Sunday, January 20, 2008

I just finished the Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin.

The titular trouble Smolin is referring to is the lack of progress in fundamental physics since the standard model was put together in the 1970s. In particular, he looks in detail at string theory and postulates that it has been a dead end, and the sociology surrounding it impeding progress on other possibly productive areas.

This book is quite good. I especially liked the sections of the book that summarize the progress in physics between the starts of the relativity and quantum revolutions and the development of the final model. I was familiar with the development of relativity and quantum theory, and their extensions in quantum electrodynamics but I had only heard of more modern advances like gauge theory. This book gives a good popular science level explanation of the more modern developments.

It also gives a good description of the development of string theory, and the best explanation I've seen of why string theory was originally seen as being so promising and why so many people have become convinced that it is the right path to follow.

Highly recommended for readers interested in modern physics. I'd recommend that any readers have at least a popular science level understanding of relativity and basic quantum mechanics before reading this book.

Amazon Link: