String Theory Hype Fest

I just finished watching the video here, which was released today. Since this was advertised as a panel discussion on the state of string theory, I thought earlier today that it might be a good opportunity to write something serious about the state of string theory and its implications more generally for the state of hep-th. But, I just can’t do that now, since I found the video beyond depressing. I’ve seen a lot of string theory hype over the years, but on some level, this is by far the worst example I’ve ever seen. I started my career in awe of Edward Witten and David Gross, marveling at what they had done and were doing, honored to be able to learn wonderful things from them. Seeing their behavior in this video leaves me broken-hearted. What they have done over the past few decades and are doing now has laid waste to the subject I’ve been in love with since my teenage years. Maybe someday this field will recover from this, but I’m not getting any younger, so dubious that I’ll be around to see it.

Most shameful of the lot was Andy Strominger, who at one point graded string theory as “A+++”, another only “A+”. He did specify that very early on he had realized that actual string theory as an idea about unification was not going to work out. He now defines “string theory” as whatever he and others who used to do string theory are working on.

David Gross was the best of the lot, giving string theory a B+. At two points (29:30 and 40:13), after explaining the string theory unification vision of 1984-5 he started to say “Didn’t work out that way…” and “Unfortunately…”, but in each case Brian Greene started talking over him telling him to stop.

Funny thing is, I think even most string theorists are going to be appalled by this performance. Already, here’s what StringKing42069 has to say

🤮 these old jagoffs have thrown an entire generation of strings under the bus. Fuq them.

Update: I haven’t seen any negative reaction to this hypefest from anyone in the physics community other than from StringKing42069. The Black Hole Initiative at Harvard features the event prominently on its website here advertising Strominger’s participation (he’s a PI).

I’m finding it hard to believe that any of the participants in this thought of it as anything other than an advertising effort useful to try and prop up public support and grant funding. In particular, Strominger’s “A+++” is easier to understand once you realize the extent of the grant funding involved, e.g.:

The abstract of the last of these is A+++ hype in tune with the WSF video:

Vigorous efforts made over the last several decades have advanced our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature beyond the standard model of particle physics. Further advances would potentially include unification of the forces, the reconciliation of quantum mechanics and gravity, a derivation of the standard model couplings, a universal explanation of the area law for horizon entropy, and a theory for the origin of the universe.

For a much older example of successful use of hype to extract grant funding, there’s this Jeffrey Epstein story I hadn’t known about until recently.

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62 Responses to String Theory Hype Fest

  1. Eric Weinstein says:

    This is astounding video. They are all so well spoken and pure in their summations that you can hear exactly what the last 40 years have sounded like from inside the harmonious echo chamber of what once was physics. A single skilled critic would destroy the vision that this succeeded at an A+ level. And so…there can be no critics on stage to disturb the delicacy of this castle in the air made of clouds and string.


    This is perfect in every way. A summation of 4 decades of a constant stream of preternatural success after success inerupted only by triumphs as viewed by the leaders and greying architects of this, the most wonderful of all possible theories. ‘Raindrops on roses and brown paper packages tied up with strings.’ as the song goes.

    I feared I would hate this from your description Peter. And yet, I adore this and wouldn’t change a thing. No one would believe me if these men were not willing to say it themselves.

  2. Shantanu says:

    Peter, happy new year. As a preview
    Hopefully all these talks will be online.

  3. JE says:

    I share your grief, Peter. Watching top physicists strive to perform as televangephysicists with the help of Brian Greene’s performance skills is shameful (and boring). We already had Michio Kaku, but these are bigger names. It has almost led me to change my mind about hep-th funding. Just in case it could get confused with hep-tv funding.

    I would say that Witten’s body language might indicate that he was not comfortable during the talk, especially in the first half, as if his mission there was just to answer some technical questions (shorter statements, etc), not to make a TV show, but perhaps this is out of shyness. And Gross’ final B+ is a strong indicator of the real state of the subject…

  4. Ted Rogers says:

    Most people in the comments section seemed to have loved the video. Not sure if that means anything.

