Scott Aaronson on the String Wars

By Sean Carroll | December 21, 2006 3:04 pm

Scott Aaronson, well-known around these parts for thinking that a priori constraints on conversations with super-intelligent aliens are more important insights into the fundamental workings of the universe than dark energy and the holographic principle, is suffering from a bit of Stockholm syndrome. He has visited the Stanford high-energy theory group (intellectual hotbed of aggressive Landscapism), given an interesting talk on Computational Complexity and the Anthropic Principle, and discovered to his bemusement that string theorists are quite open-minded and reasonable people! When faced with an interesting new idea, they are even willing to consider it! And their objections to Loop Quantum Gravity seem to be based on physics, rather than just prejudice! Who would have thought? (Also linked from Not Even Wrong.)

So now, unable to choose sides in the Wars based on the likeability of the combatants, he’s offering his services to the highest bidder. Whoever offers him the best reimbursements, he’ll gladly shill for their viewpoint, at least temporarily. Why didn’t I think of this? Well, Scott, I can’t offer any hard cash, but I can promise that you’ll be treated even better when you visit Caltech than when you visited Stanford. (Even if you do think you are the second-funniest physics blogger.) We’re much more fun than those Northern Californians.

My real reason for blogging about this, however, is to get on the record that the phrase “The String Wars” is totally mine. I used it in an email, and George Johnson picked it up for his KITP discussions. It’s much more fun than the milqetoasty “String Debates” occasionally favored by those who prefer substantive engagement to showy fireworks. So anyone who makes any money off of this phrase, I want half.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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