Bergman's Review of Not Even Wrong

(Via Not Even Wrong) Aaron Bergman has put up an eleven page review of Peter Woit's book Not Even Wrong. Aaron is a string theorist with an impeccable pedigree (Yale, Princeton, now at UT Austin) and an excellent writer. More importantly, he is well informed and fair minded.

Unsurprisingly, Aaron is not best pleased with Peter's argument. He notes that many of the problems Peter points out are well known to String Theorists and complains that:
Dr. Woit has instead chosen to write a tendentious account providing little guidance as to why, even in the face of such criticism, so many have chosen to work on string theory.

I highly recommend Aaron's review to anyone interested in these issues, and also Peter's response (both linked above).

I do have a couple of comments or questions.

NEW evidently includes the following comment about the Bogandov affair:
So no one in the string group at Harvard can tell if these papers are real or fraudulent. This morning told that they were frauds, everyone was laughing at how obvious it is, This afternoon, told they are real professors and that this is not a fraud, everyone here says, well, maybe it is real stuff.

Aaron replies:
The implication here is that string theorists are incapable from telling legitimate research from nonsense. I cannot speak for the group at Harvard, but at the time I was a graduate student at Princeton, and I can speak for my own involvement. I first learned of the relevant papers in a posting on the internet by Dr. John Baez. Having found a copy of one of the papers available online, I posted that “the referee clearly didn’t even glance at it.” While the papers were full of rather abstruse prose about a wide variety of quite technical areas, it was easy to identify outright nonsense in the areas about which I had some expertise. The above quotation about Harvard surfaced a week later in an e-mail that I and many others received from the Bogdanovs. I cannot speak to the authenticity of any of it, but I find it hard to believe that the faculty at Harvard would be unable to see the nonsense that I, as a graduate student, found easily.

Could it be that Aaron doesn't know the identity of the Harvard string theorist who is one of the Bogandov's most ardent defenders? It is someone he (and we) know well.

Later Aaron says:
Chapter 12 is devoted to attacking both supersymmetry and string theory. Neither theory necessitates the other, however, and, while there is a substantial overlap, there are many who work on one subject but not the other.

I can see where supersymmetry is independent of string theory, but is the converse really true? I thought ST without SS only had bosons.


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