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Farewell to Reality: How Fairytale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth by [Baggott, Jim]
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Farewell to Reality: How Fairytale Physics Betrays the Search for Scientific Truth Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Length: 353 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

Intellectually gratifying.

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.

Book Description

A controversial popular science title in which Jim Baggott asks whether all that we currently know about the universe is based upon science or fantasy.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1998 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (2 May 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009ZRRDXQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #308,911 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback
In The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy, in the very first chapter, the Earth is destroyed (to make way for a hypergalactic bypass). On the one hand this is frightening, as we lose all basis for relating to anything. On the other hand, it frees us to experience and explore new concepts without being prejudiced by our experience.

In Farewell to Reality, Jim Baggott destroys the concept of reality by page seven: “Reality is a metaphysical concept,” he says. This allows him to explore the submicroscopic with the same detail and passion as the massive contents of the universe. Unfortunately, we are at such an early state of knowledge, we can’t make reasonable, let alone unified sense of it all. Baggott acknowledges this, but still tries. Hard. He describes the essence of numerous theories, without resorting to Greek-symboled mathematical formulas. He compares and contrasts. He makes it understandable. But problems crop up all along the way.

The essence of the main problem is defined succinctly by Heisenberg very early in the book. The gist of it is we frame everything in terms of what we already know (“…nature, exposed to our method of questioning”), and that makes it impossible to understand the universe. Particles that can also be waves are very hard to digest. We have no idea what gravity is. (The Standard Model, that kludge of patches, holes and exceptions, doesn’t even incorporate it.) Baggott points out there are now at least 61 “fundamental” particles that compose the universe. Imagining them is all but impossible for the earthbound. What we detect and know is only 5% of the true content of the universe. We rejoice when we discover and confirm another fundamental particle, like the Higgs boson, but the jigsaw puzzle still doesn’t even have the edges completed.
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Format: Kindle Edition
...before somebody bad closed down the funding! Science is an open-ended quest for better understanding, & all ideas must be welcome in this. Jim Baggott has no objection to open-minded enquiry: what he cavills at - as he makes clear in his Preface - is the tendency for careless commentators (& even some hard-up physicists) to peddle conjecture as though it were supported theory. Such speciousness is corrupting of the special relationship between practising researchers & their (paying) public, who deserve scientific speculation, not misleading twaddle. Some of the fault often lies with presentation, but whatever the source, hard-won scientific progress is ill-served by sloppy communication. No such criticisms could stick to this book, which is healthy, wholesome food for any curious mind.
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Format: Paperback
A pretty good book overall, the first half being a summary of much of the progress in modern physics, and all written with a decent degree of candour. Baggott discusses the progress toward the standard model of particle physics. Special and General relativity are then summarised. The Lambda CDM cosmological model is briefly explained. Up to this point I found the book clear and succinct, dealing as it is with reasonably widely accepted facts.The usual popular science prohibition on the use of mathematical equations in the text is probably not helpful with issues of this depth. There seems to be a perhaps unavoidable step change in the complexity of verbal analysis as we move further ahead into discussing the shortcomings of the 'authorised version'. Many non-specialists will get lost here I suspect, but that is not necessarily reason to give up, one can skip ahead.

We do not stop with the SM/LCDM problems and plot subsequent developments of thought, and things are a little easier to follow again. Baggott moves on to discuss increasingly bizarre hypotheses claiming to be 'pure' physics but which many might label 'metaphysics'. The difference between what is perhaps mere abstract philosophy rather than hard empirical science is explored from many angles, both philosophically and in terms of examples.

This physics/metaphysics fringe becomes increasingly relevant as recent apparent progress in physics is related. Supersymmetry potentially allows for some neat mathematical solutions to difficult issues in the standard model. However it is neither verified by experiment nor easy to falsify (disprove). Conjecture such as string and M-theory becomes increasingly abstract and void of both substantial mathematical models and real world data.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book. The author presents modern physics and clearly shows that there are problems with a number of approaches to solve certain problems. However, although the title of the book is about fairytale physics, still the author is not bold enough and sits on fences at certain parts of the book.
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