26 July 2008

Yellow books

I'm currently watching Science Saturday at bloggingheads.tv, which this week features Peter Woit (Not Even Wrong) and Sabine Hossenfelder (Backreaction).

When the video started, I thought "hmm, Woit has an awful lot of yellow books behind him for a physicist".

Woit, it turns out, works in the mathematics department at Columbia, as I was reminded when he started talking about the different job situations in physics and mathematics about fifteen minutes in. Basically, Woit says that jobs in physics are scarcer compared to PhDs in physics than the analogous situation in mathematics, so physicists feel more pressure to "do everything right" -- in his view this means they feel unnatural pressure to work in string theory, which Woit sees as a bad thing. After all, what if string theory's wrong? Physics as a discipline should diversify.

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