  5. James Lai says:

    Indeed Gross kept shaking his head during Strominger’s ending remark.

  6. Peter Hickman says:

    Usual hype, nothing new.
    I would have these 2 questions on the assessment of ‘string theory’ exam paper:
    Q(1) – Is the Standard Model of particle physics recovered from ‘string theory’?
    Q(2) – Is there any experimental or observational results for ‘string theory’?
    By this assessment, score is 0/2.
    Certainly not A++++ or B+ grade.
    The biased panel do not want to admit failure. They should realize that its not wrong to admit failure, that’s the nature of science research. If ‘string theory’ was any good, i.e. useful, and makes definite predictions, then the hype over last c.40 years would be unnecessary. The continuing hype shows that the goal of ‘string theory’ has failed, whether the panel and other string theorists admit to it or not.

  7. David Brown says:

    Note that Witten applauded (rather unenthusiastically) Strominger’s A+ grade for string theory.

  8. Giotis says:

    Surely the fact that String Theory counts exactly the number of Black Hole microstates, according to Bekenstein-Hawking prediction, strongly suggests that the Theory knows a couple of things about the Universe.

    This statement in the latest review summarizes the situation for the SM:

    “The SM can be embedded into string theory: The main ingredients of the SM – the gauge group, chiral matter and Yukawa interactions – follow relatively naturally from general principles of string theory. Reproducing exactly the SM including, for instance, its vectorlike matter content or the precise flavor structure, is more involved, but each property per se has been obtained or is within reach. The challenge is to find vacua that combine all these features at the same time, with all moduli stabilized and incorporating a realistic cosmology.”

    “The Standard Model from String Theory: What Have We Learned?”

    The SM can be derived from String theory but the issue is to combine all its ingredients in a complete cosmology of a dS vacuum with all moduli stabilized.

    If you know a couple of things in String pheno you understand that this is a daunting task.

    The fact that this Universe is not unique is plausible of course (the failure of naturalness may indicate just that as Witten explained).

    The new development though is the Swampland program which restricts significantly the number of “good” EFTs.

    On the other hand the general problem, understanding for example singularities, is that String theory is still only understood at perturbative level.

    Beyond AdS/CFT, the non perturbative definition in the bulk is missing.

    Dualities can help but up to a point.

  9. Peter Woit says:

    One obvious problem with Strominger’s A+++ for the consistency of string theory is that a conference is starting devoted to the problem that no one knows what the definition of “string theory” is.

  10. Peter Woit says:

    It occurred to me that the best way to understand this video is that it’s an infomercial. It was to a large degree scripted as such, with expensive graphics produced to help the sales job. Witten seemed fine with participating in such a thing, Strominger was the over the top “it slices!! it dices!!” guy. Gross went off script a couple times and had to be slapped down. I wonder if he had second thoughts about participating once he saw the result.

  11. Peter Woit says:

    That the Strominger-Vafa calculation of 28 years ago, with all its caveats and limitations, is still promoted as the best evidence for the consistency of string theory, speaks volumes.

    On the issue of getting particle physics out of string constructions, don’t believe me when I tell you it doesn’t work, believe Gross, Strominger and Witten. As they admit in this video they long ago gave up on this (Strominger first). The euphemism they use is that for this to work “we would have to be very lucky”, i.e. you have to assume some new physics being discovered that has exactly the right properties to point to a string theory origin. They clearly don’t believe this is going to happen.

    Those young theorists who were fooled by this kind of infomercial into going into string theory and trying to connect it to reality are now upset that the people who sold them this have now given up and are stabbing them in the back. Zero chance that Gross, Strominger or Witten would hire anyone deluded enough to believe what they were selling 35-40 years ago. Latest from Stringking42069 about this is at
    “Senior hep-th bros are corrupt assholes at this point. They don’t support strings and push their weakass cronies instead. Fuq the lot of them.

    Strings is still the best game in town. Too bad these assclowns can’t recognize that anymore.”

