Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene

The Fabric of the Cosmos
Brian Greene

This is a book on cosmology for the lay reader. Green starts with Newton and works his way though Einstein, the various people involved in the discovery of quantum mechanics, and eventually into his own specialty, string theory.

I found Greene's book very readable and helpful in understanding those parts of physics that are pretty well established. His discussions of string theory are also well done, but here we hit a slight issue with more recent events.

The book was published in 2004, and in the time since there is a growing movement (as far as I can tell, anyway) among some physicists to call string theory a crock and abandon it. Greene isn't among those ranks, of course, and I have no way to assess the validity of the arguments on either side as the math is way, way beyond my abilities.

Still, I think the major objection is that string theory doesn't necessarily appear (and may not be) testable. Greene argues that there are things that can and will be tested. How well his arguments hold up against the growing group of people dissatisfied with string theory I don't know.

In any case, there are some very good discussions in here about Relativity, QM, Newtonian mechanics, absolute vs. relative space and time, and several other topics. If you want to know more about these things without being required to take 15 or 20 courses in advanced math, Greene's presentation is quite good.