The Trouble with Physics is a groundbreaking account of the state of modern physics: of how we got from Einstein and Relativity through quantum mechanics to the strange and bizarre predictions of string theory, full of unseen dimensions and multiple universes.
Lee Smolin not only provides a brilliant layman’s overview of current research as we attempt to build a ‘theory of everything’, but also questions many of the assumptions that lie behind string theory. In doing so, he describes some of the daring, outlandish ideas that will propel research in years to come.
String theory the hot topic in physics for the past 20 years is a dead-end, says Smolin, one of the founders of Canada's Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics and himself a lapsed string theorist. In fact, he (and others) argue convincingly, string theory isn't even a fully formed theory it's just a "conjecture." As Smolin reminds his readers, string theorists haven't been able to prove any of their exotic ideas, and he says there isn't much chance that they will in the foreseeable future. The discovery of "dark energy," which seems to be pushing the universe apart faster and faster, isn't explained by string theory and is proving troublesome for that theory's advocates. Smolin (The Life of the Cosmos) believes that physicists are making the mistake of searching for a theory that is "beautiful" and "elegant" instead of one that's actually backed up by experiments. He encourages physicists to investigate new alternatives and highlights several young physicists whose work he finds promising. This isn't easy reading, but it will appeal to dedicated science buffs interested in where physics may be headed in the next decade. 30 b&w illus.