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Three Roads To Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) Paperback – July 4, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0465078363 ISBN-10: 0465078362 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: Science Masters
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (July 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465078362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465078363
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Customer Reviews

Good book, good background, highly recommended.
Steve Reina
This is one of the most interesting books I've read in a while, about a subject that is both difficult and strange.
Duwayne Anderson
The author presents a good view of both loop quantum gravity and string theory.
J. Andrew Howe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Tatsuo Tabata on July 27, 2001
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 By K. Graham on 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 By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By Rama Rao VINE VOICE on 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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