Lee Smolin is one of the most fun quantum theorists to read. He is among a handful of popular writers who have done important research in quantum theory and quantum gravity (such as it is). He doesn't write books just to write a book, but aims to move the bleeding (and I mean bleeding) edge of physics theory forward in a way that brings the general reader along too. That is a true feat. From my point of view as a quantum physicist (and sometime popular book author) who doesn't work in quantum gravity, I always find his books educational and extremely thought provoking.
The new book is a surprisingly personal exposition of Smolin's lifelong attempts to find a key to unifying quantum theory and gravity (general relativity), a task Einstein famously failed at. Smolin concludes that both of these theories need to be thrown out (while keeping their main messages intact) and an entirely new theory found. He tells us his deepest ideas about how to do that. It borders on a natural philosophy of the world, but from a very abstract point of view.
Smolin explains clearly why he (and everyone else) has failed so far, and tries very hard and sincerely to point to a set of basic principles of nature (which may or may not be true), which may or may not provide a basis for a new theory.
A weakness is that he describes the choice of realist/anti-realist viewpoints too simply. He seems to say that anyone who doesn't accept that physics is nonlocal must be an anti-realist and must think the world doesn't exist until someone looks at it. But that is only one way to view the implications of experimental violations of Bell inequalities, which forces us to accept that the combination of locality, realism and 'free will' (ability to choose independently which quantities will be measured) can't exist. There are more than two ways to unpack that conclusion (all of them murky).
A brave, elegant, and thought-provoking book for the lay reader, and the 'lay scientist.'
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 1 edition (9 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241004489
- ISBN-13: 978-0241004487
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 558 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)