  12. Gavin says:

    I’m an ex-physics postdoc working in the private sector. I don’t have any skin in the game.

    I don’t think you’re doing yourself any favors giving StringKing42069 publicity. To me he comes across as extremely obnoxious and unserious. I understand the appeal because he is prolific in making anti-string-establishment statements, but I personally think it undermines your credibility to cite him. There are plenty of critics of string theory in the broader physics community who will put their name on what they say and give an actual argument, such as acollieastro or honestly almost every physicist or astrophysicist I’ve met who doesn’t publish in hep-th.

    In terms of the event itself, I personally thought it wasn’t worth talking about. It’s the same people saying the same things they’ve been saying for decades. Literally — their history of string theory stops pretty much around 2000 when Brian Greene wrote his books. I think anyone who goes to an event like that who has followed string theory for any length of time would realize nothing new was said, and anyone who hasn’t probably isn’t that interested in physics that they will remember anyway. For any young students inspired to go into physics, I think it’s a net positive… I was inspired to go into physics by Brian Greene, but then as I went through the coursework and interacted with professors and students I actually got a better picture of physics as a whole and went into a different research field.

  13. Peter Woit says:

    The problem isn’t Brian Greene, it’s much, much more serious than that. You seem to have missed the main point of my posting, which is about the very significant and disturbing implications of having Witten + Strominger + Gross participating in something like this.

    StringKing is an idiot (or someone very clever trying to make string theorists look like idiots). Obviously I’m not making a serious argument about string theory by pointing to his nonsense. As for whether I’ve devoted enough time and effort to making credible, serious arguments about these issues over the years, I think I’ll let the record speak for itself.

  14. sdf says:

    Greene cutting off Gross everytime he tried to inject some reality into the conversation, I’m sorry but I found this hilarious to watch, it is almost like some kind of bad vaudeville.

  15. Alex says:

    Oh, what more can be said that hasn’t already been repeated ad nauseam regarding the pathetic (maybe even terminal/end stage?) state of hep-th and of the conspicuous enablers of this situation? I started writing a longer comment but then I deleted it because I thought “what for?”.

    I think Karl Marx said, about history repeating itself, that this happens “… the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” The tragedy and damage has already been done. As Peter mentioned, young researchers stabbed in the back by their mentors, a field with no prospects, with its credibility on the floor, etc.

    So, this recent video and the like, I think, belongs to the farce. In that sense, the appereance of “StringKing” gives to this vulgar grotesque opera its mandatory clown. I think it’s good that Peter mentioned this person since it sets the tone and background on the stage for the main characters in the video to do their dance. Let’s hope this time is… finally… the *final* act of the spectacle… “Applaud, friends, the comedy is over.”

  16. gentzen says:

    Witten mentions Nordström’s theory of gravitation at 9:00. A beautiful simple Lorentz-invariant theory of gravitation consistent with Newton’s theory of gravitation in the appropriate limit. But “according to Nordström’s theory, the perihelia of Mercury should lag at a rate of about 7 seconds of arc per century, whereas according to general relativity, the perihelia should advance at a rate of about 43 seconds of arc per century.” (quoted from Wikipedia). I guess the irony that String theory also fails to predict observations (and is perceived as beautiful by it proponents) was fully intentional.

    I never heard of that theory before, and only watched that video because you mentioned it. Sorry to admit it, but I actually enjoyed it, and subsequently also watched “The Story of String Theory (Daniel Robbins)” and read an interview where John Baez said: “It turns out there’s a wonderful story here: briefly, particles are to categories as strings are to 2­-categories, and all the math of particles can be generalized to strings using this idea!”

    This left me with the feeling that String theory might have its place as a “mathematical model” where quantum field theory can be explored beyond renormalization and perturbation theory. You just have to accept that it is not the correct theory of our universe. Like John Baez said in that interview: “Ironically, when I quit quantum gravity, I felt free to explore string theory. As a branch of math, it’s really wonderful.”

