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November 27, 2003

S.J. Gould of physics....(?)

While I'm attacking S.J. Gould (so easy), I have a question for readers. Physicist Brian Greene wrote The Elegant Universe, just did a documentary of the same name for PBS and has been written up in Scientific American recently. I've read the book and watched the documentary and found it entertaining. Nevertheless, the whole idea that Stephen Hawking was the "greatest physicist since Einstein," and the subsequent disabuse of that notion on the part of anyone that scatches beneath the surface, makes me a bit curious-is Greene a brilliant quack?

Unlike evolutionary biology, string theory is a bit removed from immediate social implications, aside from a few PoMo weirdos who try to spin it into their theories of nothing. While the background, beliefs and possible ideological perspectives of evolutionary biologists regular comes on the radar of the curious, we tend to give physical and mathematical scientists a pass on these issues as long as they aren't too blatant about politically incorrect extracurricular activities.

In any case, for those of you who understand the physics (the math of it), is Greene worth reading? Is he an S.J. Gould, passing himself as an expert to non-specialists? (his website says he works in string theory, but of course, Gould worked in evolutionary biology!) The NOVA documentary gave a lot of face-time to Ed Witten and Steven Weinberg, so I'm pretty willing to assume that Greene isn't out to make a quick buck as a popularizer.

Posted by razib at 02:48 AM