Not Even Wrong subject to BBC radio 4 debate…

Peter Woit is on the radio in a 7 minutes 4 seconds long BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview of Dr Peter Woit versus Dr Daniel Waldram (reader in theoretical physics at Imperial College, London University) last Thursday 27th of July 2006 (you can hear it on line as it is the second to last item listed on the page http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/thursday.shtml, although I fear it will automatically get lost from that html page when another Thursday passes by, so will try copy some brief audio clips and to type up a complete transcript before it is too late!). In the meanwhile here are some extracts typed up:

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme Presenter: “The first book setting out the arguments against string theory has been published. String theory is the theory of how the world works that’s held sway for the past twenty years. But now the mathematician Professor Peter Woit has written a book called “Not Even Wrong” in which he argues that the theory is “too speculative to ever be able to prove it is wrong, let alone right”.

BBC radio science correspondent Matt McGrath: “String theory is an idea that tries to bring together theories of big science dealing with space, stars, black holes, with theories of little science of the world of elementary particles such as quarks and leptons. For years, scientists have been trying to weave them together in a unified theory of everything, but there are some big problems. In big science, the fabric of space and time is smooth, but down at the subatomic level where distances are very small indeed, it’s a seething foaming mess where past, present and future are no longer predictable. To solve this conundrum, enter the string. The core of the theory is that instead of seeing the smallest elements of matter as points in space or time, we should understand them as strings or loops of vibrating energy. … No experiments have proven any of this yet. …”

Woit: “There are so many things that you can do with these [extra] six dimensions that you cannot extract a prediction from the theory.”

Copy of my comment to Woit’s blog (may get deleted):

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=435

nigel cook Says:
July 29th, 2006 at 11:10 am
The BBC interview shows how string theorists take the fact that string theory is a failure, and then use that as a reason to continue trying. You have to admire their perseverance. (If it predicted anything, would they finally call it ‘boring’, and move on?)

Daniel’s point is that string theory is interesting, exciting and ‘beautiful’ because it can’t predict anything to help physics.

He then said that there is no real problem of suppression because people are totally free to do whatever they want (they merely lose grants, jobs, career prospects if they don’t follow mainstream).

Advertisements

One thought on “Not Even Wrong subject to BBC radio 4 debate…

  1. I did record the interview as an audio file and so will be able to make a transcript. Obviously it will be copyright of the BBC but that only restricts commercial use and UK copyright law has a “fair trading” clause which allows extracts to be used for genuine debate and criticism, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s