Most helpful critical review
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The cutting edge of science, for postgrads & beyond
on 18 April 2012
This book is a collection of essays from several noted science writers:
Andrew Taylor - The dark Universe
Shahn Majid - Quantum spacetime and physical reality
Roger Penrose - Causality, quantum theory and cosmology
Alain Connes - On the fine structure of spacetime
Michael Heller - Where physics meets metaphysics
John Polkinghorne - The nature of time
The collection is edited by Majid and he grants himself by far the longest of the essays. There is a rough progression in the book, with Taylor laying out the experimental evidence showing why theories of space and time are not complete. Majid then looks at how we might start approaching the problems, along with some examples of hypothetical models. Penrose and Connes look in more detail at areas they have helped pioneer (conformal cyclic cosmology and noncommutative geometry, respectively). The last two essays take us more into the realm of metaphysics, looking at what implications beyond the immediate world of academic science (particularly theology) any such new theories may have.
The last 2 essays are very distinct from the rest of the book, which could be perceived by a purist physicist as spoiling it slightly. Instead, I think it adds a different dimension to the book which is quite welcome. The extremely hypothetical nature of the book is what appeals, though to get to grips with it all, you will need a PhD in theoretical physics, which makes it unsuitable for the general lay reader. Where it is accessible, it is highly thought-provoking and will be interesting to return to it in the years and decades to come to see what, if any, becomes mainstream science and what may be discarded as hypotheses that failed to get off the ground.