I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
Being a layman interested in quantum theory I found this book important, and even touching. There is trouble with physics and it is wonderful that a very few scientists are pointing it out. I agree with Smolin that the trouble with physics is deeper and more insidious than run of the mill historical scientific dogma. New physicists are being encouraged to research an un-testable theory and actively discouraged from investigating any other underlying foundations of quantum physics. Smolin does not offer any answers, but demonstrates the problem, and encourages more open inquiry. Unfortunately the trouble with physics is very deep. Some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century spent entire careers on open inquiry to understand the fundamentals of physics, yet failed utterly. It is understandable that most advisers, after seeing decades of wasted genius, discourage their gifted students from such pursuits. Yet such pursuits may be the only path to true progress in physics.
This book does not stand on its own really well, it is dependent on having some grounding in the history of quantum theory, so I would suggest reading Lindley’s Uncertainty (and maybe some others), before this reading this book.
Hopefully this book will encourage some unknown non-professional, like Einstein, to ignore the conventional wisdom and see the simple and obvious truth that every professional physicist has missed for a century.
Smolin is brilliant and an excellent writer. I really enjoyed, appreciated, and mostly agreed with his hypotheses in his The Trouble with Physics. Time Reborn is a good book and well worth the read. The narration is expressive and excellent. The first half of Time Reborn is a particularly well written account of why Smolin feels Time should be reborn. The second half of the book is more technical, less well written, quite speculative, and has weak foundations that seems to render the main conclusions invalid.
I think the fundamental weakness is the author’s self-limitation by acceptance of quite a few false dichotomies. The most important of these false dichotomies is regarding Bell’s Theorem. Smolin says Bell’s Theorem proves quantum theory must be non-local. This is not so. Bell’s Theorem proves that no local theory can explain quantum correlations. There could be some novel theories that are neither local nor non-local and are able to explain quantum correlations without violation of Bell’s theorem. Accepting this false dichotomy leads Smolin down a chain of reasoning culminating in a rejection of the relativity of synchronicity.
The second dichotomy I found invalid is any theory without time must yield a deterministic world that would necessarily have fixed laws, fixed constants, fixed particles, would lack novelty, and would be a stranglehold upon thought. All this is ridiculous. It is quite easy to imagine non-Newtonian deterministic theories without time that allow constants and particles to evolve deterministically with causation as a time-like partial ordering. Such a universe would seem as open and novel to an observer as any open universe.
Smolin kind of explains why giving up the relativity of synchronicity is really not a good idea, then tosses it out anyway. This seems really unwise and weakens his ideas depending upon elimination of this well tested feature of special relativity.
I had a number of other minor nits with this book. Smolin, who should know better, called non-locally in QM an “effect”. There is no non-local quantum effect (that would transmit information from the cause), but instead there is a subtle influence, incapable of transmitting information of any kind.
Another nit, but still annoying, Smolin describes the path of a thrown object as a parabola. Not so, it is an elliptical segment; which becomes clear if one imagines what would happen if the path continued without hitting the Earth, going into orbit (not flying off parabolically into space.)
I agreed strongly with Smolin’s trouble with physics, and that trouble almost certainly involves a fundamental invalid assumption we are making. Dragging back the theory of universal time seems very unlikely resolve this invalid assumption issue, since that old theory, until recently, was held by almost everyone, and has been extremely well examined.
Smolin also seems to contend that questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing” are outside the scope of scientific questions. I instead like Hawking’s quote from In A Brief History of Time “if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."
The part of the Dance of the Photons I liked best is the correct presentation of ???quantum teleportation??? experiments. The book points out that not all the features of the particle are teleported and the teleportation always requires a classical communications channel, and this is not at all a ???beam me up Scotty??? experience. The reality of these experiments is not at all what people assume when they hear scientists have ???teleported??? something. The book tries to explain an exceptionally weird reality in a way a layman might understand. This works for a while, but as things get stranger, the explanations get weaker, and when ???the really exciting point of the whole story??? is reached the explanation is the least clear. Thus the book fails in the essential goal of being really understandable to laymen (which may be an unattainable goal). Even an author as capable as Zellinger can still make mistakes, as in the opening discussion of entanglement the book implies that when a speed measurement is made on the local entangled particle A, at that very moment, but not before, the distant particle B takes on a corresponding speed. Yet in general there is actually no way to tell if the measurement of A, or the measurement of B, happened first. This is an all too common misunderstanding, and surely Zellinger knows better, but such statements lead to deep misunderstandings in laymen (and physicists) about what is really going on. In QM one cannot make a statement about the speed of B until the speed of B is measured. When the speed of B is measured, it will always correspond with the speed measured of A, but that does not mean B had that speed before B was measured. Without understanding this, nothing can be understood about QM and entanglement. I was hoping to find a book I could recommend to laymen to understand the key issues of Bell???s theorem. The author is brilliant and tries really hard to reach this goal, but unfortunately this book falls far short of what I had hoped. Nevertheless, for those who want to understand entanglement this book is no worse than any, and better than most. BTW, if you read this book and believe you now finally understand entanglement, you are very likely deluding yourself! Keep reading and you will be confused again!
If you are not too interested in science, you might like this book. If you have any interest at all in the subject, you will like this book. As a high school Physics teacher who knew less than I ought to about quantum theory, I committed last summer to reading up on the subject. I read about Einstein, watched a video series on quantum theory, and listened to this book. Even without the other two endeavors, I would have found this book to be informative and interesting. It is written in a narrative style that neither insults the intelligence nor talks over your head. The story and the theory are both more interesting than you are probably imagining.