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Thursday, February 09, 2023

Review: Reality is not what is seems

 Reality Is Not What It Seems is Carlo Rovelli's quantum loop gravity for the layman. Rovelli writes really good prose, and he covers the history of physics all the way from the ancient Greeks to Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr. The descriptions are vivid and easy reading, and the launch into quantum loop gravity stalls a bit as he tries to avoid math, but then he carries right along into the reasons why Quantum Loop gravity is important and what the implication is for the existence of time and why it appears the way it is in general relativity.

The idea is that at the quantum level you have events linked together in a topology, which relates events to each other. Time, then, is an emergent property of a lot of quantum events at the aggregate level. He then points out that if quantum loop gravity shows that space has a minimum size, then a lot of the singularities in existing theories go away.

Finally, what I love about the book is its defense of science and the scientific method:

The answers given by science, then, are not reliable because they are definitive. They are reliable because they are not definitive. They are reliable because they are the best available today. And they are the best we have because we don’t consider them to be definitive, but see them as open to improvement. It’s the awareness of our ignorance that gives science its reliability. And it is reliability that we need, not certainty. We don’t have absolute certainty, and never will have it unless we accept blind belief. The most credible answers are the ones given by science, because science is the search for the most credible answers available, not for answers pretending to and religion frequently find themselves on a collision course. Not because science pretends to know ultimate answers, but precisely for the opposite reason: because the scientific spirit distrusts whoever claims to be the one having ultimate answers or privileged access to Truth. This distrust is found to be disturbing in some religious quarters. It is not science that is disturbed by religion: there are certain religions that are disturbed by scientific thinking. To accept the substantial uncertainty of our knowledge is to accept living immersed in ignorance, and therefore in mystery. To live with questions to which we do not know the answers. Perhaps we don’t know them yet or, who knows, we never will. (kindle loc 2772-2782)

Short, eloquent, and easy to read. There's nothing about this book not to recommend.

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