Lederman and Hill reply: Perhaps Richard Wolfson would have viewed our work more favorably had he read our first book, Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe (Prometheus Books, 2004). There we championed the great mathematician Emmy Noether to the modern science lay audience. We told the story of all of physics through Noether’s grand theorem and how it forms a keystone of our understanding of nature. We did so as much to honor one of the greatest intellectuals who ever lived as to show our readership that physics is not a men’s club.
More to Mr. Wolfson’s point, Victoria’s Secret stores can be found in almost every shopping mall in the US. When we pass by, we see as many women as men looking at their windows. Both genders’ thoughts may be expected to run to fantasy, yet here is a point of contact between such human experiences and physics. We are leveraging it to inspire the poetic reader to enter a world of altered reality—in this instance, to ponder the quantum world with the transmission of photons through a glass window and its inherent probabilistic nature.
We hope to invite readers deeper into the magnificent world of atoms, quarks, strings, the conduction band structure of semiconductors, Schrödinger’s cat, the Dirac sea, and more. We take some risk, as we are prone to do on other topics such as politics and religion, and we have received numerous complaints concerning our belief in global warming, the creeping superstition, and anti-intellectualism that we see infecting our society today.
We are inclined to disagree, however, with Mr. Wolfson’s conclusion about the effect of the Victoria’s Secret windows metaphor on our female readers: We have done the experiment of taking the risk, and we have not received a single complaint thus far from anyone else that our book is sexist.