  17. Marvin says:

    A Nobel Prize winner, a Field medalist, a Breaktrough prize recipendaire, invited in their nicest suits to discuss…..about the late. They make a tribute to the acomplishement of the late, showing how it help in their career. But most of all, trying to make us not forget the late. That was my feeling.

  18. cond-mat phd student says:


    I have followed pretty much the same initial trajectory as you, entering physics with the idea of studying high energy physics and moving towards a different field (stat-mech*) when I realised the state of hep-th.
    I strongly disagree with your assessment that so long as we entice new physics students, hep hype is a net positive.
    I find somewhat cynical the position that we should get as many physics students as possible, even if this requires borderline lying to them.

    I may be overlydramatic, but personally I felt kind of betrayed.

    This strategy reflects very badly on physics as a whole, imho.

    * alas, I now have the feeling that cond-math.stat-mech is not in much better shape than hep-th, see the Majorana fermion debacle.

  19. Diogenes says:

    What you will discover from reading philosophy is that unless you precisely define terms you will have arguments for centuries. Here ‘string theory’ remains mostly undefined, even within the timeframe of a single conversation, so arguing about the merits is really pointless. I think what the panel is really saying is: “We theorists get an A for effort over the last century, and even if a subset of us sucked up all the oxygen for the past 30 years and didn’t get that much done, please don’t cut our funding or try to tarnish our shiny reputations. This stuff is hard and we did the best we could.”

  20. Peter Woit says:

    The extent to which a “state of string theory ” discussion was mostly about how wonderful the string theory unification idea of forty years ago was (with any less than positive comment squelched) I think reflects the way this was really about defending the interests of the participants.

    For Gross and Witten, they’re now getting to the age where one thinks about one’s legacy and how one will be remembered by history. For both of them it’s looking like they will be seen as having huge accomplishments, but tarnished by their spending much of the later part of their careers promoting a failed idea. It’s in their interest to have the 1984/5 proposal for a TOE seen as of such overwhelming beauty and promise that what happened later can be excused. Brian Greene’s career is even more tightly connected with this.

    For Strominger with his A+s for current string theory related work, an important issue is how people see his ongoing “celestial holography” program, which has been promoted by tying it to AdS/CFT and string theory.

  21. Charles Cherqui says:

    My favorite part is he says when Strominger says that if he didn’t believe in it then he wouldn’t be working on it just after telling us out his last 80 papers 2 have been on strings. So he’s not working on it? Then what does that indicate about his faith in it?

  22. Peter Woit says:

    Charles Cherqui,

    I think you missed this part:
    “string theory has now come to be a word that is used for everybody who is working on anything that goes beyond the standard laws of physics”
    I guess that according to him I’m a string theorist.

    When he says he believes in “string theory” and gives it an A+, “string theory” just means whatever he is working on, so he’s just saying that he believes in what he’s working on and he deserves an A+.

  23. Charles Cherqui says:


    No, I picked that up but took that as him putting lipstick on a pig. Of course it makes sense that rather than admit failure he would simply draw a bigger box around what “string theory” means. In that now it means everything me and my friends are into, regardless what it is. String theory is now simply whatever they are doing to try to go beyond the SM.

    Whether he meant to or not, he exposed a truth. If, in their heart of hearts, they really thought this was the right answer they’d still be working on it, just like Einstein kept at it undeterred right up to his death.

  24. Peter Woit says:

    Charles Cherqui,
    Gross did something similar, claiming AdS/CFT shows string theory equivalent to a QFT, so “string theory” means “QFT”.

    Yes, all these people have abandoned the “string theory” that they were advertising in the infomercial. The point of quoting “stringking” was to show that those like him who still believe in the original vision and are trying to make it work are well aware these people have abandoned them and feel that they have been stabbed in the back.

  25. nikita says:

    Interestingly, Einstein also spent the last decades of his life pursuing a research program that was almost universally considered a dead-end. He didn’t “promote” it though in any sense, as far as I know.

