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).

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