I see below that (in what comes as a total surprise) the string thread has already gotten lively. As an experimentalist doing quantum mechanics at the ultra-low-energy end, I don’t have a strong opinion on string theory qua theory, and I really don’t have a strong opinion on the sociology-of-theory business, beyond saying that I’m not a cynic, and that I find articles in the popular press about Str1ng Warzz a bit tacky.
I’m also not really qualified to weigh in: my only particle theory background was a year of QFT from a phenomenologist out of Peskin & Schroeder, and while I came out of it with a certificate saying I Could Now Calculate Any Cross-Section in QED, which was nice, the last quarter pretty much lost me.
So I think I can summarize my vague feelings on the business as such: theory is hard; experiments are also hard; it would be nice to see more connections to experiment; conspiracy theories are bad; acting like five-year-olds is also bad; and Brian Greene has caused me more grief from my relatives than Hawking ever did. Am I boring or what?
I’m also reminded of Feynman’s intro to QED, wherein he says:
What I’d like to talk about is a part of physics that is known, rather than a part that is unknown. People are
always asking for the latest developments in the unification of this theory with that theory, and they don’t give us a chance to tell them anything about one of the theories that we know pretty well. They always want to know things that we don’t know. So, rather than confound you with a lot of half-cooked, partially analyzed theories, I would like to tell you about a subject that has been very thoroughly analyzed.
As much as I find Feynman invocation distasteful, this made me smile. And I like to think about it whenever my relatives ask me about these crazy little strings.