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The Trouble With Physics
Popular and distinguished physicist Lee Smolin, himself a lapsed string theory adherent of the 1980s, contends that string theory, perhaps one of the hottest topics in physics for the past 20 years, has not only lost its way but led to a dead-end. In fact, he argues, it isn't even a fully formed theory at all, but more accurtely described as conjecture--a prime example of abstract theory and speculation taking precedence over experimentally verifiable evidence and testable assumptions. Besides being in itself an example of how even well funded and authoritatively promoted science can float blithely free from reality when traditional restraints are relaxed, the dominance of string theory has stifled scientific advance by virtue of the control that its defenders exercise over the employment and research agendas of young physicists, even to the extent of their being penalized for pursuing alternative avenues. Alternatives should be encouraged, and Smolin highlights a number of directions currently being investigated that he considers promising.
Lee Smolin earned his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard, then went on to teach at Yale and Pennsylvania State before helping to found the innovative Perimeter Institute in Ontario, Canada. He has also authored The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.
"As Smolin reminds his readers, string theorists haven't been able to prove any of their exotic ideas, and he says there isn't much chance that they will in the foreseeable future. . . . [He] believes that physicists are making the mistake of searching for a theory that is "beautiful" and "elegant" instead of one that's actually backed up by experiments."
"[Lee Smolin] takes a complex debate on a highly theoretical topic and makes it accessible and interesting to the general public. With gusto, the author describes the infighting and politics that hinder progress in physics."
"A well-known name in theoretical physics, Smolin dissents from its dominant contemporary avenue of research: string theory, or, more accurately, theories, since there are calculably more string theories than there are subatomic particles in the universe. To Smolin, that is among many causes for suspecting that string theorists are on the wrong track for solving five fundamental problems in theoretical physics, which is his opening salvo in this critique of his profession."
"The best book about contemporary science written for the layman that I have ever read ... Read this book. Twice."
--The Times of London