Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics

Stephon Alexander. Basic, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5416-9963-2
Theoretical physicist Alexander (The Jazz of Physics) searches the far reaches of the cosmos while addressing the experiences of marginalized people in STEM fields in his refreshing survey. He begins by outlining three principles that underlie humans’ knowledge of the universe—invariance (about the speed of light and relativity), the quantum principle (about subatomic forces), and the principle of emergence (about how life comes from elements)—before considering more mysterious aspects of the universe such as dark matter and the cosmic biosphere. As he describes different theories, Alexander adds personal anecdotes about his experience as a Black man in science (“Though I had the same technical training as my postdoc peers,” he writes, “my social isolation enabled me to... embrace ideas on the fringes of established knowledge”), his friendships with other scientists, and how he became interested in physics. He argues that one should “never be afraid of even the most absurd ideas, and even to embrace them,” and that minority voices ought be elevated because of the “outsider’s perspective” they bring. Diversity in science, he writes, “is not simply a social justice concern...it enhances the quality of the science we accomplish.” The result is both an excellent work of advocacy and a welcoming introduction to physics. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/27/2021
Release date: 08/31/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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