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Three Roads To Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) [Kindle Edition]

Lee Smolin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Holy Grail of modern physics is a theory of the universe that unites two seemingly opposing pillars of modern science: Einstein's theory of general relativity, which deals with large-scale phenomena (planets, solar systems and galaxies), and quantum theory, which deals with the world of the very small (molecules, atoms, electrons). In Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, Lee Smolin provides the first concise and accessible overview of current attempts to reconcile these two theories in a final "theory of everything." This is the closest anyone has ever come to devising a completely new theory of space, time and the universe to replace the Newtonian ideas that were the foundation of all science until the beginning of the twentieth century. Lee Smolin, who has spent his career at the forefront of these new discoveries, presents for the first time the main ideas behind the new developments that have brought a quantum theory of gravity in sight. He explains in simple terms what scientists are talking about when they say the world is made from exotic entities such as loops, strings, and black holes. As he does so, he tells the fascinating stories behind these discoveries: the rivalries, epiphanies, and intrigues he witnessed firsthand.Science Masters Series


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's difficult, writes Lee Smolin in this lucid overview of modern physics, to talk meaningfully about the big questions of space and time, given the limitations of our technology and perceptions.

It's more difficult still given some of the contradictions and inconsistencies that obtain between quantum theory, which "was invented to explain why atoms are stable and do not instantly fall apart" but has little to say about space and time, and general relatively theory, which has everything to say about the big picture but tends to collapse when describing the behavior of atoms and their even smaller constituents. Whence the hero of Smolin's tale, the as-yet-incomplete quantum theory of gravity, which seeks to unify relativity and quantum theory--and, in the bargain, to move toward a "grand theory of everything." Smolin ably explains concepts that underlie quantum gravity, such as background independence, the superposition principle, and the notion of causal structure, and he traces the development of allied theories that have shaped modern physics and led to this new view of the universe.

Although he allows that "it has not been possible to test any of our new theories of quantum gravity experimentally," Smolin predicts that a solid framework will be established by 2015 at the outside. If he's correct, the years in between promise to be an exciting time for students of the physical sciences, and Smolin's book makes an engaging introduction to some of the big questions they'll be asking. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

The most obvious questions--e.g., "What are time and space?"--are nearly impossible to answer. Smolin (The Life of the Cosmos), professor of physics at Pennsylvania State University, offers "a report from the front" of the current "revolution" in theories of space and time. Aimed at beginners, this careful treatment of the search for a single theory that brings together relativity and quantum theory will draw in potential explorers. Illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1035 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465078362
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003PJ6UFC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,613 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
126 of 131 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The completion of a quantum theory of gravity (quantum gravity for short) is one of the most challenging problems in science in the twenty-first century. This theory aims at unifying Einstein's theory of general relativity for large-scale phenomena with the quantum theory for the micro-world, to get understanding of everything from space and time to matter and the universe. Lee Smolin, Professor of Physics at Pennsylvania State University, tells the story of recent and future research pursuing this theory for the intelligent layperson.
The author writes earlier chapters very understandably. The reader who knew nothing about the quantum gravity learns easily the following interesting things: There are three approaches to quantum gravity, i.e., the route from quantum theory (string theory), the road from the theory of general relativity (loop quantum gravity), and the path from fundamental principles. To do cosmology the classical logic demanding that every statement be either true or false is inadequate. A theory of quantum gravity has to answer about the nature of the information tapped in a quantum black hole. The search for the meaning of the temperature and entropy of a black hole is now leading to the discovery of the atomic structure of space and time. Etc.
In the middle of the book the author states that the style of these chapters will be more narrative than others because he can describe from personal experience some of the episodes in the development of loop quantum gravity. Lessons told are, for example, as follows: Science progresses quickly when people with different backgrounds and educations join forces. Einstein's example teach us that trying to invent new laws of physics requires not only intelligence and hard work but also insight, stubbornness, patience and character.
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice book on Quantum Gravity July 19, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I approached this book with great enthusiasm, hoping for a pedestrian treatment of loop quantum gravity (LQG). To be fair, most of this book is pretty good. Smolin writes pretty well, especially about relational quantum mechanics and how it relates to quantum gravity and cosmology. In addition, Smolin clearly points out why many relativists have issue with string/m-theory's lack of background independence.

I was, however, mildly disappointed in his discussion of the physical meaning of spin networks and loops and in his exposition of a possible synthesis of M-theory and LQG. Perhaps I overlooked it, but this book doesn't directly point out how you go from spin networks and spin foams to spacetime. But, you can figure it out... if you know enough general relativity and quantum field theory.

The appendix of this book is excellent! It provides many useful references to the literature.

All things considered though, this book is worth a read, especially to learn about the connection between spacetime, gravity, and quantum mechanics.

I originally rated this three stars. I recently reread the book and now want to give it four stars.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but no audience is ideally served June 4, 2006
Format:Paperback
As my title states, this book is very good, but with the significant caveat that no particular audience is ideally served by it.

If you are truly a layman, you may initially be pleased to find that the book has essentially no formal mathematics and the technical vocabulary isn't too extensive. Smolin himself says that the book is aimed at the "intelligent layman" and that "the reader who has not read anything previously on these subjects will be able to follow this book." However, the book tries to convey a meaningful understanding of some rather advanced (some would say speculative) physics in the areas of thermodynamics of black holes, loop quantum gravity, and string theory, and it does this in a manner which is philosophically sophisticated, with many fundamental questions being raised about the nature of space, time, and scientific theories in general. Moreover, despite Smolin's claim to the contrary, one can't adequately appreciate what the book is about without a basic (at least popular-level) background in quantum mechanics and relativity, which the book doesn't provide.

As a result, I anticipate that the true layman would find this book to be difficult going. Instead, a more realistic audience would be the "advanced layman" who has some prior familiarity with this subject matter, particularly the basics of quantum theory, relativity, the standard model, and cosmology. This audience (which includes me) would probably find the book to be quite stimulating and interesting, and would get a sense of what this advanced physics is all about.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Loop Quantum Gravity May 3, 2004
Format:Paperback
Since the postulation of theory of relativity (theory of cosmos, which describes the structure of space and time), and quantum mechanics (laws of microcosm, which describes atomic structure, nuclear forces, and nature of basic component of matter); physicists until now have struggled to explain gravity (which is a manifestation of spacetime fabric in presence of matter) in terms of quantum mechanics (quantum gravity). In this book the author attempts to explain three different approaches to quantum gravity; Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG), Superstring - M theory (S. -M), and Blackhole Thermodynamics (BT). While each takes a different starting point, they all agree when viewed on Planck scale, and they also view space and time are not continuous, and space is composed of discrete units. LQG gives us a detailed picture of these units in terms of spin networks, where as S.-M theory proposes continuous space in terms of a continuous string (with compactified extra dimensions) made of string bits, which is governed by uncertainty principle. BT theory states that amount information in any given space is finite and is proportional to the area of the boundary of the region in Planck units. The author is a pioneer in the field of LQG and provides the reader with a good introduction of the theory in a non-mathematical form and then compares with S.-M and BT theories. The book is described in three parts; the first part is a general introduction, which describes historical development of three theories, the second part introduces LQG and then compares with S.-M and BT theories, and the final part attempts to unify the three approaches into a single theory using Holographic Principle. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good sum-up.
Perhaps a bit optimistic in hindsight, but Mr. Smolin's ability to treat several different theories thoroughly and with respect makes this book an educating and enjoyable read.
Published 28 days ago by SveinN
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
best book on the topic I've read
Published 2 months ago by Frank
4.0 out of 5 stars Good first reading about quantum gravity
A very good explanation of the existing theories for quantum gravity.
Writen in a way to understand the concepts without entering in mathematical formulations. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ulrich Ringler
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
Smolin can be a bit tough to wade through at times but he makes his read something that you always want to arrive at the end point so he's hard to put down.
Published 6 months ago by rob0bOy
5.0 out of 5 stars An easy to read book about a complex subject!
As a layperson (and closet science geek), I really appreciated the author's straightforward and mostly non-mathematical approach to a difficult and incomplete new theory about... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mark Abrams
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh, it's ok
Lots of thoughts but I was looking for more evidence. Many analogies, stories and anecdotes; apparently, advanced physicists have a lot of car trouble to and from the airport.
Published 9 months ago by Will Fehringer
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting overview of the current events in bringing together...
Lee Smolin's books are always well-written and challenging. He tells the story as one who is in the midst of the action. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Steven T. Wolf
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun to Read
It's very nice to find a physics book that's both engrossing, and very well written. I believe that even if you didn't love physics, you would still find this fun to read.
Published 13 months ago by Adam Lemire
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine the Universe
I highly recommend all the books written by Professor Smolin, and am especially grateful that text to speech is enabled on the Kindle Editions. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Liane J. Leedom, M.D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
Mind-expanding and thought-provoking, like each of Smolin's books. An intellectual adventure. Made me a little sad that I wasn't smart enough to work on these kinds of problems,... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ronald S. Wardrop
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More About the Author

Lee Smolin earned his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard, then went on to teach at Yale and Pennsylvania State before helping to found the innovative Perimeter Institute. He is the author of The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.

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