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How long have you got?
on 21 December 2014
Physics has encountered a tough problem in explaining why the fundamental constants which define the masses, charges and interactions of particles have the values they do. This impasse, decades in duration, was analysed by Lee Smolin in his 2006 book, "The Trouble with Physics".
Foremost among attempts at its resolution are schemes containing a plethora of universes, possibly an infinitude, of which our local one just happens to be the way it is; if it weren't we would not be here to wonder about these things. Hardly a falsifiable proposition, and therefore not scientific, as Smolin points out.
Mind you, his preferred scenario is also replete with universes, though in his universes a selection mechanism is at work which zones in on our particular cosmic environment as a fruitful one for propagation of more universes via black holes. Cosmic "genes" (fundamental constants, initial conditions) that are good for production of black holes are good also for galaxies, stars, planets and, ultimately, us. This theory is at least capable of making predictions which are falsifiable (or not) using available data sources.
Time is implicit in his hypothetical process. But universal time is associated with the concept of simultaneity which is ruled out by relativity. Smolin and his associates are working on a resolution of this conflict which might, as a bonus, explain non-local aspects of quantum entanglement without invoking the notorious hidden variables which have themselves been pretty well ruled out by clashes with Bell's theorem.
So far, nothing has come of this approach, though the reality of time is supported by the emergence of complexity in a universe which should by rights be heading for equilibrium. The discussion of how this happens through the intervention of gravity and the effective re-setting of entropy's clock when stars light up is fascinating and rewarding to read.
But, apart from a few such illuminating insights, this book makes tedious reading. It suffers from poor style, lack of conciseness in presentation of ideas, sloppy diagrams and a great deal of repetition. The epilogue is a rambling discourse upon life, the universe and everything, including subjects as diverse as ecology, economics, moral values, the origin and nature of consciousness - even global warming. Read this section first and you might save yourself an awful lot of time.