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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, lucid summary of modern thoughts on gravity
Those who read "A brief history of time" by Hawkings will find this treatise a natural extension to coverage, inter alia, of the ideas on gravity, the discreteness of spacetime, string theory, black holes, the holographic principle, loop quantum gravity, and gravitons. The relationship between modern thinking and Einstein's general relativity, developed with...
Published on 28 July 2001

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7 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars physicist becomes philosopher
...His book is a description of very recent work at the frontiers of Physics , not so much a search for a Theory of Everything ( T.o.E.) , or Y.A.W.N. as sociologists would call it, but an attempt to answer the scientific question , "How can there be anything?" This is an area of enquiry which treads upon the toes of philosophers. The golden key which unlocks...
Published on 19 Mar 2001


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, lucid summary of modern thoughts on gravity, 28 July 2001
By A Customer
Those who read "A brief history of time" by Hawkings will find this treatise a natural extension to coverage, inter alia, of the ideas on gravity, the discreteness of spacetime, string theory, black holes, the holographic principle, loop quantum gravity, and gravitons. The relationship between modern thinking and Einstein's general relativity, developed with help from Boltzmann, is covered in much detail. Altogether an outstanding account of modern physics applied to cosmology. The mathematics is kept to a minimum, but that does not subtract from the clarity of the work. The book is not for the faint-hearted but is thrilling for those willing to think through the ideas expressed here.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Know something about loop quantum gravity..., 21 July 2002
This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity: A New Understanding Of Space, Time And The Universe (Science Masters) (Paperback)
This is a book about the quest for the Theory of Everything or the Theory of Quantum Gravity, Holy Grail of physics, the final destination for theoretical physicists all over the world. Quantum gravity is supposedly an all-encompassing theory which will take under it's fold - the present day pillars of physics - the quantum theory(the world of the small) and the general theory of relativity(world of the large).
Lee Smolin guides you to the three roads leading to QG. The first one is Loop Quantum Gravity, which traces its roots from Einstein's general theory of relativity. Amitaba Sen and Abhay Ashtekar were the ones who kick-started the theory by reformulating the general theory of relativity and bringing it mathematically closer to quantum chromodynamics (a quantum theory of the strong forces). Smolin, Carlo Rovelli and others took it over from there and applied quantum theory to Ashtekar's formulations and shaped the theory which came to be known as loop quantum gravity. It says that not only matter and energy is quantized but even space is discrete and quantized and has an atomic structure which makes itself visible at the plank scale. The smallest unit is a loop and the relationships and interactions between loops gives rise to the space-time structure.
The second road is that of superstring theory, which traces it's origin from the quantum theory. Basically it says that matter particles (fermions) and force/messenger particles (bosons) are manifestation of vibrating strings - the most basic units of our universe - the different vibration generating different particles. Here Smolin doesn't seem to do justice in explaining strings and the treatment is rather shallow. Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" is a much better introduction to string theory.
The third road is sketchy and more of a philosophical nature which seeks to radically re-evaluate our concepts of space and time.
All in all a good read but it could have been better. Some parts in the book like Smolin's explanations on black hole entropy, black hole temperature and it's relation to event horizon area(finally leading to derivation of quantization of space) is excellent. Readers inquisitive about loop quantum gravity would definitely gain by reading this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sensible framework for Quantum Mechanics & Gravity, 6 Mar 2001
By A Customer
The book is a tour de force of what's new in the different approaches in trying to "pin down" such aspects as space-time, gravity, string theories and much else in the physicist's attempts to make sense of the Universe in which we live. We are fortunate that Lee Smolin managed to take time out and present to us in lay person's terms how he and his associates are excited by their loop quantum gravity approach. Fixed background space-times are out and replaced by dynamical event processes. It is interesting that history is coming full circle here as Lee is greatly influenced (as I am) by Roger Penrose's Spin Network approach in actually constructing space-time so to speak. For the casual uninitiated reader { own up !!! ) there will be some totally new ways of viewing the world that should hold you spell-bound. The conviction that there is the Planck limit to space and time and the Bekenstein Bound will always be there to restrict what information is available from systems was well presented and made me whizz off to the numberous web sites Lee suggests for more in-depth information. Yes it is an inspirational book! There is a certain modesty that shines through his work as he is always quick to give credit to his associates and role models within the physics community. For example John Baez is cited several times and rightly so as he has contributed much to the mathematical, topological aspects of QM-gravity and associated material. Lee Smolin is a rare animal so to speak as he admits that he can listen quite freely to String / M-Theorists and yet be quite at home sitting in on QM- Gravity lectures. He has done much to actually bring "insulated groups" together instead of fighting their corner. This book has contributed to promote the breaking down of these barriers. Time (assuming we know what that is!) will be the final arbitur in saying whether the ideas contained within this book are valid. I'm sure that Feynman would have acknowledged that the ideas are not "just plain wrong" but many aspects of Lee's ideas could well progress our understanding.
Thanks Lee / Amazon for the platform
Ken Linney (BSc), Shrewsbury, UK 6/3/01
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many paths to the summit but only one summit, 14 Feb 2001
By A Customer
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The author gives an overview of the field of Quantum Gravity, summarising for the layman the different approaches being taken to unify relativity and quantum mechanics. He makes a noble stab at explanation without inflicting too much mathematics on the reader, which in this context is virtually impossible. It is perhaps not quite as accessible as his previous book, but still manages to leave the reader with a feeling that they understand something about the topic, if only for a little while. More than once while reading it I came across an idea with so much content that I had to stop reading to let it sink in properly. Read this book and you too may find yourself pondering the implications of the quantisation of space over your next cup of tea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good roadmap, 4 July 2006
This review is from: Three Roads to Quantum Gravity: A New Understanding Of Space, Time And The Universe (Science Masters) (Paperback)
If only there were more books written in Smolin's pleasant and sympathetic style. This book, like his previous one, eschews maths in favour of explaining some pretty advanced ideas (which is hard enough), while avoiding flawed generalisations and physics cliches (which makes it a rare treat in my experience).

