12 March 2006

Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku

A really amazingly interesting tour of the state of physics and cosmology. Kaku writes about his stuff without any mathematics, so it should be accessible to anyone with a layperson's understanding of modern physics and geometry.

It's divided into three sections.

The first explains the big bang theory, standard model and relativity. It shows what these models explain and where they fail.

The second section moves on to weird stuff like wormholes, strings, extra dimensions and other universes. The development of string theory gets a lot of attention. There is some amazing stuff in here.

The final section talks about the end of the universe. It goes over different possibilities and what intelligent life might do to mitigate or escape them. There's also a discussion of the religious implications of current cosmology, based on the anthropic principle (short story: Kaku thinks the universe kind of seems likely to appear to have been designed). There's some interesting ideas in here too.

It's shaped by Kaku's own interests and research, so feels like it might be downplaying areas he isn't interested in or feels hold little promise. I'm not saying that is the case, just that it feels like it might be.

The book also feels like I need to read it again in a month or two to really get to grips with the content.

If you are interested in cosmology and the weird stuff physics has discovered recently, this is a must-read.
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3 comments:

island said...

It's shaped by Kaku's own interests and research, so feels like it might be downplaying areas he isn't interested in or feels hold little promise. I'm not saying that is the case, just that it feels like it might be.

Based on what I know about Kaku's methods and motives, I'd say that he made his anthropic statement about the appearance of design in the universe because he is trying to rationalize some evidenced arguable reason for using the anthropic principle to choose the correct vacuum solution from the ludicrous number of them that fall out of string theory.

Most definitely CrackPotMotivated, even though I do strongly support the anthropic principle and welcome the opportunity to latch onto the foot that's in his mouth so that I can use the "scientific interpretation" to actually benefit science, rather than the popularizers, like Kaku.

The Gamester At Large said...

Yeah, I felt that the emphasis on the anthropic principle and alleged design in the universe was heading towards crackpotness.

However it doesn't detract from the book as a whole, I found.

island said...

I would argue that the multiverse is a cop-out on an explanation that derives the structure of our universe from first principles, but don't blame the anthropic principle for your inability to explain the structure of the universe if you're not really even willing to look for some good physical reason "why" specialness might be necessary to the physics of the one observed universe, much less, a fantasyland filled with them.

I think that you'll find that Leonarad Susskind is doing the same thing that Kaku is doing when it comes to the AP.