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Er..is this the same Andrew Thomas as last time?
on 8 April 2014
Having given Hidden in Plain Sight 2 the most emphatic 5 star review I've ever given any book, I was most disappointed in this third title. The preface promised a book reading like a murder mystery with a final twist, but I didn't find any significant insights in it. I kept waiting for the punchline and then suddenly found myself at the end of the book. As far as I can tell, the final twist is that time is involved in the definition of energy (which is the time component of the momentum 4-vector) and therefore the universe would be very different without it - not really much of an original insight to my mind.
Most of the material that I hadn't already seen in many other books on the subject (time dilation, block universe etc) was either incomplete or just wrong. Two examples
- The reason why we can't remember the future is given that events that are outside the light cone in our past are space-, rather than time-like, But what about events that are inside our future light cone. Those ARE connectable to us via light rays, so why (in principle) can't we remember them? If the answer is "well, light can't go back in time", then isn't this just begging the question?
- He has a bit of a superior dig at a certain Dr Walker (a medical practitioner looking into the problems of immortality), saying "perhaps someone might introduce him to the concept of what we might call "developmental entropy"", later going on to say on the subject of why new life doesn't refute the second law of thermodynamics, "I do not believe the solution to this question which is generally presented [that the second law is applicable to closed systems, and a human being is not a closed system] is the correct solution", going on to say that babies have lower entropy than their parents because they have fewer degrees of freedom. Well - yes, in the same sense that a single atom in my body has lower entropy than all the rest of it. To do a meaningful comparison of the entropy of a baby and its parents, you should include that of all the carbon in the CO2 in the air, and the minerals in the soil, that are eventually going to go into that baby as an adult. I think it'll be fair to say that the entropy of the baby looks pretty high if you do that, and the conventional explanation (that its the low entropy of food and ultimately of the sun, that allows for the life of any one individual and for the evolution of life as a whole to exist) still looks pretty robust to me.
There is an interesting theme on the subject of why the present seems more important to humans (and indeed to any data processing entity, including computers) than the past. I would have liked to see more discussion of how the difference between the past and future arises from, say, the quantum mechanical arrow of time and if possible where that arrow of time might come from.
Bottom line: if you've paid 99p, you're probably getting your moneys worth. Just