From superstrings and black holes to dark matter and multiverses, modern theoretical physics revels in the bizarre. Now it s wandered into the realm of fairy-tale, says science writer and former practicing physicist Baggott (A Beginners Guide to Reality). Quantum theory led scientists to create a Standard Model of physics in the mid-20th century, but that model is really an amalgam of distinct individual quantum theories necessary to describe a diverse array of forces and particles. Meanwhile, astronomical observations have revealed that 90% of our universe is made of something we can t see (dark matter); some mysterious dark energy is pushing all of it apart at an accelerating rate, and physicists are gambling on a supersymmetry theory in hopes that it could be the holy grail, a Grand Unified Field Theory that might lend coherence to the Standard Model while explaining some of the phenomena the latter fails to account for despite the fact, Baggott says, that for every standard model problem it resolves, another problem arises that needs a fix. In consistently accessible and intelligent prose, Baggott sympathetically captures the frustrations of physicists while laying out a provocative and very convincing plea for a reality check in a field that he feels is now too meta for its own good. "
Intellectually gratifying. "
Baggott has done something that I would have thought impossible in a popular book. He navigates successfully between the Scylla of mathematical rigor and the Charybd is of popular nonsense.
The basic history behind the quantum revolution is well known, but no one has ever told it in such a compellingly human and thematically seamless way.