Jun 04, 2013 | By

Three New Books about Physics

The technical details and mathematics of modern physics may be mastered by only small number of scientists at elite academic institutions, but non-technical explanations continue to proliferate.  This popularization of physics for the layperson would be welcome were it not for the fact that the foundations of physics are in such disarray.  Three new books provide fresh perspectives on this conundrum and should perhaps be added to our summer reading lists.  Neil Turok’s contribution is The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos, in which he explores his solution to the ontological puzzle of what started the Big Bang – the Big Bounce.  In simple terms, the idea is that our universe is one cycle of an endlessly repeating cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches.  Jim Baggett, a physicist turned writer, takes a highly critical approach in Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Science.  This work sounds like a polemic by a reformed string theorist who has thrown up his hands in disgust at the lack of progress, but apparently offers good explanations of the key problems and theories.  Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe by Lee Smolin is a more inventive offering which points to the time-independent formulations of physics (since Newton) as a potential hindrance to deeper understanding.  This approach may have merit – see the ISAS post on The Puzzle of Entropy for a discussion of one of the key time-dependent features of the universe.  Happy reading!

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