The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next

The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next

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by Lee Smolin
     
 

In this groundbreaking book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that physics—the basis for all other sciences—has lost its way. For more than two centuries, our understanding of the laws of nature expanded rapidly. But today, despite our best efforts, we know nothing more about these laws than we knew in the 1970s. Why is physics

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Overview

In this groundbreaking book, the renowned theoretical physicist Lee Smolin argues that physics—the basis for all other sciences—has lost its way. For more than two centuries, our understanding of the laws of nature expanded rapidly. But today, despite our best efforts, we know nothing more about these laws than we knew in the 1970s. Why is physics suddenly in trouble? And what can we do about it?

One of the major problems, according to Smolin, is string theory: an ambitious attempt to formulate a “theory of everything” that explains all the particles and forces of nature and how the universe came to be. With its exotic new particles and parallel universes, string theory has captured the public’s imagination and seduced many physicists.

But as Smolin reveals, there’s a deep flaw in the theory: no part of it has been tested, and no one knows how to test it. In fact, the theory appears to come in an infinite number of versions, meaning that no experiment will ever be able to prove it false. As a scientific theory, it fails. And because it has soaked up the lion’s share of funding, attracted some of the best minds, and effectively penalized young physicists for pursuing other avenues, it is dragging the rest of physics down with it.

With clarity, passion, and authority, Smolin charts the rise and fall of string theory and takes a fascinating look at what will replace it. A group of young theorists has begun to develop exciting ideas that, unlike string theory, are testable. Smolin not only tells us who and what to watch for in the coming years, he offers novel solutions for seeking out and nurturing the best new talent—giving us a chance, at long last, of finding the next Einstein.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618551057
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/19/2006
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.94(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has made influential contributions to the search for a unification of physics. He is a founding faculty member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His previous books include The Trouble with Physics , The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity .

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

PART I THE UNFINISHED REVOLUTION 1: The Five Great Problems in Theoretical Physics 3 2: The Beauty Myth 18 3: The World As Geometry 38 4: Unification Becomes a Science 54 5: From Unification to Superunification 66 6: Quantum Gravity: The Fork in the Road 80

PART II A BRIEF HISTORY OF STRING THEORY 7: Preparing for a Revolution 101 8: The First Superstring Revolution 114 9: Revolution Number Two 129 10: A Theory of Anything 149 11: The Anthropic Solution 161 12: What String Theory Explains 177

PART III BEYOND STRING THEORY 13: Surprises from the Real World 203 14: Building on Einstein 223 15: Physics After String Theory 238

PART IV LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE 16: How Do You Fight Sociology? 261 17: What Is Science? 289 18: Seers and Craftspeople 308 19: How Science Really Works 332 20: What We Can Do for Science 349

Notes 359 Acknowledgments 372 Index 375

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