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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A detached reporter of science could have provided no more balanced account of the competing theories on quantum gravity than does Lee Smolin, a practicing scientist. His own inclinations are clear, of course, but the reader is left with a sense that the real contribution of this young physicist is not so much the content of the still-nascent theory he puts forth to unite relativity theory with quantum theory -- his contribution is reorienting our expectations of what a "right" theory will be. He informs us that there will be no final theory, no single winning formula. Rather, all three of the approaches now in the running will offer necessary windows of understanding.
Several years ago I was enticed to read Smolin's first book, The Life of the Cosmos, because of the way he imported a biological concept to explain the great mystery in astrophysics: why the substance and dynamics of the universe are tuned just so to allow galaxies and stars -- and, hence, life -- to emerge. The principle of natural selection that Smolin offered focused on possible universes born from black holes. A universe in which black holes can exist is necessarily a universe in which galaxies, stars, and life can exist. It is no surprise that this book is also a superb introduction to the most abstract of cosmological questions. The real wonder is that Smolin conveys the fundamental principles and the cutting-edge debates in ways that left this reader feeling awe for my own capacity to understand and deeply appreciate a topic I had feared might be beyond my reach. (Connie Barlow)