THE END OF PHYSICS

THE MYTH OF A UNIFIED THEORY

When Lindley says ``myth,'' he means it not as a metaphor but literally: ``a story that makes sense within its own terms...but can be neither tested nor disproved.'' Such is the sorry pass he believes that particle physics has come to at the end of the 20th century. The quest for theories of everything—for the grand unification—has indeed becomes a ``holy grail'' that can cost time, money, and careers, all to no avail. That's the message brought by a messenger with credentials as a senior editor of Science as well as a Ph.D. in astronomy. Curiously, Lindley's apocalyptic vision has a parallel with one promulgated at the end of the last century, when physics was also thought to be coming to an end, but for different reasons: It was thought that the major discoveries had been made. This time, Lindley avers that it's the seduction of mathematical constructs unrelated to the real world that's doing physics in. To reach this conclusion, he summarizes all that the 20th century has wrought, from Einstein to Heisenberg to Fermilab, CERN, and the plan for the superconducting supercollider—a grand cathedral. (For an opposing view, see Steven Weinberg's Dreams of a Final Theory—Jan 1993.) Whether or not readers buy Lindley's judgment, they're well served by his first-rate exposition of the state of the science. The rub may lie in the eerie phenomenon by which the toys of mathematicians so often do turn out to be the tools that physicists use to construct—and demonstrate—the next paradigm. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: June 16, 1993

ISBN: 0-465-01548-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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