The Strange Physics of Nothing
Author: James Owen Weatherall
Publisher: Yale University Press
The rising star author of The Physics of Wall Street explores why “nothing” may hold the key to the next era of theoretical physics James Owen Weatherall’s previous book, The Physics of Wall Street, was a New York Times best-seller and named one of Physics Today’s five most intriguing books of 2013. In his newest volume, he takes on a fundamental concept of modern physics: nothing. The physics of stuff—protons, neutrons, electrons, and even quarks and gluons—is at least somewhat familiar to most of us. But what about the physics of nothing? Isaac Newton thought of empty space as nothingness extended in all directions, a kind of theater in which physics could unfold. But both quantum theory and relativity tell us that Newton’s picture can’t be right. Nothing, it turns out, is an awful lot like something, with a structure and properties every bit as complex and mysterious as matter. In his signature lively prose, Weatherall explores the very nature of empty space—and solidifies his reputation as a science writer to watch.
Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing
Author: Lawrence M. Krauss
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Bestselling author and acclaimed physicist Lawrence Krauss offers a paradigm-shifting view of how everything that exists came to be in the first place. “Where did the universe come from? What was there before it? What will the future bring? And finally, why is there something rather than nothing?” One of the few prominent scientists today to have crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss describes the staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories that demonstrate not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing. With a new preface about the significance of the discovery of the Higgs particle, A Universe from Nothing uses Krauss’s characteristic wry humor and wonderfully clear explanations to take us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting the most recent evidence for how our universe evolved—and the implications for how it’s going to end. Provocative, challenging, and delightfully readable, this is a game-changing look at the most basic underpinning of existence and a powerful antidote to outmoded philosophical, religious, and scientific thinking.
A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable
Author: James Owen Weatherall
Category: Business & Economics
A look inside the world of “quants” and how science can (and can’t) predict financial markets: “Entertaining and enlightening” (The New York Times). After the economic meltdown of 2008, Warren Buffett famously warned, “beware of geeks bearing formulas.” But while many of the mathematicians and software engineers on Wall Street failed when their abstractions turned ugly in practice, a special breed of physicists has a much deeper history of revolutionizing finance. Taking us from fin-de-siècle Paris to Rat Pack–era Las Vegas, from wartime government labs to Yippie communes on the Pacific coast, James Owen Weatherall shows how physicists successfully brought their science to bear on some of the thorniest problems in economics, from options pricing to bubbles. The crisis was partly a failure of mathematical modeling. But even more, it was a failure of some very sophisticated financial institutions to think like physicists. Models—whether in science or finance—have limitations; they break down under certain conditions. And in 2008, sophisticated models fell into the hands of people who didn’t understand their purpose, and didn’t care. It was a catastrophic misuse of science. The solution, however, is not to give up on models; it’s to make them better. This book reveals the people and ideas on the cusp of a new era in finance, from a geophysicist using a model designed for earthquakes to predict a massive stock market crash to a physicist-run hedge fund earning 2,478.6% over the course of the 1990s. Weatherall shows how an obscure idea from quantum theory might soon be used to create a far more accurate Consumer Price Index. The Physics of Wall Street will change how we think about our economic future. “Fascinating history . . . Happily, the author has a gift for making complex concepts clear to lay readers.” —Booklist
Author: James Owen Weatherall
Category: Prediction theory
"He takes us on a lively journey from fin-de-siècle Paris to Rat Pack-era Las Vegas, from wartime government labs to Yippie communes, showing how some of the finest scientific minds of the last century came to construct the sophisticated models on which modern securities trading is based"--Back cover.
Author: Roger Penrose
Publisher: Princeton University Press
What can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe? Surely, theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy? In fact, acclaimed physicist and bestselling author Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are just as susceptible to these forces as anyone else. In this provocative book, he argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of the field's most important areas—string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. Arguing that string theory has veered away from physical reality by positing six extra hidden dimensions, Penrose cautions that the fashionable nature of a theory can cloud our judgment of its plausibility. In the case of quantum mechanics, its stunning success in explaining the atomic universe has led to an uncritical faith that it must also apply to reasonably massive objects, and Penrose responds by suggesting possible changes in quantum theory. Turning to cosmology, he argues that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origins of the universe cannot be true, but that an even wilder reality may lie behind them. Finally, Penrose describes how fashion, faith, and fantasy have ironically also shaped his own work, from twistor theory, a possible alternative to string theory that is beginning to acquire a fashionable status, to "conformal cyclic cosmology," an idea so fantastic that it could be called "conformal crazy cosmology." The result is an important critique of some of the most significant developments in physics today from one of its most eminent figures.
The Quest for Fundamental Length in Modern Physics
Author: Amit Hagar
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Novel conceptual analysis, fresh historical perspectives, and concrete physical examples illuminate one of the most thought-provoking topics in physics.