  26. Peter Woit says:


    Yes. A good analogy perhaps to the situation we’ve been in since 1984 would be if theorists in 1920 had all decided to follow Einstein, and spent the next forty years not pursuing QM and QFT, but studying ever more elaborate classical generalizations of GR, very excited about how they unified EM and GR. These generalizations somehow would never manage to make testable predictions, with the excuse that the properties of atoms were determined by the solutions to non-linear equations involving geometry at the Planck scale. So, while untestable, the theory would still deserve an A+++.

  27. Kawabata Hiro says:

    Paraphing a paraphrasing of Planck –

    “Physics advances one funeral at a time.”

  28. Héhéhé says:

    Peter, it is time to admit that you are StringKing4206 , you clever troll !

  29. Peter Woit says:

    Kawabata Hiro,
    Problem is that the younger people, trained by spending years reading Polchinski, are even more deluded about string theory than their elders. Looking at the people in this video, their age is inversely correlated to their degree of skepticism.

    Another problem is that it has become clear that this is not going to change on the time scale of my life expectancy.

  30. Peter Woit says:


    No, not me. But if it was, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  31. Fadde'ev-Popov ghosts says:

    Mr. Strominger modestly attributes himself and his followers an “A+++” grade, yet my reservations linger, as most AdS/CFT experts might not be as generous, even in Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds”.Reading arXiv:2304.08292, one discovers a competing program to “celestial holography” known as “Carrollian holography.” While the – conjectured CFT dual to perturbative quantum gravity defined on a Minkowski space background is anticipated to be situated in the celestial sphere Sˆ2 at infinity, the CFT corresponding to the latter pertains to null-infinity R \times S^2 and obeys to the Carroll symmetry algebra associated with a null Lorentzian hypersurface. Considering that the latter is a codimension one submanifold of Penrose’s conformally compactified Minkowski space, in contrast to the codimension two nature of the former, it appears that Carrollian holography more faithfully embodies the original t’Hooft-Susskind holographic principlE than its celestial counterpart. Even attempts to reconcile both programs are likely haMpered by the distinct dimensionality of the CFT backgrounds, leading to different degrees of freedom and, consequently, distinct thermodynamics of asymptotically flat black hole metrics.

    Adding further difficulties, linking asymptotic BMS symmetries with the Virasoro symmetry algebra necessitates extending the BMS group from the semi-direct product of Poincaré with supertranslations to the so-called superrotations. These superrotations, acting as local diffeomorphisms in the celestial sphere, possess generators represented by meromorphic vector fields on S^2, as outlined in arXiv:1102.4632. However, in mapping the phase space from past null-infinity \Scri^- to future null-infinity \Scri^+, enforcing the antipodal matching condition becomes challenging when allowing poles associated with the generators of superrotations. This presents an already classical-level problem in defining the phase space for theories involving superrotations.

    Furthermore, celestial amplitudes, discussed in works like arXiv:1711.06138, arXiv:1705.01027, and the more recent arXiv:2210.04725, are defined using a generalization of the optical theorem with a singular shadow integral transform (see App.B of 2210.04725). This singularity renders the inverse ill-defined, leading to the use of vertex operators in celestial spheres with conformal weights Δ featuring non-vanishing imaginary parts, ultimately rendering the theory non-unitary. It’s imperative to recall that the primary goal of holography was to address the issue of the unitary evolution of black hole states. An “A+++” grade, indeed?

  32. Peter Woit says:

    Fadde’ev-Popov ghosts,
    Thanks, but I really don’t want to try and host a discussion of the technicalities of celestial holography here, which is off-topic and beyond my competence to moderate.

    It does though provide a good example of the current problems generated by string theory hype, including Strominger and his A+++s. “Celestial holography” is one of the very short list of hot topics in hep-th. The focus on the celestial sphere agrees well with twistor geometry and I see that twistor people are working in this field. New symmetries and how to exploit them is another of my favorite topics.

