String theory, Not.
Since I picked up Hawking's A Brief History, I have been looking for a book to continue the story of how humanity as a whole understands the Cosmos, which fundamentally, is a question of "what is space and time?" and "what is the mechanism behind the phenomenon of gravitation?"
Smolin starts with a great overview of how our understanding of the cosmos has improved since Einstein - especially in the field of particle physics. In recalling the recent developments since particle physics, he admits that virtually no significant breakthrough of our understanding of physics has occurred as astronomical observations continue to collect data, which obviates the need for a new unified theory of gravity.
The core of his frustration is not directed at other physicists but the way the current academic culture does not allow young students to question the assumption of their predecessors. His main argument is that, for the past two decades, this culture stagnated young physicists' ability to use their creative and imaginative curiosity to explore various possible ways to explain the same phenomenon of gravity and spacetime.
Though he talks little about the psychosocial background of Einstein's time, I can't help but draw the parallel between the examples he gives of "outsiders" and how Einstein's difficulty obtaining an academic position allowed him to think outside of his own contemporary physics dogma at the turn of the 20th century.
Taking this idea further, Smolin asserts that new breakthrough theories might come not from academic groups but from creative and independent thinkers outside of the established academic discipline of physics.
To put this into perspective of our living world, the year 2011 turned the world upside-down by the upheaval of masses to challenge the status quo as information becomes more and more transparent in the unsustainable philosophy in the areas of politics and economy.
Though I try to distance myself from the pop-spiritualism with all its "Age of Aquarius" nonsense, 2012 actually does appear to be a good candidate for a "miracle" year for physics as well as other fields of human activity. This year may be when we, as individuals, feel the large-scale events of technical singularity unfold.
This year, the world of physics just might be surprised by an obscure yet brilliantly creative mind that brings us to a new era of understanding of our cosmos - and teach us an important lesson in the way we should support the brilliant minds of our future.
I'm waiting for a Gregori Perelman of the physics world to submit his landmark article on arXiv with my fingers crossed.
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.
After listening to “The Trouble with Physics, it appears physicists have been wandering in a wilderness for the last 30 years. Lee Smolin suggests a theory that explains everything about everything, a Unified Field Theory, is as far away today as it was in 1905. Smolin suggests that the science of Physics is broken.
What makes Smolin’s observations discouraging is that a physics’ break-through, at least in regard to a unified field theory, is unlikely in the near future. If young scientists are being discouraged because of their radical ideas, Smolin may be right; i.e. history shows that most, if not all, break through scientific discoveries are made by people under 30 years of age; i.e. the same people, according to Smolin, being shut out of “non-String Theory” physics’ research.
The general public’s perception is that science is advancing at an accelerating pace; now, one wonders.
Science and philosophy buff
I will try another book by Lee Smolin but I wasn't very impressed with this one
Although the point of this book (We should spend more time and money on other physics ideas) is well taken I don't think it should have taken 15 hours to make it. I expected more out of this then I got from it.
Yes. I will listen several times. Well done production, fascinating topic, and the truth about String Theory...what more could anyone ask?
Right from the start, Smolin identifies they 'Trouble with Physics'. Anyone really interested in Physics could not resist hearing this refreshing and un-biased viewpoint.
Walter Dixon's reading is always clear and clean - his command of reading in technical subjects is exemplary.
I was not aware of the extent to which the 'Monster' of String Theory had invaded all of Physics research, apparently to the exclusion of any actual Critical thought. Quite alarming, actually.
Many thanks to Doctor Smolin for writing a REAL Physics book for people who have wanted to know the true state of Physics for years. The last book I thought was as valuable was Gary Zukav's 'Dancing Wu Li Masters'.Other popular Physics books, these days, promote String Theory almost exclusively, and usually without even a nod to the glossing over required to swallow String Theory itself, the very limited likelihood that these problems can be overcome, and the additional Foundational Problems of the Theories-Behind-the-Theory (Quantum Theory, for instance, which, while a very successful, functional tool, cannot be applied to extensive or complex systems, and which relies on many unexplained features such as 'quantum jitters' as Brian Greene calls them, and the Uncertainty Principle - which is not explained, but has an "is because it is" acceptance among Quantum Theorists). Lee Smolin's book speaks *directly* about the 5 main Problems that Physics needs to address to get back on track and become consistent (and Scientific) again.
First, the narration is IMO very good. I have no idea how Lee Smolin talks, but Mr Dixon sounds a very authentically irritated physicist. OK, he's just reading the text, but that is not as easy as it sounds. Good choice, and well done.
The text/book is hard going at times. The core points are well made, if perhaps a bit too often. As a pee-existing skeptic of string theories, he was preaching to the choir a bit in my case, but his argument is strong and supported by both logic and evidence.
Don't get me wrong. Just because I gave this book 3 stars, does not mean that I did not like it. It is not a bad book. The target audience needs to be clear in the description of this book. That is why I gave it 3 stars.
The first half of the book focuses on the sociopolitical reasons why String Theory is so popular in college education, and how that popularity is sufficating the growth of other theories that compete with it. To understand the first half, you really need to understand String Theory. If you do not yet have a grasp of it, as I do not, then you have no way of knowing if the arguments hold water.
For me, a hobbyist in the areas of cosmology, astrology, and astrophysics, I really enjoyed the second half of the book. In the second half the author talks about competing theories, and others, that have gained little or no attention. Some of those were quite fascinating and I plan on doing some reading about them.
Near the end of the second half, the author goes deeper into the sociopolitical problems with college education in America specifically. Again, I had no foundation that gave me the right to agree or disagree. All I could do is listen to a passionate argument about something I knew little about.
The one thing that I got from this book is that Lee Smolin is very smart and passionate about his work. I would love to meet him some day and chat over a few beers and talk about the beginning of the cosmos, and what may lay beyond a black hole.
Yes, its a nice book with a deep reflexion about why Physics is stuck where it is...
The historical and sociological context that the author put in discussion and perspective.
I am very intrigued by the subject matter so I was hoping to enjoy this. To one degree it was interesting to learn about the progress (or actually the lack of progress) they are making here just from the standpoint of being "briefed".
However as you listen you eventually realize this is being told by a scientist who is only interested in tests and hypothesis that would prove his positions and beliefs rather than let the facts prove themselves. Or maybe more simply said, he has an agenda, and he is only willing to accept tests and test results that fit that agenda rather then accept the facts, be what they may.
So after going better than halfway through the book I realized there was no point in finishing; How could I possibly appreciate any of his findings when his prejudices will obviously only allow him to come to conclusions that fit those prejudices...
As to the hypocrisy; He readily admits that his and his like minded scientists workflow method boils down to making up ridiculous hypothesis about string theory and the origins of life, then testing them to see if they are true. So on the one hand he claims the high moral ground for being willing to stretch his imagination no matter how ridiculous and then test it to see if its true. However if your belief or hypothesis does not meet with his prejudices, then they are just "ridiculous". That's when you say "Huh? I thought you just said that's what you do??? I wonder if that's why you are not making any progress... You are unwilling to go where the science leads".
Auto Repair shop owner. I love Yoga, and playing my Fender Stratocaster. I Walk my dogs twice a day.
It's odd how much we don't know about physics. We build bigger and bigger atom smashers and find smaller and smaller particles. I think one day we will have an atom smasher that rings our solar system and find even smaller particles. If it is zero or infinite, "you must acquit.” I don’t think our super smart will ever find the “God Particle” until they think there is a God. Our author even states our current state of understanding of particle physics is similar to those that hold the design theory as their “science.”
I’d recommend this book for those that want to see how little we have progressed since Einstein.