Peter Woit
About Me
I'm currently a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics department at
Columbia University, where I teach, do research, and am responsible
for the department computer system. At various times, I've
also been our Calculus Director, coordinating Calculus
teaching. My academic background includes undergraduate
and master's degrees in physics from Harvard, a Ph.D. in particle
theory from Princeton, and postdocs in physics (ITP Stony Brook) and
mathematics (MSRI Berkeley). I've been at Columbia since 1989,
starting here as Ritt assistant professor.
Current Research
I'm quite excited these days about some new ideas concerning
unification in physics, which involve working with twistors in
Euclidean signature space-time. For more about this, see this
page.
Books
Quantum Theory, Groups and Representations: An Introduction
This is a textbook covering quantum mechanics and quantum field
theory from the point of view of representation theory. It was
published November 2017 by Springer which has a webpage
for the book, and a Springer
Link page for the book (from which your institution may
provide ability to buy a MyCopy softcover version for $24.99).
A page with errata is here.
Essentially the same content is available from my website here,
and I have retained copyright for the book content. If you're
in the mood to write a review of the book, the Amazon page is here.
Some blog entries about the book are here.
For a review of the book, see Woit's Way.
Not Even Wrong
My book Not
Even Wrong was published in June 2006 in England by Jonathan
Cape, in the US in September 2006 by Basic Books. Translations
have appeared in French, Italian, Czech and Korean. I'm
maintaining web-pages for links
to reviews, and errata.
Lecture Notes
Lecture notes from the second half of my spring 2020 Fourier
Analysis class are available at
the AMS Open Math Notes site.
Lecture notes from the first part of my spring 2023 Lie Groups
and Representations class are available here.
(In Progress) Lectures notes from my spring 2024 topics
course on Quantum Field Theory for Mathematicians are available here.
Teaching
Current course:
Mathematics GR8250
Topics in Representation Theory; Quantum Field Theory (Spring
2024)
Older courses:
Mathematics
GU4344 Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2023)
Mathematics
GU4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Spring 2022)
Mathematics
GU4392: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Spring 2021)
Mathematics
GU4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2020)
Mathematics
GU4032: Fourier Analysis (Spring 2020)
Mathematics
UN1102: Calculus II (Fall 2019)
Mathematics
GU4032: Fourier Analysis (Spring 2019)
Mathematics
UN1102: Calculus II (Fall 2018)
Mathematics
GR6402: Modern Geometry (Fall 2017)
Mathematics
GU4032: Fourier Analysis (Spring 2017)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2016)
Mathematics
V1102: Calculus II (Fall 2015)
Mathematics
W4392: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Spring 2015)
Mathematics
W4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2014)
Mathematics
G4343: Lie Groups and Representations (Fall 2013)
Mathematics
W4392: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (continuation)
Mathematics
W4391: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (Fall 2012)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2012)
Mathematics V1101: Calculus I (Fall 2010)
Mathematics V1102: Calculus II (Spring 2009)
Mathematics V1102: Calculus II (Fall 2008)
Mathematics
G4343-4: Lie Groups and Representations (Fall 2007-Spring 2008)
Mathematics
G4344: Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2007)
Mathematics
V1202:
Calculus IV (Fall 2005)
Mathematics
G4402-3:
Modern
Geometry (Fall 2004-Spring 2005)
Mathematics
G6434: Quantum Field Theory and Geometry (Fall 2003)
Mathematics
G4344:
Lie Groups and Representations (Spring 2003)
Research
My
recent research has been focused on some new ideas about how to get
a unified theory using twistor geometry, formulated in Euclidean
signature space-time. There's a web-page here,
and articles at
Euclidean
Twistor Unification (arXiv:2104.05099)
Notes
on
the Twistor P^{1} (arXiv: 2202.02657)
Is Spacetime Really Doomed? (arXiv:2204.02225)
International Journal of Modern Physics D(2022) 2242005
This received Honorable Mention in the
Gravity Research Foundation 2022 Awards for Essays on Gravitation.
