Baggott pulls no punches in his accusation that modern physics has left the realm of reality and is, instead, its own brand...

READ REVIEW

FAREWELL TO REALITY

HOW MODERN PHYSICS HAS BETRAYED THE SEARCH FOR SCIENTIFIC TRUTH

Science writer Baggott (Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the God Particle, 2012, etc.) argues that many of the more esoteric theories that have captured scientific and public attention no longer abide by the rules of scientific exploration.

From supersymmetry to the holographic principle to the multiverse, the author dismantles the notion that a theory can be properly scientific without any observational or experimental evidence, calling such ideas "fairy-tale physics" loaded with "metaphysical baggage." Since some of these popular theories—for example, the idea that ours is one of an infinite number of parallel universes—hold very little or even no potential to ever be verified experimentally, Baggott criticizes the ways in which physicists produce content aimed at a general audience that tends to take such information at face value. A keener skepticism, he argues, is necessary in order to protect the definition of a traditional scientific method and retain space between theories supported by experimental evidence and theories that remain mere possibilities. Otherwise, the very notion of "reality" becomes muddled in the race to justify physics that remain on the fringe of fact. Baggott deftly guides readers through many of the most cutting-edge and bizarre-seeming theories that have found a strong following by leaders in the field, and he examines how each defies principles of testability, fact and even reality. The result is a book that is brave in its willingness to take on these scientific giants and provocative for its compelling, and well-argued, suggestion that modern physics may not be science at all.

Baggott pulls no punches in his accusation that modern physics has left the realm of reality and is, instead, its own brand of fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60598-472-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more