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Showing posts from December, 2004

The Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Greene *****

Subtitled “space, time and the texture of reality”, this could be seen as yet another book trying to do all of science – but it’s more finely tuned than that – and a much better read than most of the “tell you everything” books. In fact, what Brian Greene tries to do, and largely succeeds in, is explaining the two great underlying theories of science, both developed in the twentieth century – relativity and quantum theory – then extending beyond them to the nature of time and the composition and origins of the universe. The first section of the book concentrates on relativity (mostly special, but quickly filling in general) and quantum theory. From there we pick up a description of what time is, whether “time’s arrow” is a realistic context, and how time slots into the quantum arena. The third section is more cosmologically oriented, spending a fair amount of space on the big bang and quantum fluctuations. Then we get onto the current preferred theories of matter – string theory and …

Leaps in the Dark – John Waller ****

This is a very good book, which impressed me very much. I have to get this rather bland positive statement in up front, as otherwise I’d start with what sounds like a negative remark, and this isn’t a negative review. John Waller relishes shattering our illusions. He’s the sort of person who tells you that Robin Hood, if he ever existed at all, was an unpleasant murderer with B.O. Or that Richard III was really a good, well-meaning king, and all the stuff about hump backs and princes in the Tower was fictional propaganda put about by the Lancastrians to justify their coup. The reason this sort of bubble bursting is painful is that we like our stories. We exist on stories – and the best popular science has a good story at its heart. But, and here’s where we fall into line with Waller, bearing in mind we are talking about science, we shouldn’t let our enthusiasm for a good story get in the way of the truth. Yes, let’s enjoy our history of science, and make it about real people, but not …