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- Published on Amazon.com
"Facing up to ... a superspace in which myriads of worlds are stitched together in a curious overlapping, wavelike fashion, the concrete world of daily life seems light years away. ... one is bound to wonder to what extent superspace is real." Paul Davies
Davies Temporal Gymnastics:
Paul Davies suggests that in a closed-time world, the past would also be the future. He thus opens up a prospect of temporal paradoxes, more frequently visited by science fiction writers, since H.G. Wells. But, if time joins up with itself similarly to a snake swallowing its tail, he proposes it would not be possible to distinguish forwards or backwards in time, just as he has explained, that there is no distinction between left and right hands in a Möbius-type space. Prof. Davies concludes, "Whether or not we would notice such bizarre properties of time is not clear. Perhaps our brains, in an attempt to order our experiences in a meaningful way, would be unaware of these temporal gymnastics."
Holes with Teeth?
As a Mathematical physicist, he expresses his Möbius-style thoughts, "Although edges and holes in space and time might seem like a mad mathematician's nightmare, they are taken very seriously by physicists, who consider that such structures may very well exist. Although there is no evidence for the mangling of space-time, there seems a strong suggestion that space or time might develop 'edges' which have borders, or Cauchy-Reinmann type contours, "so that rather than tumbling unsuspectingly off the edge of creation, we should be painfully and, it turns out, suicidally aware of our impending departure."
The Anthropic Principle:
Cosmologists use what they call the Copernican principle, that the universe looks exactly the same, whatever your position. We on earth do not have a privileged position. While Copernicus rejected the idea that the earth was the center of the universe, he accepted the idea that the sun was. The anthropic principle is supposed to limit the Copernican principle, which can be used to `explain,' or at least reduce or surprise at some of the more astonishing features of the cosmos. It does this by taking as basic that we are intelligent carbon based life forms, and then asking what is necessary in cosmological terms for the existence of such life forms. ([...])
Davies Keystone Proposition:
As articulate lecturers, of great universities tradition, Paul Davies render an exhilarating tour of cosmic integration, of 'Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe,' shedding light on the grand questions of human existence. His keystone proposition, leads to the more likely conclusion, that our carbon-based life was not arrived at coincidentally, but that the universe was 'intelligently designed for man.' Yet, the persuasive writers, and outstanding scientists own personal view of cosmic events, clearly supported argument of compelling address and outstanding guideline for 'intelligent design' skeptics and advocates.
From Physics to Metaphysics:
After a preface, prologue, Paul Davies starts with Einstein's comment, and proceeds on the concept of perception, supporting his case with scientific facts of subatomic chaos, quantum, and superspace before he turns to metaphysical implications, asking questions on the nature of reality, mind and matter, through the anthropic principle to ask, "Is the universe an accident?"
What do you think?
Dr. Davies describes the deepest aspect of quantum theory in a way that is at once luminously clear and tremendously exciting. No one can read it without feeling the thrill of probing the universe to its very core."
Wesley L. Janssen
- Published on Amazon.com
Davies is a well-known professor of mathematical physics now retired to writing books explaining and popularizing quantum physics. This is one of his earlier books (1980) and, as other reviewers may have noted, he has since honed his writing skills. Yet, this is an interesting book, particularly, I think, in his treatment of stellar nucleosynthesis, nuclear mechanics, the significance of the strong and weak nuclear forces being what they are, the significance of the hydrogen to helium ratio in the early universe (this having to do with the formulation and ratio of protons to neutrons at a highly specific moment) and other factors relating to the so-called anthropic cosmological principle. Another interesting discussion is of the synthesis and unique properties of carbon. Readers may also find Davies' description and contrasting of the Bohr/Copenhagen interpretation with the Everett/'many worlds' interpretation (of quantum superpositioning) to be valuable.
The book's weaknesses I will relegate mainly to its beginning and endings. The last chapter, "Supertime", an excursion into the Everett view, is, unfortunately, Davies at his least interesting. And it might be noted, though Davies does not, that most physicists continue to prefer the Bohr view to Everett's (and that both may be wrong, for that matter). The last few pages seemed almost tedious to this reader. The other problem that I saw was Davies early tendency to equate "theology" with vitalism. In this naïve view, popularized by Carl Sagan, one is asked to accept that modern western science emerged triumphantly from polytheistic ('the gods must be angry') cultures, which is simply wrong. Scientific thinking was birthed as Hellenism moved away from polytheism toward an overarching monotheism (Anaxagoras' primordial Mind, Aristotle's First Mover, etc). The thinking was that if nature had been rationally and willfully produced, it must then be reducible to coherent 'laws' which could be rationally understood. As intellectualized, pagan quasi-monotheism gave way to Judeo-Christian monotheism in the following centuries, this thinking was reinforced. The early practitioners, philosophers and patrons of science were not vitalists or shamanists or animists, they were not polytheists or pantheists or atheists or even agnostics. Only within the monotheistic view was nature expected to 'make sense' and only within this view was natural science a rational undertaking. Davies almost got it right without noticing it: "This belief in simplicity at the heart of complexity has been a driving force behind scientific inquiry for millennia, and persists undiminished today, in spite of the shocks that, as we shall see, it has received in recent times." (p 19) First Philosophy (natural theology) and natural science (natural philosophy) were something of a twin birth in Greek thought. The former being the underwriter and guarantor of the latter. That there must be an inherent conflict is a rather recent propaganda (played up by both poles, to be sure). In fairness to Davies, I'll point out that by the time he had written 'The Mind of God' (1993) he had begun to approach a better understanding. In the more recent book he writes, "the justification for what we today call the scientific approach to inquiry was the belief in a rational God whose created order could be discerned from a careful study of nature."
Davies' knowledge of current and historical philosophical aspects of science runs deeper than many people writing on these issues today. Take away the first and last few pages and this is a pretty good book. Even when he's sub-par, Davies is quite good. If I were to suggest inaugural inductees to a science writer's hall of fame, my short list would be: George Gamow, Roger Penrose, and Paul Davies.