Spacetime
is Right-handed (arXiv:2311.00608)
For something much older, there's:
Quantum
Field Theory and Representation Theory: A Sketch
Posted at www.arxiv.org as hep-th/0206135
June 2002.
For some really, really old things, there's:
Topological
Quantum Theories and Representation Theory (conference
proceedings 1989)
Supersymmetric Quantum Mechanics, Spinors and the Standard Model
(Nuclear Physics B393 (1988) 329-342)
Chern-Simons
Numbers and Universal Bundles on the Lattice (unpublished,
from 1987).
Topological
Charge in Lattice Gauge Theory (Physical Review Letters 51
(1983) 638-641)
Blog
Since 2004 I've maintained
an active blog called Not Even
Wrong, which deals with topics in physics and
mathematics. It now (Oct. 2022) contains about 1890 postings
that may be of some sort of interest. There's a huge pdf of
the whole thing here.
I wrote a few articles in 2016 for Heidelberg Laureate Forum blog,
see here.
Some Popular articles
String
Theory: An Evaluation
Posted at www.arxiv.org as physics/010251
February 2001.
Russian translation
courtesy of SciPosts.
Is string
theory even wrong?
Published in the March-April 2002 issue of American Scientist.
The
problem with physics
Cosmos Magazine, August 2007.
String
Theory and the Crisis in Particle Physics
Based on a talk at the Gulbenkian Foundation Conference in Lisbon on
Is Science Nearing Its Limits?
25-26 October 2007. This appears in the conference proceedings
volume, available here.
Polish translation by Alica Slaba available here.
The Nightmare
Scenario for Fundamental Physics
Edge 2013 question contribution, published in
What
Should we be Worried About?
The "Naturalness"
Argument
Edge 2014 question contribution, published in
This
Idea Must Die: Scientific Ideas that are Blocking Progress
String
theory and post-empiricism
Scientia Salon, July 10, 2014.
Towards a Grand Unified Theory of Mathematics and Physics
Essay written for FQXI contest, February 20, 2015. arXiv:1506.07576
Theorists
Without a Theory
Inference, Vol. 3, No. 3, November 2017.
Contribution
to "Memorial for Robert Hermann"
Notices of the AMS, Vol. 68, No. 9, October 2021.
Talks
For technical audiences
Transparencies
from a talk on Quantization and
Equivariant K-theory at the Wigner Conference in New York,
May 27, 2003.
Slides from
a
talk on Quantum Field Theory and
Representation Theory at the Dartmouth Math department,
June 3, 2004.
Slides
from talks on Is String Theory
Testable?, March 8 (INFN Rome) and March 15 (INFN
Pisa), 2007.
Slides
from a talk on BRST and Dirac
Cohomology at Dartmouth, October 23, 2008.
Slides
from a talk on Quantum Mechanics and Representation Theory
at Texas Tech, November 21, 2013.
Slides
from a colloquium talk in the physics department at Rutgers,
February 3, 2016.
Slides
from introductory talks on quantum mechanics and representation
theory at LaGuardia Community College, November 1, 2017 and
Queensborough Community College, November 15, 2017.
Slides
from a colloquium talk in the physics and astronomy department at
Rochester, March 7, 2018.
Slides
from a colloquium talk at the US Naval Observatory, December 6,
2018.
Slides from
a
talk on Quantization and the
Dirac Operator at the Dartmouth Math department, May 23,
2019.
Slides
from a talk on Twistor Unification at the Okinawa Institute
for Science and Technology, September 24, 2020.
Slides
and video
from a talk on Euclidean Twistor Unification at the Brown
Theoretical Physics Center, September 23, 2021.
Slides
from a talk on Unifying Foundations for Physics and Mathematics
at Foundations2021,
October 30, 2021 in Paris.
Slides
from a talk on Euclidean Twistor Unification and the Twistor P^{1}
at the Algebra,
Particles and Quantum Theory seminar, February 14, 2022.