    But if I try and start figuring out what is going on in this subject, I find it explained as being motivated by AdS/CFT and string theory, see for instance
    where we’re told “A crowning achievement for the celestial holography program would be for it to determine concretely whether string theories are the only consistent theories of (asymptotically flat) quantum gravity.”

    Given the history of string theory and AdS/CFT hype, it’s very hard to take seriously a lot of the stated motivation for this subject. Strominger’s performance on this video makes it really hard to take his arguments about what’s promising seriously, and he’s the main leader of this field. So, I start out sympathetic and interested, but have a hard time figuring out which parts of the arguments for the subject are credible and which aren’t.

  33. Shantanu says:

    Peter: out of curiosity, why aren’t there many public debates between proponents and critics of string theory? Such debates exist a lot in astrophysics (Shapley-Curtis debate, Lamb-Packzynski debate, Kroupa- White debate , etc). the only few I am aware of is one between Krauss and Brian Greene and I think there was another one between you and Jim Gates. Probably there should be more.

  34. Peter Woit says:


    My impression is that there are few if any string theorists who want to participate in a serious debate on this topic, because they know that they would be arguing a very weak case. In recent years the only examples of this sort of thing I can think of were organized by the IAI people in Britain, e.g. this
    In at least one case, I was disinvited from a planned appearance on a panel discussing string theory, as far as I could tell because a prominent string theorist wouldn’t participate if I was there.

  35. Peter Woit says:

    It occurs to me that while I don’t normally like this kind of crude explanation of people’s behavior, in this case there’s a simple explanation of Strominger’s “A+++” business. At the moment he’s PI on at least the following grants:
    Black Hole Initiative: \$16 million so far from the Templeton Foundation
    Collaboration on Celestial Holography: \$8 million from the Simons Foundation
    DOE grant DE-SC0007870: \$3.5 million from DOE
    The summary of this last one assures us that successful BSM theory has been done, and that the authors are on the road to computing the electron mass and understanding the origin of the universe:
    “Vigorous efforts made over the last several decades have advanced our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature beyond the standard model of particle physics. Further advances would potentially include unification of the forces, the reconciliation of quantum mechanics and gravity, a derivation of the standard model couplings, a universal explanation of the area law for horizon entropy, and a theory for the origin of the universe.”

    Strominger has been in the fund-raising business for a long time. For an unusual example, see here

  36. Charles Cherqui says:

    Open question. Maybe I’m just slow but one thing I’ve never understood is if ads/cft relates 5-D Gravity and 4-D QFT, how can it have anything to do with String Theory. which is 10-D.

  37. Peter Woit says:

    Charles Cherqui,
    The conjecture more precisely is about string theory on AdS5 X S^5

  38. James says:

    I think it is time for you to write another book that would look at
    the string (mis-) adventure in its larger perspective. We are now
    seeing an entire generation gone by and the derailment of physics by a
    relatively small group of people. While some of them are yet alive
    we need to hear from them if any have the integrety to try and clear the air
    about what has happened.

  39. Bernard l'Amateur says:

    As far I know, string theory research is still done using pencil and paper, right?
    I was wondering what Strominger would use \$16 millions for?
    Is it for doing super complicated computations by hiring IBM supercomputers? Is it for paying postdocs \$200k+ a year?
    Is it for purchasing expensive experimental equipment for testing their theories?
    And how many years is such a grant spread over? Does this mean that research in string theory is still the most profitable business in HEP?


  40. Peter Woit says:

    I’m not planning on writing another book about the string theory business. The old one still holds up quite well, and I want to spend my time on other more promising pursuits.

    I’ve done and continue to do my part to deal with the string theory hype problem with posts here on the blog. A question for all in the theoretical physics community is why you are doing nothing to deal with this problem. It’s not going away.

