By Farmelo, Graham
Many of the world's leading physicists are confident that they are on track to discover a new understanding of the universe which will entail a complete rethink of gravity, space and time. What is extraordinary is that they are achieving these breakthroughs through thought alone.... Experimental data is increasingly hard to come by (high-energy particle accelerators don't come cheap) so physicists are increasingly relying on mathematics to guide their thinking. To the amazement of both physicists and mathematicians, it is becoming clear that they are working on the same subject. Einstein saw this coming in the 1930s when he controversially declared that he believed it was possible to find the ultimate laws of nature by pure thought. A few years later, the great English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac set out what is now regarded as an extraordinarily far-sighted vision: 'as time goes, on it becomes increasingly evident that the rules which the mathematician finds interesting are the same as those which Nature has chosen.' That the fundamental laws of the universe appear to be written in the language of mathematics is one of the greatest mysteries of science. This book goes to the heart of that enigma. Farmelo takes us on an international adventure from the Enlightenment to the early 21st century, introducing us to the contributions of some of the greatest thinkers of our time, including Edward Witten, Juan Maldacena and Nima Arkani-Hamed. The cast of this book are working with mind-blowing concepts such string theories in higher-dimensional space-times and a menagerie of exotic new objects that are believed to exist deep inside atomic nuclei. Always lively and authoritative, Farmelo navigates the reader through some of the most exciting developments and controversies in modern thought. Is all this 'fairy-tale physics' as some commentators complain? Are today's superstar physicists abandoning the traditions of experimentally-rooted science? Farmelo tackles these arguments and explains the huge imaginative leaps that are edging us towards a radically new understanding of the nature of our universe.Read more
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Graham Farmelo is an award winning science writer and biographer, and the winner of the 2012 Kelvin Prize and Medal. Formerly an academic, museum professional, and undercover restaurant critic, he is now a Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, and a regular Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His biography of Paul Dirac, The Strangest Man, won the 2009 Costa Biography Award and the 2010 Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize. www.grahamfarmelo.com @grahamfarmelo
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