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Posted December 7, 2011
Boldly Meritorious, yet Flawed
Being someone who has more than dabbled in many of the obscure subjects covered, I found this book a fascinating consolidation. But I have reservations. The main human subject, James Carter, is certainly an industrious and imaginative fellow, but I think the appellation, "Leonardo of outsiders" exaggerates the value of his work. Carter's "theory" of microcosmic matter, which proposes, in essence, to replace Schroedinger's wave equation with a predictively barren scheme of "Circlons," will arouse little interest outside the art gallery.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The book's most valuable insight is the striking parallel drawn between the collective works of outsiders and what passes for serious physics by academic insiders. Wertheim characterizes the activities of the avant garde string and multiverse cosmology theorists as the more bizarre of the two--a correct assessment, in my view.
Finally, Physics on the Fringe--as with the latest edition of Carter's book, The Other Theory of Physics (OTP)--suffers from a serious omission. In earlier editions of Carter's work, he points out that his model of gravity can be tested with a simple experiment. Being familiar with the development of Carter's work, Wertheim mentions the experiment. But she does not describe it, either graphically or verbally. In the 2011 edition of OTP, Carter does not even mention the experiment. Why not?
Regardless of the predictive uselessness of Carter's Circlon theory, his gravity model makes a robust prediction by which it can be definitively put on the chopping block. The blade breaks or the theory breaks. This is what science is supposed to be about: making predictions based on hypotheses and TESTING them. Both outsiders and the latest generation of insiders sadly neglect this fact. Wertheim could have done a better job of pointing this out.
I give the book a high grade because it is very well written and because it is exceptional for exposing a side to the study of physical reality that is otherwise obscenely overshadowed by the entertainment industry that has become of modern fundamental physics.