Here’s a quick hit from Ars Technica (John Timmer):

Maybe the math behind string theory is overrated anyway

So, we’ve reached a point where math can’t answer many questions in biology, but the most promising path for advancing physics (string theory) remains trapped in the realm of pure math. Is this a cue for panic? Maybe not, as illustrated in an exchange between two panelists: “You’re not upset because you’re not a mathematician,” Chaitin told Livio, “you don’t care because you’re a physicist.”

“We know there’s problems with quantum mechanics, but has that stopped anything?” Livio countered.

It’s not just quantum mechanics. Biology may have resisted easy quantification, but it has hardly slowed the field down. If math turns out to be just a tool (and a tool with some substantial limits), that may disappoint mathematicians, but it won’t necessarily slow down our ability to understand and model the natural world. This may be my background as a scientist talking, but that seems like the most important consideration, and I’m willing to live with a community of disappointed mathematicians in order to get there.

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A bit unfair to mathematics. I don’t think every mathematician and everyone who loves math thinks it’s somehow “how it all works”. Most math peeps I know view math very much as a toolset for figuring things out, not the actual things themselves.

I’m sure there are many purists that think there is a perfect mathematical description of everything… but it’s not the majority.

also math, as you know, isn’t just “quantification”….

True. It’s interesting to note, however, that the popular view of mathematics (non-mathematicians) is much more in line with math as traditionally taught being the ultimate language of the universe, or at the least the best way to describe it. And certainly even for professional mathematicians and people who model the universe using traditional mathematics, considering the amount of time you need to invest just to get to the point of being able to talk about the mathematics of string theory in any kind of useful way, there needs to be some kind of idea that the language you’re spending so much time to learn is the best way to describe those things you want to describe.

The mathematically elegant solution may not *always* be the physically correct one, but millenia of science history shows that the physical world behaves in mathematically elegant ways a surprising amount of the time.

So even if string theory is proven false, it’s a good bet that the next theory to replace it will be just as mathematically abstract and elegant, if not more so.