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The Trouble with Physics Print E-mail
Reviewed by Ter Hollmann   
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Author: Lee Smolin


The Trouble with Physics ‘Shoo’ it’s difficult trying to know the mind of God. Why is it all so complicated? Life was simpler when stuff was, well, just stuff. A chair was a chair, a cow was a cow. Enter scientists and suddenly a cow is just atoms like everything else. Then atoms are electrons, protons and neutrons. Then there were quarks held together by gluons. One would think that would be enough but no, modern science would have us believe that the universe is made up of vibrating strings of… well… we’re not really sure what.

Mr Smolin attempts to break down modern physics for the layman – that’s me, you and even most high school science teachers. His writing is clear and concise and he intersperses the mechanics of the universe with some amusing anecdotes about the crazy world of particle physics.

If you’re looking for answers to life’s great questions then this is not the book for you. Physics in its current state doesn’t seem to know much. String theory is the pervading hypothesis in quantum physics but we don’t seem to be able to prove it. The universe is made almost entirely of dark matter and dark energy yet we’ve never seen these mysterious substances. If you’re not looking for answers but would rather like to revel in the mystery that is our amazing and complex universe then this book might just ‘string’ you along.

Be warned this is not always an engaging read, there are some intricate ideas to wade through. If Hawking’s ‘Brief History of Time’ is still sitting unread on your bookshelf I would try something else. If, however you’re feeling brave and inquisitive, then getting in trouble with physics might just be a whole lot of fun. As the physicists would say, ‘No G.U.T. (grand unified theory), no glory.’

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