For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard,-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade.
Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a profoundly human profile of Jim Carter, Wertheim's exploration of the bizarre world of fringe physics challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.
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About the Author
Margaret Wertheim is a science writer and commentator, who is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. She's the author of Pythagoras' Trousers and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace. Wertheim also has written TV documentaries, including the Catalyst series and PBS's Faith and Reason. She is the founder and director of the Institute For Figuring, an organization devoted to expanding the public understanding of science in innovative and creative ways.
Table of Contents
Chapter 0 A Trailer Park Owner Imagines the World 1
Part 1 Outsider Science
Chapter 1 Under the Hood of the Universe 15
Chapter 2 Counterpart Universes "Excisting" 39
Chapter 3 A Budget of Paradoxes 74
Part 2 Jim's World
Chapter 4 There's Diggers, and There's Everyone Else 103
Chapter 5 The Four Sexes 127
Chapter 6 Circlon Science 137
Chapter 7 Smoke Rings 164
Chapter 8 Creating the World 187
Chapter 9 Gravity and Levity 214
Part 3 Sciences of Imaginary Solutions
Chapter 10 A Reformation of Science? 233
Chapter 11 Swimming Physicists 257
Afterword: Tree Rings 281
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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. 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.
I thought this might be intersting, but I couldn't even finish it. There more description about where a guy lives than there is about his hypotheses.