Not Even Wrong tells a fascinating and complex story about human beings and their attempts to come to grips with perhaps the most intellectually demanding puzzle there is: how does the world work at the most fundamental level and what is the role of mathematics in its description? The author's perspective on this story is unusual since he has worked in both leading physics and mathematics departments and holds very sceptical views about 'string theory', the subject that has dominated research in this field for the past twenty years.
The book begins with an historical survey of the experimental and theoretical developments that led to the creation of the phenomenally successful so-called 'Standard Model' of particle physics around 1975. Despite its successes, the Standard Model does not answer all questions that one would expect it to address, and for the last thirty years physicists have been trying to come up with a better theory. What the remaining questions are is explained in detail, together with the history of attempts to answer them, including the spectacular new mathematics that has arisen from these efforts. Lacking guidance from new experimental results, physicists have followed the principle that one should be looking for more 'beautiful' theories, and here, Peter Woit considers what the role of beauty may be in mathematics and physics. In recent years, string theorists have found that the theory seems to lead to an unimaginably large number of possibilities and may be inherently unable to make predictions. The author explains what physicist's hopes have been, why they haven't worked out, and what may be more promising directions for investigation. "Not Even Wrong" puts the reader in a position to follow this increasingly controversial story as it continues to develop in the years to come.