How False Beliefs Spread
Author: Cailin O'Connor,James Owen Weatherall
The social dynamics of "alternative facts" why what you believe depends on who you know
The Journey to Quantum Gravity
Author: Carlo Rovelli
"What are the elementary ingredients of the world? Do time and space exist? And what exactly is reality? In elegant and accessible prose, theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli leads us on a wondrous journey from Democritus to Einstein, from Michael Faraday to gravitational waves, and from classical physics to his own work in quantum gravity. As he shows us how the idea of reality has evolved over time, Rovelli offers deeper explanations of the theories he introduced so concisely in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics"--page 4 of cover.
Author: Elise Crull,Guido Bacciagaluppi
Grete Hermann (1901-1984) was a pupil of mathematical physicist Emmy Noether, follower and co-worker of neo-Kantian philosopher Leonard Nelson, and an important intellectual figure in post-war German social democracy. She is best known for her work on the philosophy of modern physics in the 1930s, some of which emerged from intense discussions with Heisenberg and Weizsäcker in Leipzig. Hermann’s aim was to counter the threat to the Kantian notion of causality coming from quantum mechanics. She also discussed in depth the question of ‘hidden variables’ (including the first critique of von Neumann’s alleged impossibility proof) and provided an extensive analysis of Bohr’s notion of complementarity. This volume includes translations of Hermann’s two most important essays on this topic: one hitherto unpublished and one translated here into English for the first time. It also brings together recent scholarly contributions by historians and philosophers of science, physicists, and philosophers and educators following in Hermann’s steps. Hermann's work places her in the first rank among philosophers who wrote about modern physics in the first half of the last century. Those interested in the many fields to which she contributed will find here a comprehensive discussion of her philosophy of physics that places it in the context of her wider work.
Author: Jim Holt
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Expands the search for the origins of the universe beyond God and the Big Bang theory, exploring more bizarre possibilities inspired by physicists, theologians, mathematicians, and even novelists.
How Mathematics Unveils the Universe
Author: Ian Stewart
Publisher: Basic Books
A prize-winning popular science writer uses mathematical modeling to explain the cosmos. In Calculating the Cosmos, Ian Stewart presents an exhilarating guide to the cosmos, from our solar system to the entire universe. He describes the architecture of space and time, dark matter and dark energy, how galaxies form, why stars implode, how everything began, and how it's all going to end. He considers parallel universes, the fine-tuning of the cosmos for life, what forms extraterrestrial life might take, and the likelihood of life on Earth being snuffed out by an asteroid. Beginning with the Babylonian integration of mathematics into the study of astronomy and cosmology, Stewart traces the evolution of our understanding of the cosmos: How Kepler's laws of planetary motion led Newton to formulate his theory of gravity. How, two centuries later, tiny irregularities in the motion of Mars inspired Einstein to devise his general theory of relativity. How, eighty years ago, the discovery that the universe is expanding led to the development of the Big Bang theory of its origins. How single-point origin and expansion led cosmologists to theorize new components of the universe, such as inflation, dark matter, and dark energy. But does inflation explain the structure of today's universe? Does dark matter actually exist? Could a scientific revolution that will challenge the long-held scientific orthodoxy and once again transform our understanding of the universe be on the way? In an exciting and engaging style, Calculating the Cosmos is a mathematical quest through the intricate realms of astronomy and cosmology.
Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
Author: John D. Barrow
What conceptual blind spot kept the ancient Greeks (unlike the Indians and Maya) from developing a concept of zero? Why did St. Augustine equate nothingness with the Devil? What tortuous means did 17th-century scientists employ in their attempts to create a vacuum? And why do contemporary quantum physicists believe that the void is actually seething with subatomic activity? You’ll find the answers in this dizzyingly erudite and elegantly explained book by the English cosmologist John D. Barrow. Ranging through mathematics, theology, philosophy, literature, particle physics, and cosmology, The Book of Nothing explores the enduring hold that vacuity has exercised on the human imagination. Combining high-wire speculation with a wealth of reference that takes in Freddy Mercury and Shakespeare alongside Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking, the result is a fascinating excursion to the vanishing point of our knowledge. From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Life and Times of Black Holes
Author: Chris Impey
Publisher: W. W. Norton
The astonishing science of black holes, and their role in understanding the history and future of our universe.
Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others
Author: David Sloan Wilson
Publisher: Yale University Press
David Sloan Wilson, one of the world’s leading evolutionists, addresses a question that has puzzled philosophers, psychologists, and evolutionary biologists for centuries: Does altruism exist naturally among the Earth’s creatures? The key to understanding the existence of altruism, Wilson argues, is by understanding the role it plays in the social organization of groups. Groups that function like organisms indubitably exist, and organisms evolved from groups. Evolutionists largely agree on how functionally organized groups evolve, ending decades of controversy, but the resolution casts altruism in a new light: altruism exists but shouldn’t necessarily occupy center stage in our understanding of social behavior. After laying a general theoretical foundation, Wilson surveys altruism and group-level functional organization in our own species—in religion, in economics, and in the rest of everyday life. He shows that altruism is not categorically good and can have pathological consequences. Finally, he shows how a social theory that goes beyond altruism by focusing on group function can help to improve the human condition in a practical sense. Does Altruism Exist? puts old controversies to rest and will become the center of debate for decades to come.
Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality
Author: Brian Greene
From Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading physicists and author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Elegant Universe, comes a grand tour of the universe that makes us look at reality in a completely different way. Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past? Greene has set himself a daunting task: to explain non-intuitive, mathematical concepts like String Theory, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and Inflationary Cosmology with analogies drawn from common experience. From Newton’s unchanging realm in which space and time are absolute, to Einstein’s fluid conception of spacetime, to quantum mechanics’ entangled arena where vastly distant objects can instantaneously coordinate their behavior, Greene takes us all, regardless of our scientific backgrounds, on an irresistible and revelatory journey to the new layers of reality that modern physics has discovered lying just beneath the surface of our everyday world.
The Physics Behind Quantum Mechanics
Author: Luis de la Peña,Ana María Cetto,Andrea Valdés Hernández
This monograph presents the latest findings from a long-term research project intended to identify the physics behind Quantum Mechanics. A fundamental theory for quantum mechanics is constructed from first physical principles, revealing quantization as an emergent phenomenon arising from a deeper stochastic process. As such, it offers the vibrant community working on the foundations of quantum mechanics an alternative contribution open to discussion. The book starts with a critical summary of the main conceptual problems that still beset quantum mechanics. The basic consideration is then introduced that any material system is an open system in permanent contact with the random zero-point radiation field, with which it may reach a state of equilibrium. Working from this basis, a comprehensive and self-consistent theoretical framework is then developed. The pillars of the quantum-mechanical formalism are derived, as well as the radiative corrections of nonrelativistic QED, while revealing the underlying physical mechanisms. The genesis of some of the central features of quantum theory is elucidated, such as atomic stability, the spin of the electron, quantum fluctuations, quantum nonlocality and entanglement. The theory developed here reaffirms fundamental scientific principles such as realism, causality, locality and objectivity.
Author: Richard A. Muller
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
From the celebrated author of the best-selling Physics for Future Presidents comes “a provocative, strongly argued book on the fundamental nature of time” (Lee Smolin). You are reading the word “now” right now. But what does that mean? What makes the ephemeral moment “now” so special? Its enigmatic character has bedeviled philosophers, priests, and modern-day physicists from Augustine to Einstein and beyond. Einstein showed that the flow of time is affected by both velocity and gravity, yet he despaired at his failure to explain the meaning of “now.” Equally puzzling: why does time flow? Some physicists have given up trying to understand, and call the flow of time an illusion, but the eminent experimentalist physicist Richard A. Muller protests. He says physics should explain reality, not deny it. In Now, Muller does more than poke holes in past ideas; he crafts his own revolutionary theory, one that makes testable predictions. He begins by laying out—with the refreshing clarity that made Physics for Future Presidents so successful—a firm and remarkably clear explanation of the physics building blocks of his theory: relativity, entropy, entanglement, antimatter, and the Big Bang. With the stage then set, he reveals a startling way forward. Muller’s monumental work will spark major debate about the most fundamental assumptions of our universe, and may crack one of physics’s longest-standing enigmas.
Author: Wolfgang Pauli
Publisher: Springer Science & Business Media
Like Bohr, Einstein and Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli was not only a Nobel laureate and one of the creators of modern physics, but also an eminent philosopher of modern science. This is the first book in English to include all his famous articles on physics and epistemology. They were actually translated during Pauli's lifetime by R. Schlapp and are now edited and annotated by Pauli's former assistant Ch. Enz. Pauli writes about the philosophical significance of complementarity, about space,time and causality, symmetry and the exclusion principle, but also about therole of the unconscious in modern science. His famous article on Kepler is included as well as many historical essays on Bohr, Ehrenfest,and Einstein as well as on the influence of the unconscious on scientific theories. The book addresses not only physicists, philosophers and historians of science, but also the general public.
Author: Stuart Clark
Publisher: Pegasus Books
A groundbreaking guide to the universe and how our latest deep-space discoveries are forcing us to revisit what we know—and what we don't. On March 21, 2013, the European Space Agency released a map of the afterglow of the Big Bang. Taking in 440 sextillion kilometres of space and 13.8 billion years of time, it is physically impossible to make a better map: we will never see the early universe in more detail. On the one hand, such a view is the apotheosis of modern cosmology, on the other, it threatens to undermine almost everything we hold cosmologically sacrosanct. The map contains anomalies that challenge our understanding of the universe. It will force us to revisit what is known and what is unknown, to construct a new model of our universe. This is the first book to address what will be an epoch-defining scientific paradigm shift. Stuart Clark will ask if Newton's famous laws of gravity need to be rewritten; if dark matter and dark energy are just celestial phantoms? Can we ever know what happened before the Big Bang? What’s at the bottom of a black hole? Are there universes beyond our own? Does time exist? Are the once immutable laws of physics changing?