true enough. It was a conscious decision to put together history, some basic explanations of math and particle physics, together with some explanations of the rather arcane joint successes of math and physics in recent years, all in as compact form as possible. There is a warning in the text that almost everyone is going to find parts of this hard to follow and should judiciously skip ahead. My goal was to write something that almost everyone would get something out of, from people new to the subject to those with quite a bit of technical knowledge. Undoubtedly this was an overly-ambitious idea, but on the whole I’ve been pleased so far to hear that people with a wide range of backgrounds seem to enjoy the book.
Because I cover so much ground in so few pages, many technical terms and ideas don’t get properly explained. Both Seife and Fraser fault me for not explaining “synchrotron radiation”, which is true enough, although I use the term in context to describe X-rays produced when electrons are accelerated in a synchrotron. Seife says that I don’t define “eigenstate”, although I do give a one-sentence definition immediately after first using the term. It’s true though that anyone who hasn’t taken a linear algebra course will probably just find this baffling.
Fraser complains about inaccuracies in the book, and he has found two of them: I describe Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus as taking place at Cambridge when it was really Manchester, and while this experiment is first properly described as involving the scattering of alpha particles, at a later point in the book it is inaccurately referred to as involving scattering electrons. Some of his other complaints seem to me unfounded. I don’t say that Isabelle was canceled before planning was underway for the SSC, and I don’t understand why he claims there was no “competing collider” at CERN (the reference was to the SpS, being used as a p-pbar collider starting in 1981).
I’ve just written up an errata page for the book, which includes the two errors mentioned by Fraser. It can be found here.
Update: John Horgan’s review of Not Even Wrong that appeared in Prospect is available at his web-site.
Sabine Hossenfelder has the first review of Lee Smolin’s The Trouble With Physics, together with an interview with Smolin. Lubos responds to this by explaining that Sabine is a woman, thus intellectually inferior, and prone to engage in “female physics”.