The trouble with physics : the rise of string theory, the fall of a science, and what comes next

by Smolin, Lee, 1955-

Format: Print Book 2006
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In this groundbreaking book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that physics -- the basis for all other sciences -- has lost its way. For more than two centuries, our understanding of the laws of nature expanded rapidly. But today, despite our best efforts, we know nothing more about these laws than we knew in the 1970s. Why is physics suddenly in trouble? And what can we do about it?

One of the major problems, according to Smolin, is string theory: an ambitious attempt to formulate a "theory of everything" that explains all the particles and forces of nature and how the universe came to be. With its exotic new particles and parallel universes, string theory has captured the public's imagination and seduced many physicists.

But as Smolin reveals, there's a deep flaw in the theory: no part of it has been tested, and no one knows how to test it. In fact, the theory appears to come in an infinite number of versions, meaning that no experiment will ever be able to prove it false. As a scientific theory, it fails. And because it has soaked up the lion's share of funding, attracted some of the best minds, and effectively 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 ideas that, unlike string theory, are testable. Smolin not only tells us who and what to watch for in the coming years, he offers novel solutions for seeking out and nurturing the best new talent--giving us a chance, at long last, of finding the next Einstein.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "A well-known name in theoretical physics, Smolin dissents from its dominant contemporary avenue of research: string theory, or, more accurately, theories, since there are calculably more string theories than there are subatomic particles in the universe. To Smolin, that is among many causes for suspecting that string theorists are on the wrong track for solving five fundamental problems in theoretical physics, which is his opening salvo in this critique of his profession. An early adherent of string theory in the early 1980s, Smolin illustrates its allure for seemingly crossing some items off the physics to-do list. But the divorce of string theory from any practical experimental test bothers him, Smolin writes, as has its failure, thus far, to incorporate the recent cosmological discoveries of dark matter and dark energy. Smolin also believes scientific advance has been stifled by the control that string theorists exercise over the employment and research agendas of young physicists. Courting controversy, Smolin is a reflective, self-confident challenger to pro-string physicist-authors Brian Greene, Leonard Susskind, and Michio Kaku. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2006 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Physics -- Methodology -- History -- 20th century.
String models.
Publisher Boston :Houghton Mifflin Co.,2006
Language English
Description xxiii, 392 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [359]-371) and index.
ISBN 0618551050
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