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Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) [Paperback]

Lee Smolin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Jun 2002 Science Masters
The Holy Grail of modern physics is a theory of the universe that unites two seemingly opposing pillars of modern science: Einstein's theory of general relativity, which deals with large-scale phenomena (planets, solar systems and galaxies), and quantum theory, which deals with the world of the very small (molecules, atoms, electrons). In Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, Lee Smolin provides the first concise and accessible overview of current attempts to reconcile these two theories in a final "theory of everything. " This is the closest anyone has ever come to devising a completely new theory of space, time and the universe to replace the Newtonian ideas that were the foundation of all science until the beginning of the twentieth century. Lee Smolin, who has spent his career at the forefront of these new discoveries, presents for the first time the main ideas behind the new developments that have brought a quantum theory of gravity in sight. He explains in simple terms what scientists are talking about when they say the world is made from exotic entities such as loops, strings, and black holes. As he does so, he tells the fascinating stories behind these discoveries: the rivalries, epiphanies, and intrigues he witnessed firsthand. Science Masters Series

Frequently Bought Together

Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) + The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science and What Comes Next + The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
Price For All Three: 25.23

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (13 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465078362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465078363
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Lee Smolin, author of The Life of the Cosmos, is Professor of Physics at the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Pennsylvania State University and a leading contributor to the search for a unification of quantum theory, cosmology. and relativity. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road back 31 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Horses are for courses as books are for readers. I happen to be someone for whom this book is ideal. I was a research theoretical physicist in the early seventies when the standard theory was being developed. I then left to do other things before retiring recently.Thus, thankfully in some ways, given Smollin's comments both in this book and in "The Trouble With Physics", I missed the entire string theory period. Now I am trying to get some idea of what happened in physics between 1976 and now. Lee Smolin's book gives more of the detail than most accounts for non-specialists, enough for the non-specialist to get a good and flavoursome taste and enough to inspire someone like me to go off afterwards and dip into the references he provides. For me and others in my position, this book is perhaps part of the road back.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A frustrating start, but it does get better 1 Feb 2011
First off, I need to explain why I wanted to read this book. I thought the 3 roads of the title would be string theory, loop quantum gravity (LQG) and twistor theory. I have studied both string theory and twistor quite extensively, so was looking forward to a recap of those two with a nice easy introduction into LQG. This is not the case though. The book begins by trying to take the issue of quantum gravity in as broad a scope as possible, before looking at LQG and string theory. After reading it, I was still none the wiser as to what he thought the third road was.

I have to say I was quite disappointed with the start of this book. In chapter 3, Smolin makes the very correct observation that "If one is not careful, [the superposition principle] can lead to a kind of mysticism in which its meaning is over-interpreted far past what the evidence calls for." However, he fails to take note the irony that the first two chapters contain conclusions which over-step the boundary set by evidence, and so the foundation of the book is based on some unjustifiable assumptions. Along with that, on page 22, there is possibly one of the least helpful diagrams I have ever seen in any scientific literature. Though he acknowledges that he is not the most eloquent of writers, he unfortunately seems to want to emphasise this point with some very hand-wavey descriptions of general relativity (GR). If you have not studied GR at university or even read other popular science literature on the subject, then the introduction will likely leave you completely baffled and clueless. If that sounds like you, I'd recommend going for A Brief History of Time first to get a clearer picture of GR.

From here, Smolin goes on to talk about quantum cosmology and the restrictions it can impose on our worldview.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very clear read... 21 Dec 2011
Certainly a very clearly written and understandable book. There is a clear overall message, and then detail within each strand. A great deal of material covered, sometimes very lightly, but in enough detail to understand the line of argument in each section. I felt like I was actually involved, and really wanted to know more, in particular how things have developed since it was written (10 years ago), but that I suppose is for me to go and find out now.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Loop Quantum Gravity 15 Nov 2007
Since the postulation of theory of relativity (theory of cosmos, which describes the structure of space and time), and quantum mechanics (laws of microcosm, which describes atomic structure, nuclear forces, and nature of basic component of matter); physicists until now have struggled to explain gravity (which is a manifestation of spacetime fabric in presence of matter) in terms of quantum mechanics (quantum gravity). In this book the author attempts to explain three different approaches to quantum gravity; Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG), Superstring - M theory (S. -M), and Blackhole Thermodynamics (BT). While each takes a different starting point, they all agree when viewed on Planck scale, and they also view space and time are not continuous, and space is composed of discrete units. LQG gives us a detailed picture of these units in terms of spin networks, where as S.-M theory proposes continuous space in terms of a continuous string (with compactified extra dimensions) made of string bits, which is governed by uncertainty principle. BT theory states that amount information in any given space is finite and is proportional to the area of the boundary of the region in Planck units. The author is a pioneer in the field of LQG and provides the reader with a good introduction of the theory in a non-mathematical form and then compares with S.-M and BT theories. The book is described in three parts; the first part is a general introduction, which describes historical development of three theories, the second part introduces LQG and then compares with S.-M and BT theories, and the final part attempts to unify the three approaches into a single theory using Holographic Principle. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Gravity 20 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An articulate, lucid and accessible explanation of the major approaches to the unification of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, leading up to considerations about Inflation theory. I would have liked more about the role of Information Theory but Smolin avoids the trap of digressing into specializations and sticks to the topic. Worth reading as background to more recent research.
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