- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Pegasus Books; 1 edition (July 15, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1605985740
- ISBN-13: 978-1605985749
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth 1st Edition
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*Starred Review* When a prominent theorist acknowledges how many spatial geometries superstring theory allows—“More numerous than grains of sand on a beach. Every beach”—Baggott sees not conceptual fertility but scientific failure. After all, theorists cannot identify any of the absurdly numerous geometries they contemplate as superior to others as a description of reality. Unfortunately, Baggott finds that some theory-mad physicists simply do not care about reality—or about the scientific method as a way of discovering it. Baggott’s own commitment to empirical reality pervades his overview of six principles foundational to the orthodox science behind the accepted model of the universe. To be sure, readers will soon realize that that model leaves large questions unanswered: Why, for instance, won’t relativity and quantum mechanics play together? Why does the big bang look so fine-tuned? Though he acknowledges the lacunae, Baggott argues that scientists should not be rushing into the gaps with wildly imaginative theories exempt from empirical testing. Boldly naming names, Baggott indicts prominent theorists—even Stephen Hawking—for spinning fairy-tale physics in fantasizing about multiple universes, anthropic principles, M-theory branes, and string-theory vibrational patterns. Solid physics, he warns, is fading into airy metaphysics. Certain to broaden and intensify the debate over what counts as science. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Baggott has done something that I would have thought impossible in a popular book. He navigates successfully between the Scylla of mathematical rigor and the Charybdis of popular nonsense.”
- The Wall Street Journal
“In consistently accessible and intelligent prose, Baggott sympathetically captures the frustrations of physicists while laying out a provocative―and very convincing―plea for a reality check in a field that he feels is now too “meta” for its own good.”
- Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
- The Economist
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Not sure why so many four stars... This is a five star book!
Very few people, especially non-physicists, can understand most of what passes for current 'theory', then organize it in understandable and entertaining fashion and critique it. Jim Baggott does just that. He bends over backward to present the ideas in their best light and show how and why some people might believe these theories, yet in the end there are no predictions, no numbers, no nothing. And worse than that, it's a house of cards, in the sense that one thing, strings, led to super-strings, led to Calabi-Yau "windings" around 10-dimensional manifolds, (a 10-D torus) leading to 10*500 possible windings, which somehow get connected to 'inflating bubbles' each of which has many different parameters (I would say 'put in by hand', but they're not even put in, they're just assumed to exist!) and these 'bubbles' form an infinitely varied multi-verse, supposedly explaining why our finely tuned universe was just our "luck of the draw", and somehow backed by 'M-theory', etc. And not one of these 'supporting theories' has an observation, a calculation, or a prediction to back it up! Zip. Nada. A number don't even have equations written down, let alone solved!
Baggott's generous treatment of these "fairy tales" is impressive, yet in the end he simply states that they fail to meet any smell test. In fact he begins the book by laying out an excellent approach to 'reality' and how one can go about deciding if a theory relates to reality, while acknowledging clearly just how hard (impossible) it is to define reality. Yet you are real and I am real. I wrote this, you're reading it. It's real. So despite Bell's theorem and "gravity as geometry", there is something real there. Baggott's treatment of the problem and his suggested approach is simply excellent.
One review suggests he is making mountains out of mole hills. Nonsense. It's not a problem of "just a little speculation". The problem is "nothing but speculation". As Unzicker, in another critical analysis of physics, "Bankrupting Physics", points out, this is dangerous. Physics can lose all credibility by becoming metaphysics (and not even good metaphysics!)
Unzicker points out that the institution of physics has become "Too big to fail". He also attacks the socio-politico-economic structure of the problem more than does Baggott, who despite severe criticism of ideas remains a gentleman and quite polite in his criticisms. This book is nothing if not fair.
The problem is real -- it has not been discussed much, probably because of the complexity of the issues -- and this is a truly excellent book that should be read by all those who wish to be well informed about major issues of our times.
I repeat: this is a five star book.
Edwin Eugene Klingman
Alright, why should I be shocked? Well, almost ten years ago I decided to get educated about physics in as much as a curious layman can about such a complex area of science. I read two of Brian Greene's books and one of Lisa Randall's and felt I had learned a lot about the subject.(I must add here, that these books do cover established physics very well when they are explaining them). Though, others can fault me for not being perceptive enough about any qualifications expressed by them, these authors made me think that many dimensions, multiple universes,branes and tiny vibrating strings were all real and indeed established science. Thus, the slap in my face to have Greene and Randall called out in Baggott's book for concepts which have no evidence to back them up. All these things are metaphysics not science.
I am sure professional physicists can roll their eyes after reading what I have just wrote and say that I am just another average guy who misunderstands what is going on. But, what Baggot's book does such a great and very fair job presenting, is that it is not only an "average guy" such a myself who has been misled, it is a large percentage of professional physicists also. Also, it is harmful to science for its leaders to not be honest with the average guys or gals in the street in this age of raging anti-science and fundamentalism. The argument in this book is done in a methodical and coherent way. Baggot makes his arguments clearly and fairly. You will finish this book and you will learn to be more critical and analytical of some of the claims of theoretical physics and cosmology. Not a bad thing for an average guy and indeed the work of science itself.
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String theory, LQG, QHT, asymptotic gravity, etc are ALL MODELS worth...Read more