The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, by Lee Smolin

2006.  Whoa. Not for the faint of heart. You gotta love your fermions and your gluons. And you need to appreciate a good brane.

It took me two months to work my way through this book. Pecking away. I’m not a scientist, by far, and I plodded through determined to see what I could learn. I’m glad I did.

It was good to read that the world of physics is just as screwy as any other corporate grouping.  Suffering from groupthink, careerists, and ladder-climbers, just like everywhere I ever worked. Apparently, just because you’re a math genius or a theoretical visionary doesn’t mean you get ahead, get grants, or get jobs at institutions of higher learning. White men hire other white men that remind them of younger versions of themselves. No big surprise there.

But before you get to those juicy assertions about the world of physics, you have to read through the history of String Theory and a weighty defense of all that hasn’t happened since that theory took precedence within the physics community. That’s the difficult part of the book and the most rewarding. Not that I can explain what I just read, but I know it was important and I must have learned something that will some day come in handy.

I also know now that when I see a NOVA Special on String Theory that it’s just a bunch of dumbed down drivel. String Theory isn’t the next big thing. It’s just generally accepted by the physics establishment.

Smolin attacks the underlying assumptions of String Theory and, lo and behold, he shows that these assumptions have never been proven. Just assumed. Oh, well. Back to the white board.

Worthy read. Important book. Enjoy it slowly.



M L Rudolph has worked for CNN among other American and British television and film companies. He has written for general interest and trade magazines and published his first novel, Facing the Son, A novel of Africa, on Amazon in 2011. More are on the way. Rudolph is a dual US/UK national and lives in Pasadena, CA. View all posts by M L RUDOLPH

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