  41. Peter Woit says:

    Bernard l’Amateur,
    Strominger is just one of many PIs involved in the three grants I mentioned, so the money is divided amongst many people. I assume all of them fund the usual sorts of things:
    1. Postdocs
    2. Grad students (tuition + stipends)
    3. Conferences + travel
    4. “summer salary” for the PIs
    5. Overhead for the universities involved

    For instance, for the Simons collaboration grant, see postdoc ads here

    This is funding a very significant number of postdocs and likely grad students, but as far as I know zero funding for permanent positions (except indirectly through the overhead). This exacerbates the problems of the field of
    1. An overemphasis on hiring in a small number of specific areas that are “hot topics”.
    2. An overproduction of Ph.Ds and postdocs, who face long odds against getting a permanent position.

  42. From that 2003 CERN Courier news item:

    Andrew Strominger of Harvard, who facilitated [Jeffrey Epstein’s] gift

    That did not age well!

  43. Peter Woit says:

    David Roberts,
    To be fair to Strominger, 2003 was before Epstein’s illegal behavior was publicly known. I haven’t seen Strominger’s name come up in the list of prominent theorists who were hanging out with Epstein at a conference he paid for in 2006, shortly before he was arrested.

  44. George says:


    your comparison with Einstein hypothetically being followed by whole theoretical community in his pursuit of combining electromagnetism and gravity is spot on. One question remains, though. To be fair to Einstein, we need to assess achievements of prominent string theories BEFORE they started their string theory revolution. We all know remarkable legacy of Einstein and what he did prior to starting his unsuccessful quest. Are there such achievements to be found in works of Witten (in physics, not in mathematics) and other string theorists?

  45. Peter Woit says:

    David Gross’s discovery of asymptotic freedom and development of QCD was a huge advance and his Nobel Prize is well-deserved. During the early 1980s, before string theory, Witten did remarkable work that was very much physics, see for example his papers on “current algebra” (effective theory of mesons and baryons).

  46. Indiethphy says:

    Einstein program, in one of its incarnations, was actually followed, and to great success, by Weyl, Schrödinger, London, maybe/almost Klein, Yang-Mills, Schwinger, Gell-Mann, Glashow, Weinberg and others, in the form of the gauge principle, which is the backbone of the Standard Model. The story is of course well known, and it nicely rendered for instance in A. Zee’s book “QFT as simply as possible “.

  47. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t think gauge symmetry is really the “Einstein program”. It’s not something he followed up on, and that’s one of the main problems with the research program he followed in the second half of his life. Among the people you mention who did pursue gauge theory, Weyl at the beginning is the only one who took a geometric perspective, the others didn’t (Weinberg very explicitly claimed that thinking about geometry was a mistake). If Einstein had pursued gauge theory instead of what he did do, that would have changed the history a lot.

    Besides ignoring gauge symmetry, the other problem with Einstein’s program is that as far as I know, he paid no attention to the geometry of spinors.

    If he had pursued spinor geometry and gauge symmetry in his attempts to unify physics, the results would have been radically more positive (even if he had continued to be skeptical about quantization) One could argue that the string theorists have been making exactly this mistake again.

  48. rfb says:

    Einstein did do some work on spinors. In the early 1930s, he and the mathematician Walther Mayer published several papers on semivectors, a type of generalization of spinors. They gave up on the idea after some discouraging words from Pauli along with a demonstration by Bargmann that the same results could be achieved by superposition of ordinary spinors. See Chapter 5 of “Einstein’s Unification” by Jeroen van Dongen.

  49. D R Lunsford says:

    Actually Einstein did try to deal with spinors – they were sometimes referred to as semi-vectors. Distant parallelism was another go at local frames. Weyl’s original gauge-invariant geometry was a direct attempt to extend GR and it lives on at the base of field theory. So IMO there is no comparison of Einstein’s work and string theory delusion. Einstein was looking for a geometrical theory with a proper Hamiltonian that could then be quantized in the Dirac way. That was the right approach IMO and can still work. BTW Fock dealt with spinors in GR in a completely correct way. Fock had a better understanding of GR than almost everyone who wasn’t Pauli, Weyl, Dirac, or Einstein.


  50. Shantanu says:

    Peter, something IT. A recent colloquium on string. theory at University of Alabama.
    Would be interested in your take on this

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