Slides
from a different talk on Euclidean Twistor Unification and the
Twistor P^{1} at a math colloquium at the
University of Texas at Dallas, May 6, 2022.
Slides
and video
from a talk Spacetime is Right-handed at the OSMU23
lecture series, December 8, 2023.
For popular audiences
Slides
from a talk to students at Collin College, March 24, 2010.
TEDxFlanders
talk. Joint performance with Tommaso Dorigo at the
Antwerp Opera House on September 24, 2011.
What We Don't Know About Fundamental Physics, Talk at the
Blind Tiger on Bleecker Street, April 29, 2014, part of Raising the Bar.
Slides
from a talk for the general public on Unified Theories of Physics:
their illustrious past, peculiar present and uncertain future at
Oxford, September 27, 2022.
Video of
discussion of "The Code to the Cosmos" with Marika Taylor, Arif
Ahmed and David Malone, at How the Light Gets in Festival, October
2, 2022.
Interviews, podcasts, profiles, etc.
Interview
with John Horgan 2006.
Interview
at Scienceline, December 28, 2006.
Bloggingheads
conversation with Sabine Hossenfelder, July 9. 2008.
Bloggingheads
conversation with Craig Callendar, September 10, 2009.
Rationally
Speaking. April 2010.
Big Think. June 6,
2010.
The
Admiral of the String Theory Wars, Nautilus, May 7, 2015.
Still
Not Even Wrong, Physics World podcast, September 2016.
Why
String Theory Is Still Not Even Wrong, Scientific American
blog, April 27,2017.
What
happens when we can't test scientific theories, Guardian
Science Weekly podcast, June 28, 2019.
Interview with Fraser
Cain, Universe Today podcast. November 16, 2020.
Not Even Wrong!
String Theory and Beyond, The Edge of Science podcast, January
19, 2021.
Theories of
Everything and Why String Theory is Not Even Wrong, Lex
Fridman podcast, October 8, 2021.
String
theory is dead, IAI News interview, February 23, 2023.
Unification,
Spinors, Twistors, String Theory, Theories of Everything
podcast, November 22, 2023.
Maths, Twistors
and String Theory, Know Time podcast, January 6, 2024.
Why
Physicists are Rethinking the Route to a Theory of Everything,
New Scientist, February 7, 2024.
Book Reviews
I've written quite a few book reviews on the blog, the ones from the
past few years are easily accessible here.
Some reviews I've written for publication include:
Grappling
with Quantum Weirdness, American Scientist, September-October
2005. Review of Giancarlo Ghirardi's Sneaking a Look at God's Cards.
The
Goldilocks Enigma, New Humanist, September-October 2006.
Review of Paul Davies' The Goldilocks Enigma.
What
Happens In the Dark, Wall Street Journal, January 31,
2011. Review of Richard Panek's The 4% Universe.
In
the End Is the Beginning, Wall Street Journal, May 27,
2011. Review of Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time.
Fun with Fysiks,
American Scientist, July-August 2011. Review of David Kaiser's
How the Hippies Saved Physics.
Our Mathematical Universe, Wall Street Journal, January 17,
2014. Review of Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe.
Also available here.
The
Half-Life of Physicists, Wall Street Journal, May 1,
2015. Review of Paul Halpern's Einstein's Dice and
Schrodinger's Cat.
Fashion,
Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics, MAA Reviews, September
15, 2016. Review of Roger Penrose's Fashion, Faith and
Fantasy in the New Physics
Searching
for God at the Center of the Big Bang, Wall Street Journal,
February 17, 2017. Review of Zeeya Merali's A Big Bang in a
Little Room
Search
for the "Perfect" Theory, Physics World, May 2017.
Review of Frank Close's Theories of Everything
Lost
in Math, MAA Reviews, June 11, 2018. Review of Sabine
Hossenfelder's Lost in Math
Ancient material from the earliest days of the string theory
controversy
Some reactions
to these articles, various outrages,
and a few voices of
reason.
Anyone interested in a bet?