Is String Theory Even Wrong?
What can be done to inject more diversity of thought into this great
quest of theoretical physics? Even granting that string theory is an
idea that deserves to be developed, how can people be encouraged to
come up with promising alternatives? I would argue that a good first
step would be for string theorists to acknowledge publicly the
problems and cease their tireless efforts to sell this questionable
theory to secondary school teachers, science reporters and program
The development of competing approaches will require senior string
theorists to consider working on less popular ideas and begin
encouraging their graduate students and postdocs to do the same.
Instead of trying to hire people working on the latest string-theory
fad, theory groups and funding agencies could try to identify young
mathematical physicists who are exploring completely different
avenues. (Pushing 45, I no longer qualify.) Finding ways to support
such people over the long term would give them a much-needed chance
to make progress.
Although I am skeptical of science writer John Horgan's pessimistic
notion that physics is reaching an end, the past 15 years of
research in particle theory make depressingly clear one form such an
end could take: a perpetual, well-promoted but never-successful
investigation of a theory that has no connection with the physical
world. If only physicists have the will to abandon a failed project
and start looking for some new ideas, this sad fate can be avoided.