Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Group Therapy for Particle Physics"

Peter Woit at Columbia University is known for his criticisms of string theory in his book Not Even Wrong [1] and writes essays at the blog site of the same name. One of his latest blog post was entitled "An Introduction to Group Therapy for Particle Physics" [2]. The title comes from the subtitle of one of the books reviewed in the latest CERN Courier [3]. He writes, "Group Therapy for Particle Physics (at least for particle theorists) seems like an excellent idea."

I have not read the book Not Even Wrong but read the following passage in the book description on an Amazon Web page:

"Not Even Wrong" shows that what many physicists call superstring “theory” is not a theory at all. It makes no predictions, not even wrong ones, and this very lack of falsifiability is what has allowed the subject to survive and flourish.
This view can certainly lead to the thought that string theorists need "therapy." So, Woit is surely joking here. In fact, "Group Therapy" in the subtitle of the book is a typo, which should read "Group Theory." At the end of his blog post, Woit added three other examples of the same typo in publications related to group theory.

I also saw the same typo on the occasion of "Third International Workshop on Electron and Photon Transport Theory" held in Indianapolis in 1999. On the name tag of participants, the title of the workshop was printed as "Third International Workshop on Electron and Photon Transport Therapy" [4].

  1. P. Woit, Not Even Wrong (Basic Books, 2006; paperbound 2007).
  2. P. Woit, "An Introduction to Group Therapy for Particle Physics," Blog site Not Even Wrong (January 24, 2012).
  3. Bookshelf, CERN Courier (January 25, 2012).
  4. T. Tabata, "Stolen Joke," Web page Surely I'm Joking!: A Physicist's Personal Essays (August 18, 1999).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Einstein's Equation for Success

The equation for the equivalence of mass and energy, E=mc2, was discovered by Albert Einstein, and is particularly popular. Do you know Einstein's equation for success in life? It is also quite simple and yet has a deep meaning.
If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut. — Albert Einstein
Rewriting the above words in the form of an equation, we get:
A = x + y + z,
where A = success, x = work, y = play, and z = (mouth shut).

We know the following two proverbs: (1) All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (2) Speech is silver, silence is golden. Einstein succeeded in unifying these proverbs into a single equation, though his quest for a unified theory of everything was too much ahead of time and fruitless.

I have learned the above words of Einstein from Ref. 1, but do not find them at least in the original edition I have of Ref. 2.

Note added later: The source of Einstein's words given here is described in Ref. 3 as follows:
Said to Samuel J Woolf, Berlin, Summer 1929. Cited with additional notes in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice and Freeman Dyson, Princeton UP (2010) p 230.

  1. RSICC Newsletter, No. 486, Radiation Safety Information Computational Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. (August 2005).
  2. A. Calaprice, ed., The New Quotable Einstein (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005; the original edition The Quotable Einstein published in 1996).
  3. "Albert Einstein," Wikiquote, at the end of "1920s" (14 January 2012, at 18:41).