String and M-theory: answering the critics


Using as a springboard a three-way debate between theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright and myself, I address in layman's terms the issues of why we need a unified theory of the fundamental interactions and why, in my opinion, string and M-theory currently offer the best hope. The focus will be on responding more generally to the various criticisms. I also describe the diverse application of string/M-theory techniques to other branches of physics and mathematics which render the whole enterprise worthwhile whether or not "a theory of everything" is forthcoming.Comment: Update on EPSRC. (Contribution to the Special Issue of Foundations of Physics: "Forty Years Of String Theory: Reflecting On the Foundations", edited by Gerard 't Hooft, Erik Verlinde, Dennis Dieks and Sebastian de Haro. 22 pages latex

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