U.S. Publication of Not Even Wrong

Today a heavy box with copies of the U.S. version of Not Even Wrong arrived at my office, and I’m quite pleased the thing is finally being published in this country. It appears that Amazon has it in stock (see here), the very old publication date they still have listed as “September 30” is incorrect. Presumably it should soon be available at fine book-sellers everywhere…

Update: Lubos has posted his usual slanderous review of the book on the Amazon site, and then presumably logged in from many different places to vote for his own review. Now it seems I get just one star instead of the two I got in the UK, since it seems I have “abandoned any integrity”. As usual, he’s very big on intellectual integrity. He lists as the first “embarassing error” in the book the Gev instead of Tev typo that was in the British edition, although he is well aware that, thanks to him, the typo was fixed for the US edition, which is the one he’s reviewing. He’s also paranoid and delusional, accusing me of “using various tricks to erase all inconvenient reviews”.

Update: I’ve updated the NEW errata page to include the US edition, and also started a reviews and press coverage page.

Update: Since Lubos’s review of NEW on Amazon has been deleted, he is now offering $20 to anyone who posts a one-star review of “the book with the black satanic cover”, and manages to get Amazon to leave it there for at least two weeks. Yet another example of string theorist’s belief in the “market-place of ideas”, I guess. This entry was posted in Not Even Wrong: The Book. Bookmark the permalink. 63 Responses to U.S. Publication of Not Even Wrong 1. Peter Orland says: P.S. I didn’t mean real QED is free. I only meant that a cut-off is necessary at some high energy scale. 2. Who says: **Update: … now offering$20 to anyone who posts a one-star review of “the book with the black satanic cover”, and manages to get Amazon to leave it there for at least two weeks. … the “market-place of ideas”, I guess.**

this book fits that description
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/list/0375708111/ref=pd_ts_b_3/102-4540543-7840144?ie=UTF8&n=14560&s=books

3. dan says:

Would you object to string theory if it claims to be a branch of mathematics, rather than a branch of science? Would you object of string theorists re-name themselves string mathematicians?

Briane Green’s position is that since axions, SUSY, and extradimensions are fundamental predictions of string theory, that if they are discovered, continued research in strings would be justified.

Dan,
Axions have nothing in particular to do with string theory, and observation of them wouldn’t necessarily tell us anything about string theory.

If the LHC finds new physics, whether it be supersymmetry, extra dimensions or whatever, lot of people will be jumping into whatever area it is, and there will be plenty of funding for this. String theorists will have to make the case that string theory has something to say about this new physics. Whether they can do this plausibly depends on what the LHC finds…

4. Peter Woit says:

dan,

Yes, I would object if string theory claimed to be a branch of mathematics. Most of what string theorists do has little to do with research mathematics, i.e. creating new mathematics. The landscape is not mathematics, for instance. There certainly are parts of string theory that have led to new mathematics, and some of that kind of research is part of mathematics. There already are quite a few people who work on it in math departments.

5. dan says:

Do you think if experimental research were to come to have some precise values for string theory, such as the precise scale of SUSY-breaking, that knowing these hard facts could help string theory be more predictive?

Yes, I would object if string theory claimed to be a branch of mathematics. Most of what string theorists do has little to do with research mathematics, i.e. creating new mathematics. The landscape is not mathematics, for instance. There certainly are parts of string theory that have led to new mathematics, and some of that kind of research is part of mathematics. There already are quite a few people who work on it in math departments.

6. Peter Woit says:

dan,

String theory really says nothing about supersymmetry breaking, which is one of the main reasons it is not predictive. Knowing the scale of SUSY breaking wouldn’t help. People often assume it is just high enough that superpartners will be seen at the LHC but not the Tevatron. This assumption in no way helps to get any predictions out of string theory.

7. Who says:

I noticed this morning that a well-known ranter had posted a derogatory ** review of The Trouble with Physics which was not taken down when I looked in some 4 hours later but by then TwP and NEW were #3 and #5 on the amazon Physics bestseller list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14545/ref=pd_ts_b_ldr/102-4540543-7840144

and they were #2 and #4 on the amazon General Physics bestseller list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14560/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/102-4540543-7840144

(which has more wide audience books and fewer specialized textbooks and manuals)

this is the first time I have seen both books so high in the bestseller listing and it caused me to wonder if the heavy-breathing crank-telephone call style ** review saying how bad TwP is–could that have actually had an effect and helped trigger a burst of orders for the books? Most likely just a random fluctuation, but still it was strange to see sales climb sharply right after, in effect, receiving crackpot hate-mail.

8. Frank B says:

Peter Orland,

1. indeed, I understood’s Woit’s “a complete theory” as suggesting a notion of a complete theory (no *gaps*). But, how do you get the H-atom from QED as a perturbative theory whose content is given by the Feynman rules? To my knowledge no one has extracted non-trivial non-perturbative solutions from QED, but I may be wrong of course. My point would be that for QED we know how to successfully *cheat* (eg insert bound states), but for strange theories like ST we do not have good clues for cheating, more exacting math may in fact just lead further astray (when not guided by physical insight)..

