EDIT: People have generally swayed my opinion here. It's really only the "unanswered questions top voted" tab that seems to have an oversized string theory content. And partly it’s because of old questions going unanswered for a long time. Otherwise I'm exaggerating and nitpicking.

At my university, string theory courses are restricted to people who have taken about two years of courses on quantum field theory and the standard model. Only theory PhD students would ever take the class (a very small fraction of physicists). But there's so much string theory on the Physics Stack Exchange site - probably a lot more string theory than quantum field theory. Do other universities allow people to learn string theory without really learning QFT (so they can join this research field as quickly as possible)?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Currently (March 2023) there are ~2.5k questions with the string theory tag while there are ~12.5k questions with the QFT tag. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 12:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fair - I may be wrong/exaggerating - but three of the first six posts in the QFT tag are about string theory. And even if that 2.5k vs 12.5k number is right, I'm still surprised so many people are discussing something that no current experiment is attempting to probe and a relatively small fraction of theorists work in. $\endgroup$
    – AXensen
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ For example, why does this question have 68 upvotes? physics.stackexchange.com/q/27267 And otherwise on the "unanswered" tab, 4 of the top 15 voted unanswered questions are string theory. (yes I can see that my argument is shifting with time) $\endgroup$
    – AXensen
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 12:51
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ This question seems to assume that in order to ask about string theory (or any other topic) one has to have taken a university course on it. But there is no such rule on physics.SE, and in fact plenty of questions in all tags are rather obviously not asked by people with university-level education on the respective topic. Considering string theory's presence in plenty of pop-sci material, I don't find it surprising that physics.SE might have more questions about string theory than you would expect from the number of professional string theorists in existence. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ That may be a good answer, but the question I linked is quite technical (so are all the string theory questions in the unanswered - top voted tab). Are you saying 68 people were inspired by the pop-science description of string theory enough to learn it at a technical enough level to understand that question? If that's happening, that's quite cool. $\endgroup$
    – AXensen
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 13:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You must be exaggerating -- I just went through the QFT tag and besides random layman questions which are downvoted and closed, there's almost nothing on string theory. Are you counting all QFT questions that aren't about tree-level scattering amplitudes as string theory or something? $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ I see that this isn't the case anymore. No - I was counting posts that explicitly self describe as string theory, and even left out one post that described itself as topological QFT. Maybe the fact that there were so many string theory posts at the time is what prompted me to write this. $\endgroup$
    – AXensen
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


This is a question from 2011. So yeah over the years a mix of people may have stumbled upon it and upvoted, although admittedly it is a very high score for such a technical question.

You should keep in mind that the clientele of the site, and the ratio of various types of questions asked on the site, have evolved over the years (see this discussion from 2013 for instance). There is now PhysicsOverflow which deals with questions at this level of sophistication.

I doubt many other questions like this have this number of upvotes.
There's also likely some amount of bandwagoneering.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .