Peter Woit

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Peter Woit
Peter Woit at Harvard University
Born (1957-09-11) September 11, 1957 (age 59)
Residence New York
Nationality American
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions Columbia University
Alma mater Harvard University
Princeton University
Doctoral advisor Curtis Callan[1]

Peter Woit (/ˈwɔɪt/; born September 11, 1957) is an American theoretical physicist. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics department at Columbia University. Woit is especially known for[citation needed] his criticism of string theory in his book Not Even Wrong, and also for his widely read blog of the same name.[2]


Woit graduated in 1979 from Harvard University with bachelor's and master's degrees in physics. He obtained his PhD in particle theory from Princeton University in 1985, followed by postdoctoral work in theoretical physics at State University of New York at Stony Brook and mathematics at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in Berkeley. He spent four years as an assistant professor at Columbia. He now holds a permanent position in the mathematics department, as Senior Lecturer and as Departmental Computer Administrator.[2][3]

Woit is a U.S. citizen and also has a Latvian passport. His father was born in Riga and he and his parents became exiled at the beginning of the Soviet occupation of Latvia.[4]

Criticism of string theory[edit]

He is critical of string theory on the grounds that it lacks testable predictions[citation needed] and is promoted with public money despite its failures so far,[citation needed] and has authored both scientific papers and popular polemics on this topic. His writings claim that excessive media attention and funding of this one particular mainstream endeavour, which he considers speculative, risks undermining public faith in the freedom of scientific research.[citation needed] His moderated weblog on string theory and other topics is titled "Not Even Wrong", a derogatory term for scientifically useless arguments invented by Wolfgang Pauli.

For the last eighteen years particle theory has been dominated by a single approach to the unification of the Standard Model interactions and quantum gravity. This line of thought has hardened into a new orthodoxy that postulates an unknown fundamental supersymmetric theory involving strings and other degrees of freedom with characteristic scale around the Planck length. […] It is a striking fact that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this complex and unattractive conjectural theory. There is not even a serious proposal for what the dynamics of the fundamental 'M-theory' is supposed to be or any reason at all to believe that its dynamics would produce a vacuum state with the desired properties. The sole argument generally given to justify this picture of the world is that perturbative string theories have a massless spin two mode and thus could provide an explanation of gravity, if one ever managed to find an underlying theory for which perturbative string theory is the perturbative expansion.[5]

"The String Wars"[edit]

A discussion in 2006 took place between University of California, Santa Barbara physicists at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics and science journalist George Johnson regarding the controversy caused by Lee Smolin and Woit's books.[6] The meeting was titled "The String Wars".[6][7]

Select publications[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]