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Unclear who qualifies as a string theorist

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String theory is hotter than tabasco in the pop science media. It interests us because it is probably unfalsifiable—and therefore generates worrying demands for an exemption from falsifiability and for non-evidence-based science. From mathematician Peter Woit, a string theory skeptic at Not Even Wrong:

If you’re interested in the various sorts of internal divisions these days among people doing what gets called “string theory”, you might want to take a look at this blog entry and the discussion there with string phenomenologist Joseph Conlon.

Back in 2002 or so when I started writing my popular book, it was a lot clearer what the term “string theory” meant and who counted as a “string theorist”. If I were writing about this today, there would be a much more confusing situation to try and explain. There’s still a conventional “string theory” story about a supposed theory of everything based on quantized strings often told to the public, but it no longer corresponds much to what researchers who call themselves “string theorists” are actually doing. More.

See also: In search of a road to reality

The bill arrives for cosmology’s free lunch

If ID theorists are right, how should we study nature?

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