LONGING FOR THE HARMONIES: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics by Frank & Betsy Devine Wilczek

LONGING FOR THE HARMONIES: Themes and Variations from Modern Physics

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From MacArthur fellowship-winner/physicist Wilczek and coauthor Devine, an uncommon and uncommonly good exposition of contemporary quantum physics. The authors use music as a metaphor, elaborating numerous themes and variations that liken the vibrations of elementary matter to strings and sounding boards. The metaphor also recalls the work of Pythagoras and the elevation of number (and hence mathematics) as the key to understanding nature. These historical and contemporary modes help clarify the mysteries at the heart of quantum mechanics: the dual nature of photons, electrons, and other fundamental units as waves and particles. This fresh approach to themes that have inspired dozens of popularizations in recent years takes on a distinctly personal cast as Wilzcek describes his odyssey in developing ""asymptomatically free theories"" through the application of certain mathematical constructs. In essence, the theory explains why the strong force, which binds protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei, seems opposed to common sense: The force is weak when the particles are close, growing stronger as the particles move farther apart. Finally, Wilzcek's and Devine's vision of themes and harmonies inevitably lead them from the infinitesimally small to the universe itself, making the leap from atoms to galaxies, from accelerator collisions to the Big Bang. Not all of this is easy-going; one could wish for a little more mathematical explanation in terms, say, of the group theory behavior of quarks. But there are plenty of moments of enlightenment to cheer lay readers who want yet another version--or vision--of ultimate reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1987
ISBN: 0393305961
Publisher: Norton