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Dear Dr B: Why not string theory?

6 Jun 2016, 11:25 UTC
Dear Dr B: Why not string theory?
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[I got this question in reply to my last week’s book review of Why String Theory? by Joseph Conlon.]Dear Marco:Because we might be wasting time and money and, ultimately, risk that progress stalls entirely. In contrast to many of my colleagues I do not think that trying to find a quantum theory of gravity is an endeavor purely for the sake of knowledge. Instead, it seems likely to me that finding out what are the quantum properties of space and time will further our understanding of quantum theory in general. And since that theory underlies all modern technology, this is research which bears relevance for applications. Not in ten years and not in 50 years, but maybe in 100 or 500 years. So far, string theory has scored in two areas. First, it has proved interesting for mathematicians. But I’m not one to easily get floored by pretty theorems – I care about math only to the extent that it’s useful to explain the world. Second, string theory has shown to be useful to push ahead with the lesser understood aspects of quantum field theories. This seems a fruitful avenue and is certainly something to continue. However, this has nothing ...

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