December 01, 2007
Last year, Lee Smolin published a book with a most provocative title: The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. This title promises brimstone for the fire of creationism, and that should sell an extra few thousand copies.
If mathematics is the Queen of Science (borrowing from Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science, a classic by Eric Temple Bell), then physics is the King. It has been the exemplar of science. So, has the revolution begun?
The reviews of The Trouble with Physics tell us that Smolin urges not that string theory arises from the decay of physics but instead that string theory is itself symptomatic of something that is wrong in physics (a sick distant cousin), not with physics (a fatal familial disease). According to the criticism (the most valuable part of reviews), Smolin both spends too much time on string theory and gives it short shrift. Could the latter, though, just be string theorists taking offense, and further evidence of what is wrong in physics?