Synopses & Reviews
In this groundbreaking book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that physics (the basis for all other science) has lost its way. The problem is string theory, an ambitious attempt to formulate a theory of everything that explains all the forces and particles of nature and how the universe came to be. With its exotic new particles and parallel universes, string theory has captured the publics imagination and seduced many physicists. But as Smolin reveals, theres a deep flaw in the theory: no part of it has been proven, and no one knows how to prove it. As a scientific theory, it has been a colossal failure. And because it has soaked up the lions share of funding, attracted some of the best minds, and penalized young physicists for pursuing other avenues, it is dragging the rest of physics down with it.
With clarity, passion, and authority, Smolin charts the rise and fall of string theory and takes a fascinating look at what will replace it. A group of young theorists has begun to develop exciting new ideas that are, unlike string theory, testable. Smolin tells us who and what to watch for in the coming years and how we can find the next Einstein. This is a wake-up call, and Lee Smolin, a former string theorist himself, is the perfect person to deliver it.
"String theory the hot topic in physics for the past 20 years is a dead-end, says Smolin, one of the founders of Canada's Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics and himself a lapsed string theorist. In fact, he (and others) argue convincingly, string theory isn't even a fully formed theory it's just a 'conjecture.' As Smolin reminds his readers, string theorists haven't been able to prove any of their exotic ideas, and he says there isn't much chance that they will in the foreseeable future. The discovery of 'dark energy,' which seems to be pushing the universe apart faster and faster, isn't explained by string theory and is proving troublesome for that theory's advocates. Smolin (The Life of the Cosmos) believes that physicists are making the mistake of searching for a theory that is 'beautiful' and 'elegant' instead of one that's actually backed up by experiments. He encourages physicists to investigate new alternatives and highlights several young physicists whose work he finds promising. This isn't easy reading, but it will appeal to dedicated science buffs interested in where physics may be headed in the next decade. 30 b&w illus. (Sept. 19)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Courting controversy, Smolin is a reflective, self-confident challenger to pro-string physicist authors Brian Greene, Leonard Susskind, and Michio Kaku." Booklist
"Smolin offers a compelling argument....This is a well-written, critical profile of the theoretical physics community, free of equations, from the perspective of a member." Library Journal
"Smolin is the real deal....Folks in the physics community should give him a listen, and more broadly people interested in science will likely find this an interesting book....If you've read Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe
and want a non-string booster summary of the field, this is the book." Doug Brown, Powells.com
(read the entire Powells.com review
In this groundbreaking book, a renowned theoretical physicist argues that physics the basis for all other science has lost its way. With clarity, passion, and authority, he charts the rise and fall of string theory and takes a fascinating look at what will replace it.
In this illuminating book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that fundamental physics -- the search for the laws of nature -- losing its way. Ambitious ideas about extra dimensions, exotic particles, multiple universes, and strings have captured the publicand#8217;s imagination -- and the imagination of experts. But these ideas have not been tested experimentally, and some, like string theory, seem to offer no possibility of being tested. Yet these speculations dominate the field, attracting the best talent and much of the funding and creating a climate in which emerging physicists are often penalized for pursuing other avenues. As Smolin points out, the situation threatens to impede the very progress of science. With clarity, passion, and authority, Smolin offers an unblinking assessment of the troubles that face modern physics -- and an encouraging view of where the search for the next big idea may lead.
About the Author
Lee Smolin earned his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard, then went on to teach at Yale and Pennsylvania State before helping to found the innovative Perimeter Institute. He is the author of The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.
Table of Contents
PART I THE UNFINISHED REVOLUTION 1: The Five Great Problems in Theoretical Physics 3 2: The Beauty Myth 18 3: The World As Geometry 38 4: Unification Becomes a Science 54 5: From Unification to Superunification 66 6: Quantum Gravity: The Fork in the Road 80
PART II A BRIEF HISTORY OF STRING THEORY 7: Preparing for a Revolution 101 8: The First Superstring Revolution 114 9: Revolution Number Two 129 10: A Theory of Anything 149 11: The Anthropic Solution 161 12: What String Theory Explains 177
PART III BEYOND STRING THEORY 13: Surprises from the Real World 203 14: Building on Einstein 223 15: Physics After String Theory 238
PART IV LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE 16: How Do You Fight Sociology? 261 17: What Is Science? 289 18: Seers and Craftspeople 308 19: How Science Really Works 332 20: What We Can Do for Science 349
Notes 359 Acknowledgments 372 Index 375