The discussion of Lee Smolin’s book just keeps on rolling. One of these days, I’ll actually finish it, and make my own informed comments. (It’s been a busy couple of weeks hereabouts.)
For the moment, I’ll have to settle for pointing you to two new reviews. One is by Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance, who has posted the full draft of the review he wrote for New Scientist. It’s lengthy, and detailed, and I don’t have anything more specific than that to say, because I’ve only just reached the section introducing string theory.
The other, quoted by his Holiness, is an Amazon review by Peter Shor, of “Shor’s algorithm” fame, and describes the origin of string theory as a sort of con game on the part of nature:
String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, there’s too many different ways to fold our Calabi-Yao manifold up. And it keeps trying to come unfolded. And string theory is only compatible with a negative cosmological constant, and we own a positive one.
Nature: No problem. Just let me tie this Calabi-Yao manifold up with some strings and branes, and maybe a little duct tape, and you’ll be all set.
String theorists: But our beautiful new theory is so ugly now!
Nature: Ah! But the Anthropic Principle says that all the best theories are ugly.
String theorists: It does?
Nature: It does. And once you make it the fashion to be ugly, you’ll ensure that other theories will never beat you in beauty contests.
String theorists: Hooray! Hooray! Look at our beautiful new theory.
I eagerly await the inevitable description of exactly what sort of intellectually bankrupt America-hating crackpot Shor is.
(Apologies to Marvin Gaye for the post title. It’s just too hard to resist.)