I'm not a math-physics type person really. More of a math-physics wanna-be! Because I have more of a verbal/visual than a math mind, I avail myself of every opportunity to read books on quantum and relativity physics that are written for that type of reader. Two of my on-line friends, Steve and Roger, both recommended Paul Davis' books, and I found Matter Myth an extraordinary example of the genre.
Davis and his coauthor, John Gribbin, begin their book with a discussion of Newtonian physics and the 17th Century concept of a "clockwork universe." In this approach to the physical world, every event in the universe might conceivably be predicted given a thorough knowledge of initial conditions. The success with which Newtonian physics described the behavior of the macroscopic world gave rise to a philosophy of materialism that gripped the thinking of succeeding centuries. Davis and Gribbin see the rise of relativity and quantum physics, with the concepts of chaos, uncertainty and virtual particles, as an antidote for the stultifying effects of grim determinism. The attempts to make the two theories compliment one another and the efforts to unify the four primary forces in nature (strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravity) in an all encompassing theory are viewed as setting the stage for a universe where free will in fact has some place.
The book also discusses the string theory and small particle physics, both of which help cosmologists gain some insight into the beginning of the universe, its likely history, and its ultimate end. It also discusses some of the theories regarding parallel universes and anti-universes. The authors also discuss time and its nature, but the interested reader might prefer Davis' book About Time, which goes into the subject in greater depth.
Although The Matter Myth is listed as a religious apologia, in fact there is very little about religion or god in the book. The discussion of multiple words in association with the uncertainty principle and the famous Shrodinger's Cat thought experiment certainly leaves it open to assume the need for an ultimate "observer," but the authors themselves seem to adhere to the scientific position that such an observer is non-testable and therefore outside the realm of scientific investigation. They certainly do not espouse any particular religious outlook.
This is an altogether engrossing volume for anyone interested in the subject. It's very readable; enough so that even someone with very little knowledge of the topic would be able to understand the clearly written descriptions of the scientific concepts. At least three people at work, two nurses and a nursing assistant, after a casual perusal of the contents asked to read the book when I've finished it.