Woit,

2. on p 266 it is said that QM “loses much of its mystery” when one works in the language of group theory. What *mystery* gets resolved this way? The main *mystery* commonly associated w/ QM is that of the measurement problem (*wave collapse*) — how is this defused talking groups?

3. On p 55 it is claimed that spin is “inherently a quantum mechanical notion”. However, is not spin a feature of SU(2), and thus it does not depend on QM as such? One can also introduce (*uninterpreted*) spin variables in classical mechanics/field theory.. Indeed, the classical/quantum distinction is somewhat blurred from the formal point of view since Schrödinger QM can formally be described as a classical field theory (*canonical QM*). This sort of *blurring* is of interest, I think, when one tries to think about what quantum gravity might mean (is *quantization* well defined?).

Finally a comment on *ostracizing* ST from physcs and math — Is there a problem slotting it in mathematical physics then? To me it seems that much ST-related stuff de facto appears in math phys type journals.

Regards FB

9. Peter Woit says:

Frank B,

What I had in mind as a “mystery” of QM, was why observables are no longer c-numbers as in classical physics, but are given by self-adjoint operators acting on a Hilbert space. This is what you get when you have a unitary rep of a Lie algebra, and it is in this sense that representation theory explains something mysterious about QM.

Classically, angular momentum has to do with SO(3) symmetry, but is a continuous variable, and you don’t see the difference between SO(3) and its double cover SU(2). Discrete spin quantum numbers are a purely quantum phenomenon, and there you do see the difference.

10. D R Lunsford says:

Peter, you may find this interesting:

http://www.physics.gatech.edu/people/faculty/finkelstein/Emptiness031215.pdf

This is very original thinking about the nature of QM and its relation to relativity.

-drl

11. Peter Orland says:

Frank B Says:
August 30th, 2006 at 4:41 pm

1. indeed, I understood’s Woit’s “a complete theory” as suggesting a notion of a complete theory (no *gaps*). But, how do you get the H-atom from QED as a perturbative theory whose content is given by the Feynman rules? To my knowledge no one has extracted non-trivial non-perturbative solutions from QED, but I may be wrong of course. My point would be that for QED we know how to successfully *cheat* (eg insert bound states), but for strange theories like ST we do not have good clues for cheating, more exacting math may in fact just lead further astray (when not guided by physical insight)..

Frank,

Feynman rules are not the entire story of field theory, and certainly not QED. Bound states in quantum field theory cannot be obtained
systematically inm perturbation theory. In principle, they can be obtained by the Dyson-Schwinger equations (a set of exact integral
equations for Green’s functions). In practice, the DS equations are
often impossible to solve without some approximation. For QED, such an approximation exists, which is the Bethe-Salpeter equation,
which reduces in turn to the Schroedinger bound-state equation.
For more a more complex theory, like QCD, there are proposals,
which in my opinion are dead wrong (the approximation, not the
DS equations).

So, once again, yes, QED in principle gives all the masses of bound states of atoms, positronium, etc. The caveat to all this is that there
must be a cut-off somewhere in the ultraviolet, or the theory is trivial.

12. Frank B says:

I am not intending to press these points, but they are related to the bigger issues of what one means with *intrinsic quantum mechanical* and *complete theory*, so I add some further (not very deep ..) comments.

1. Since group representation theory is applied to so called classical mechanics (CM) too (representations on phase space via symplectic/canonical transformations) it is not clear how group representations as such (even involving spin) distinguish between CM and QM. Unitary transformations contain symplectic transformations, and in this respect QM is (formally) a special form of CM. The relation between state, observable and probability is in this view the distinguishing (interpretative) feature. One reason why this issue may be more than of formal interest is that quantum gravity may require a deeper characterization of what it means to be *quantum*.

2. I am aware that one can get approximations from QED that are interpreted e.g. as the Schrödinger equation for electron in the H-atom (relativistic case unsettled?), but there may be disputes about exactly what assumptions are made along the road (I know only the broad outlines). Another point is that in order to be *approximations* we should be able to give their error bounds, otherwise the approximations are based on faith. However, and this is the main point, in physics it is common to work with incomplete or even inconsistent theories (such as classical electrodynamics + charges) successfully when we have learned their domain of applicability. In this way physics differs from *pure mathematics* (which immediately reminds one of the Einstein quote: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality”). Physics needs not just experiments, but genuine physical insight (such as the principle of equivalence) in order to evolve. To me the book by Woit has brougth up this issue (which is not restricted to string theory): Do mathematical *speculations* replace physical insight? Has the development of theoretical physics reached a stage where [in lack of new experiments/or because of a possible *desert* — of course, one should not forget the exciting findings in astronomy/cosmology, no desert there] the only remaining lead (whatever it is worth) is in mathematical constructs? On this history may teach us some lessons but it does not foretell.

13. Who says:

a propos the main topic—US publication of N.E.W.
the book continues to sell really well, judging from the amazon general physics bestseller list

As of today Friday 8 September at 1:20 PM pacific, its standing and those of several other wide-audience books for comparison were:

#1 TwP
#2 NEW
#7 Elegant Universe (Greene)