10 January 2011

Witten's interview

Italian TV shows a Witten Interview, mostly in English language, which you can watch here. It is really depressing. We see a smart man who knows the history of physics very well, explains it in simple terms; and then he switches to string theory as if it was a natural continuation, even though its principles are unclear, the definition is unclear, and no experimental predictions are made. Witten effortlessly switches from the clarity of quantum theory and general relativity to the muddled world of string theory. It is obvious that he lives in a different universe, detached from reality. Nothing what he says about string theory has any connection to reality or to the theory of everything. He is just fascinated by its mathematical richness, but not about its relation to nature.

Witten has decided to live in a dream world, a world where nature plays no role, but where only the mathematical difficulties count; a world where machismo is to say "I have understood something that you will not even understand in ten years."

Do you remember Feynman? He was proud to explain things even to his grandmother. Witten is the opposite; he is proud if nobody else understands what he does. His aim is not to unravel nature; his aim is to run as deeply as possible into a world of abstractions where nobody else has been, and where others have difficulties to follow. This is deeply depressing.


  1. It is not so easy to judge on such a high and subtle (or non-trivial) matter as Witten. (One might suppose that he really has not read the book arXiv:gr-qc/0412130v2.)

  2. Oh no, it is easy to judge :-)

    It is harder to judge correctly. But seen how little Witten effectively achieved, my opinion cannot be far from truth.