07 December 2005

Superstring "Theory"



So I'm on a superstring kick. Just finished reading John C. Taylor's Hidden Unity in Nature's Laws, and I am about to finish Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. I had to bone up on some abstract algebra to get the most of it, but that was worth it. I'm glad to know more about this theory now. I'd call it science, but it's not. It's math. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Taylor's book was well-written and a good read. He didn't overplay the cards of string theory and laid a good expository background and stated the problem space even-handedly.

Greene's book: not so well-written, sometimes a good read. First impression: man he is arrogant. Not so much about himself (although occasionally he is), but very very arrogant about string theory. What starts out funny ends up almost pathological: after repeatedly vehemently claiming that String Theory can solve everything (!) it gets sad when you realize that not only is there no experimental falsification possible, but you don't really gain any elegance!

The first idea behind string theory was that it could get rid of those 20 or so "free parameters" that had to be plugged by hand into the Standard Model to explain our universe. Well, string theory gets rid of THOSE parameters and trades them for 20 or so free parameters that have to be plugged in to explain the topologies of the various strings and branes posited. To what end? How then is String Theory any more explanatory ... let alone "right" ... if it makes no predictions and is just as arbitrary as the theoretical framework it wants to replace?

As this blog puts it, String Theory is "Not Even Wrong".