SIX WORDS by Surendra Kumar Sagar

SIX WORDS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A grandiose treatise that ponders the laws of physics, the history of the cosmos, the nature of God and the fate of mankind.

Sagar, an engineer, styles this tome as a kind of “autobiography” of his existence, starting with the formation of his constituent subatomic particles, but it’s more of a rambling tour of readings and musings in physics and philosophy. It begins with a brief, engaging account of cosmology from the Big Bang through the evolution of life. The book then turns to more involved (and less successful) explorations of advanced physics, including the mysteries of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, “quantum entanglement” and the relativistic paradoxes of travel near the speed of light. Sagar’s explications of these difficult topics are haphazard, sketchy and often hard to follow, and he freely admits to not fully understanding them himself. The book’s sixth chapter comprises a fanciful “seminar” of great thinkers—from Immanuel Kant to Albert Einstein to contemporary physicist Freeman Dyson—that reprints lengthy excerpts of their philosophical writings, and this material is sometimes stimulating. However, much of it will be indigestible and baffling to lay readers. All this background sets up a section on Sagar’s own philosophical speculations, which mix such topics as the anthropic principle—which says that fundamental constants must be able to support the life-forms that observe them—with the quantum mechanics mysticism popularized by Fritjof Capra’s 1975 book The Tao of Physics. Sagar theorizes that God is an abstract “all intelligent omnipresent…infinite mind”; that humans may eventually merge into the divine “Superconsciousness” and change the fundamental constants in order to forestall the death of the present universe and create a new one; and that our main task is to avoid blowing ourselves up in the next few centuries—a disaster that Sagar considers a near-certainty unless everyone works for world peace. The book’s pensées aren’t especially original or deep, and it supports them less with clear arguments than with erudite gobbledygook (“So, you rely on the strong Leibniz principle and a rough estimate on sizes of abstractly possible universes in order to settle a metaphysical dispute that is at least as undecidable with finitist means as the fine structure of the Cantor set?”). Overall, the book presents a theory of everything that could put almost any seminar room to sleep.

An idiosyncratic mishmash of science and religion that’s neither intellectually compelling nor spiritually uplifting.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1492828907
Page count: 254pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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