Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe

Roger Penrose. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-691-11979-3
Acclaimed English mathematical physicist Penrose (Cycles of Time) gets to the heart of modern physics’ problem with subjectivity in this insightful and provocative pop-sci title. Scientific progress relies on finding a theory, backed up by mathematical equations, that accurately predicts the behavior we observe. Newton’s gravitational theory and Einstein’s theory of relativity are accepted because they describe and predict events in the world around us. But too much of modern physics, Penrose says, depends upon equations that, no matter how elegant, don’t actually describe reality. Instead, “fashionable” ideas, such as string theory, get all the research money as well as the press. Likewise, Penrose writes, quantum mechanics researchers may be faithful to out-of-date ideas, or even resort to science fantasy to explain the Big Bang and the structure of our universe. Penrose writes with a blend of astonishment and exasperation about “extraordinary” ideas—including string theory and the existence of parallel universes—that have become accepted simply because they get so much attention, in a feedback loop of imaginative error. He writes with clarity and authority in this dense but rewarding discussion of scientific stumbles in the search for truth. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2017
Release date: 07/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 520 pages - 978-1-4008-8028-7
Paperback - 520 pages - 978-0-691-17853-0
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