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Cosmic Variance

Lee Smolin

The Trouble with Physics

String theory is a controversial subject at the moment - some people think that it has drifted too far from experimentally testable results. One such person is Lee Smolin, and in The Trouble with Physics he presents his case. As the book proceeds it includes quite a bit of modern physics, but Smolin manages to do this without technicalities, and so the book can be read by those without much experience of the subject. Not everyone will agree with what Smolin is saying, but he presents some well thought out arguments ant the book is definitely worth reading.

The first chapter looks at the 'Five great problems of theoretical physics' and the book goes on to look at the history of physics, showing how unification has become a highly desirable goal. Smolin then introduces string theory, showing how several revolutions have given it the status it has today, but he also describes the many problems he sees with the theory. He goes on to examine the experiments which will be able to test string theory over the next few years, and has plenty of suggestions for what might replace it if/when it is found wanting. The last part of the book shows that Smolin sees the problem as going beyond string theory and extending to the whole of academic science and in particular how it is funded. He tells of some of the things which influenced his career, and suggests what might be done in future to avoid the increasing rigidity of scientific research.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 416 pages  
ISBN: 0618551050
Salesrank: 645891
Weight:1.4 lbs
Published: 2006 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Amazon price $14.79
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 416 pages  
ISBN: 0713997990
Salesrank: 624808
Weight:1.68 lbs
Published: 2007 Allen Lane
Marketplace:New from £73.13:Used from £2.45
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 416 pages  
ISBN: 0618551050
Salesrank: 718605
Weight:1.4 lbs
Published: 2006 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 24.00:Used from CDN$ 2.27
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Product Description
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.