Refreshingly free of authorial ego too, so that you end up with a feeling of grasping a shared insight rather than plodding through a didactic lecture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, 16 Dec 2013
Loved this book. A very easy read and well illustrated, in the metaphorical and pictorial senses. From a scientiofic standpoint, I'd only read a book on chaos theory before, so I'm, a complete novice as far as these sorts of things go. Luckily, the author has written this for the layman, as he continually points out, so it was a far easier read and has most definitly triggered a deeper interest in physics and the sciences in general. It doesn't answer, nor claim to answer all of lifes riddles, but it certainly provides some insight into how things work, or how they are thought to work. Things have probably moved on a little, or the author seems to think and hope they will have by now, so will have to update myself with something in this genre in the near future. An excellent read.
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7 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars physicist becomes philosopher, 19 Mar 2001
By A Customer
...His book is a description of very recent work at the frontiers of Physics , not so much a search for a Theory of Everything ( T.o.E.) , or Y.A.W.N. as sociologists would call it, but an attempt to answer the scientific question , "How can there be anything?" This is an area of enquiry which treads upon the toes of philosophers. The golden key which unlocks the secret is gravity, not the old familiar force of Newton , but as first revealed by Einstein in 1915 with his Theory of General Relativity. It is only in the last few decades that people have glimpsed the nature of the revolution in thought that this required. Alas, the sociologist is now ready to pounce. The last few decades have also endured a social revolution among the middle classes in the U.S.A. and Western Europe. Absolute morality ( cf. Newton's notion of absolute time and space ) has been replaced by moral relativism and the language of rights. Enter Lee Smolin. "Three Roads to Quantum Gravity" is a view of the world which would satisfy a liberal audience. It is very "politically correct" ( positive references to women in physics , use of 'she' ) and endorses the view that no 'observer' takes preference over any other.This is all very satisfying for the sociologists , but its really just a case of physicists trying to be philosophers before they are ready to do so...
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