Synopses & Reviews
The recently celebrated discovery of the Higgs boson has captivated the publics imagination with the promise that it can explain the origins of everything in the universe. Its no wonder that the media refers to it grandly as the "God particle." Yet behind closed doors, physicists are admitting that there is much more to this story, and even years of gunning the Large Hadron Collider and herculean number crunching may still not lead to a deep understanding of the laws of nature. In this fascinating and eye-opening account, theoretical physicist Alexander Unzicker and science writer Sheilla Jones offer a polemic. They question whether the large-scale, multinational enterprises actually lead us to the promised land of understanding the universe. The two scientists take us on a tour of contemporary physics and show how a series of highly publicized theories met a dead end. Unzicker and Jones systematically unpack the recent hot theories such as "parallel universes," "string theory," and "inflationary cosmology," and provide an accessible explanation of each. They argue that physics has abandoned its evidence-based roots and shifted to untestable mathematical theories, and they issue a clarion call for the science to return to its experimental foundation.
"Behind today's increasingly far-fetched physics theories, there's a rising chorus grumbling that the discipline has lost its way. The authors of this witty and earnest 'book of doubts' join that choir, explaining how modern physics became 'lost at sea' and what it can do to recover. The Standard Model of physics a roster of particles and forces and their interactions depends on 17 constants (numbers unexplained by the theory); galaxies spin faster than they should, thanks to 'dark matter' but after chasing it for 80 years, we still don't know what it is; and some theorists say there is a 'dark energy' pushing the universe apart, which is created by a field called the 'quintessence,' a concept straight out of speculative medieval science. And then there's the niggling worry that values like G, the gravitational constant, might not be so constant, or that our perception of time isn't correct. From 'Higgsmania' and string theory to cosmological mysteries, neuroscientist Unzicker and Jones (The Quantum Ten) lobby for math that's more down-to-earth and a reorientation of attention toward phenomena that can actually be measured. Their assertion that 'science means, after all, not being a sucker' is well worth taking to heart. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Alexander Unzicker is a German theoretical physicist and neuroscientist.
Sheilla Jones is the author of The Quantum Ten and an award-winning Canadian journalist and a science contributor to CBC. She reviews science books for The Globe and Mail and the Literary Review of Canada.