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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road back
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",...
Published on 31 May 2009 by David Cornwell

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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
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...
Published on 1 Feb 2011 by S. Meadows


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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The road back, 31 May 2009
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David Cornwell (Kraainem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
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
By 
S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
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. This was quite interesting to read, though probably not for the reasons intended. The book is (at the time of writing this review) 10 years old and it is quite fascinating to see how scientific opinion has shifted in even this short space of time. Smolin dismisses the many-worlds hypothesis as an interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM) though he doesn't really explain QM particularly well. What we are left with is a chapter that tries very hard to explain things in a lively, straightforward way, but which fails in that aim and is quite garbled and confusing, which is a terrible shame.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. The book picks up significantly in terms of quality and clarity when Smolin goes on to give the background to his own speciality: loop quantum gravity. He makes a good case for pinning it to sound and well evidenced basis, even if no direct evidence has yet been found to confirm it. He is also keen to stress that LQG is not necessarily a candidate for a theory of everything, and treats his own subject with a level of humility and healthy scepticism that is very welcome in a science text. There is also a hint at the end of the book of the introduction to his later book, The Trouble With Physics, which details certain sociological problems that surround and inhibit some aspects of research into quantum gravity.

There is a helpful critique of string theory given, though possibly not enough time is spent explaining it properly, and readers interested in that could do a lot worse that Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe.

Overall, it is worth reading but prepared to quite frustrated, particularly early on.
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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
By 
A. M. Horton (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Loop Quantum Gravity, 15 Nov 2007
By 
Rama Rao "Rama" (Annandale, VA, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
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.

The author gives us several interesting accounts of physicists working in these fields are in a climate of mutual ignorance and complacency with the belief that their theory is correct and others are wrong. There are instances when one group can't solve certain problems, and they seek the help from the other camp. The author also briefly explains other theories such as Twister theory, and Non-Commutative Geometry. This is one of the few books I have read which describes LQG in some detail, although there are several books in literature, which describes S.-M theory. The author is very honest in comparing the three approaches to offer the best explanation for quantum gravity. Anyone who wants to understand LQG must have this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Gravity, 20 Mar 2014
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
I found the book very nice, to read. I swapped for a digital edition half way through and have moon+ reader read it to me. It did okay. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in physics, the unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics. In addition to the beautiful struggle that occurs whilst trying to interpret the meaning of quantum mechanics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing science, 18 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
I recommend these book most warmly to those who want to understand the relationships between the smallest and largest in the universe
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tough going, but very worthwhile, 26 Sep 2013
By 
Philip Mayo - See all my reviews
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Tough going, but no book on Quantum Theory is ever going to be particularly easy. This is one of the better approaches and one of the more realistic sounding interpretations of the subject that I have read to date. Definitely worth adding to your Quantum collection - but , as I have said in relation to this subject before, the two best books I that have read on Quantum Physics (and they are both excellent) are:
1> "Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed." by Jim Al-Khalili,
and
2> "Quantum Reality" by Nick Herbert.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, 24 Jan 2011
This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
I think that this is a great book! I have an interest in the subject and for ages I kept reading books that mentioned string theory and other such and I just read ahead thinking that I'd find out later. Now I have! The book starts of easy and it's only when you get halfway through the book when it starts to talk about quantum gravity. Then it gets harder, but if you persevere and take time to understand it all, you can learn a lot.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Gravity by Lee SMOLIN, 12 Feb 2011
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This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) (Paperback)
I do want to know a maximum about GRAVITY and consequently I am looking for books which can help me undertand better this very particular and mysterious force.

This subject remains open. Lee Smolin is like me he does not know what is gravity. Why its constant is what it is and how mathematically recognize it. The " GRAVITON " has to be detected and so long our instruments cannot identify it, it will remain a question mark. Same for the anti graviton .

The major problem with scientists is that some of them believe there is nothing beyond our expanding universe. Others on the contrary think in an infinite space beyond it. If they could come to a common agreement based only on pure logic it will greatly help construct better theories. e.g : I do not agree with Lee Smolin about what space is and I favor NEWTON's view. What I do believe is an infinite space and the probability of many finite universes within it. Each one with its own characteristics. Furthermmore, an infinite space has neither geometry nor time and consequently is totally static. What happens within it is and will remain a no end subject of meditation.

I use to read my books several times and I will read this one again. It is a good book and it is the sort that interests me.
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Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters)
Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (Science Masters) by Lee Smolin (Paperback - 13 Jun 2002)
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