- Peter Orland has a new blog, Ensnared in Vacuum, where he’s writing about some non-perturbative QFT questions.
- Physics Today this month has book reviews of two books about theology and the multiverse (one of which I wrote about here). There was a time when I would have thought that discussions of theology wouldn’t be what Physics Today covers, but evidently that’s no longer the case.
- On a related topic, Kate Becker at The Nature of Reality has an article entitled Does Science Need Falsifiability? It’s about the campaign by physicists like Sean Carroll and Lenny Susskind against the Popperazi who keep pointing out that giving up on falsifiability puts physics in danger of becoming, well, theology. Frank Wilczek has a very sensible take on the subject:
“I think falsifiability is not a perfect criterion, but it’s much less pernicious than what’s being served up by the ‘post-empirical’ faction,” says Frank Wilczek, a physicist at MIT. “Falsifiability is too impatient, in some sense,” putting immediate demands on theories that are not yet mature enough to meet them. “It’s an important discipline, but if it is applied too rigorously and too early, it can be stifling.”
On Twitter, the usually mild-mannered Wilczek makes clear his feeling about this
Not often I refer to a “pernicious” “faction”, but appropriate here.
Mysteriously, he has a new website, for a company “Wolfcub Vision, Inc”.
- Frank Close has a new book out, Half-Life, which is essentially a biography of the physicist Bruno Pontecorvo. It’s also a gripping spy story, investigating the question of exactly why Pontecorvo fled with his family to the Soviet Union in 1950. There’s no smoking gun found, but all the evidence Close lays out makes the case that it is quite likely that Pontecorvo had been spying for the Soviets, fleeing when warned that he was in danger of being exposed.
Freeman Dyson has a much better review of the book in the New York Review of Books than I could ever write. He argues that Pontecorvo made a mistake by fleeing to enforced isolation in Russia, that in the worst case if caught he would have spent a few years in jail, then could have resumed his career. That things would go this way would not however have been clear to Pontecorvo: the Rosenbergs were arrested just before he fled, and things didn’t work out so well for them.
Besides the fascinating spy story, there’s also a lot of history of nuclear physics during the 30s, 40s and 50s, much of which I wasn’t aware of, as well as quite a bit about Pontecorvo’s later work on neutrinos. If you’re interested in the history of 20th century physics, this is something you’ll find well worth reading.
Update: For another new book, Steven Weinberg’s To Explain the World, I fear that I don’t have the time to read it and write a review. However, here are two interesting reviews, pro and con.
Update: For two hints about “Wolfcub Vision”, a commenter points out that Wolf cub=Wilczek in Polish, and a correspondent points me here.