Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Lisa Randall believes the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is one of the wonders of the world, competing with the pyramids of Egypt in its colossal achievement. Located near the border of France and Switzerland, it is the largest construction project ever built.
“Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is the story of the Collider’s creation, inner workings, and scientific objectives. It is also a story of America’s loss of leadership in science.
A quibble one may have with Randall’s book is that she digresses into derivative finance to suggest that more scientific analysis would obviate the kind of financial disaster that occurred in 2007. She suggests that proper analysis of real estate derivatives would have stopped the madness. The naiveté of that argument is that there were a few that saw the collapse coming but their scientific analysis only convinced a small number of people. Few financial “geniuses” chose to believe real estate derivatives were a financial instrument of destruction. How different is that from the scientific community’s position on global warming?
Scientific analysis misses part of what makes human’s human; i.e. minds can know something and still act irrationally; not to mention, rationality is often in the mind of the beholder. Randal admits as much in writing about beauty and truth and clearly notes that they are not necessarily equivalent because of human subjectivity. If one can make millions of dollars off a quant’s mistaken calculations, what incentive does that person have to ignore the opportunity?
Randall convinces one of the formidable reality of the LHC and its potential contribution to science. America may have missed a chance to be a leader rather than follower of one of the 21st century’s great contributions to science, the Large Hadron Collider.
Time, as a fourth dimension, is a mystery that Professor Sean Carroll partly unravels in a lecture series titled Mysteries of Modern Physics. Carroll helps Physics’ dilettantes, like this essayist, broaden understanding of the mechanics of the universe; albeit at the cost of some confusion and a headache.
Carroll defines words that are commonly understood by Physics’ students and vaguely or not understood by everyone else. He defines time’s arrow, entropy, and the second law of thermodynamics. Each definition offers insight to the mystery of time.
Time remains a mystery at the end of Carroll’s lectures. Travel to the future seems a possibility but travel to the past, a logical impossibility. Carroll speculates on the idea of a multiverse from periodic reversals in the arrow of time that creates new universes from new big bangs. There is much more in Carroll’s lectures that tickle the synapses and light up dendrites of a listener’s mind.
“The Magic of Reality” introduces science to children and adults that wish to see the world as a place of wondrous events and boundless opportunity. Richard Dawkins is an unrepentant atheist but his writing and presentation does not convince one of a Godless universe.
“The Magic of Reality” is not a debate about science or second coming. Dawkins de-mythologizes the hypocritical beliefs of those who insist on the literal truth of the Bible and infers a challenge to those who believe in the reliability of organized religion. Dawkins fails to convince one that God does not exist but he believes most of humankind is fooled by an emotive mind.
Dawkins does for general science what Richard Feynman is said to do for Physics, i.e. he makes complex theories simple to understand. Dawkins’ interspersion of apocryphal stories enliven practices and theories of real science; i.e. science’s methods and results are explained in simple language.
Dawkins shows that mankind seeks nature’s truth through science because without science there is no future. The species, Homo sapiens, is capable of escaping extinction but only through continued exploration of science; i.e. species evolution alone is not enough.
Dawkins notes that our sun will become so hot in two billion years that life, as we know it, will be over .Should we wait for the Bible’s “second coming” or should we plan for a future on some other planet? Dawkins book is an excellent introduction to science; not a refutation of God.