Part two of Gerald Alper’s piece at Smashpipe is now available there, with the title Who’s Winning the String Wars and Why Should You Care?, and some more substantive material than in part one. One of the great things about having a blog is that whenever anyone writes anything about you that you think might not be 100% correct, you can blog about it, and explain yourself ad nauseam. So, here are a few clarifications for readers of that article:
- About the “horrible sentence”
The Hilbert space of the Wess-Zumino-Witten model is a representation not only of the Kac-Moody group, but the group of conformal
representations[transformations] as well.
I don’t think it’s a bad sentence, it succinctly conveys the main point about the close relationship of the WZW QFT to representation theory. Like a certain number of things in the book though, it’s not intended for everyone. There were certain things I wanted to explain, and the way I went about this was to try to as clearly write them down as possible, in a way accessible to as many people as possible, but well aware that not everyone would understand everything. Unlike writing “the WZW model is related to mathematics like X is to Y”, where X and Y are things most people would recognize, you’re not going to get fooled into believing you understand something you don’t by what I was writing. Those who do understand the sentence will understand a real idea.
I AM VERY CONFIDENT that I AM RIGHT. No one has ever critiqued string theory with the level of detail that I have.
Not sure exactly how I said this, but I suspect the “no one has ever” wasn’t intended to convey that this was a good thing. I’ve clearly spent too much of my life thinking about this. I also should specify that what I’m confident about is that current “string vacua” models don’t correspond to reality. They’re complicated, ugly, and don’t explain anything. My suspicion is that even Witten might not completely disagree with this, acknowledging that at our current understanding of string theory, there is no convincing model. I think a more accurate way of characterizing where Witten and I disagree here is with how promising it is to pursue this particular vision of unification. I am not at all confident that Witten or someone else pursuing it might not come up with something really new and successful some day. I just think it’s a relatively unpromising route to keep heading down, although I acknowledge it’s possible it might lead to finding a more interesting path. Doubtless Witten feels the same way about things I find more promising.
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