The Trouble with Physics

Published in 2006

Early Praise for The Trouble with Physics

” The best book about contemporary science written for the layman that I have ever read.”
—Bryan Appleyard

“…the most important book about cosmology since Steven Weinberg’s 1977 volume The First Three Minutes.”
—Gregg Easterbrook, Slate, Sept. 14, 2006

“Bold, provocative, and, best of all, a joy to read.”
—Evelyn Fox Keller, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, MIT

“Lee Smolin provides a much needed, enlightening and engagingly written antidote to string-theory hype. He combines a loving account of the theory itself with a careful critique of how and why the theoretical physics community came to give disproportionate weight to what should have been only one among many worthwhile avenues to explore.”
—David Deutsch, Oxford University, author of The Fabric of Reality

“Lee Smolin’s understanding of theoretical physics is unusually broad and deep, and his critical judgments are exceptionally penetrating, so his claim that string theory is responsible for the lack of real progress in fundamental physics for the past quarter century carries considerable weight. Read this fascinating book and form your own judgment.”
—Roger Penrose, author of The Road to Reality and The Emperor’s New Mind

“Superstring theory forms a vast and impressive mathematical framework and makes enormous claims. But where is the experimental evidence? What if your intuition tells you that this elaborate construction, shrouded by the sweet vagueness of quantum mechanics, cannot represent the complete truth? Lee Smolin is keeping his eyes open, asks sharp questions, and offers his delightful insights as a critical insider.”
—Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate, University of Utrecht

“If you want to think in new ways about the interconnected universe around you, read Lee Smolin’s provocative, inspiring book.”
—Margaret Geller, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Harvard University

“Smolin tells the somber tale of contemporary physics with virtuosity, passion, and courage.”
—Joy Christian, Oxford University

“Lee Smolin has written an epic story with great energy and characteristic passion. It’s a story not just of ideas but of the people who have devoted their lives to these ideas. Reading it, you feel privy to the precious moments of history unfolding, moments of triumph and failure, of the great hopes of our greatest minds. It is a thrilling unresolved mystery of literally cosmic proportions.”
—Janna Levin, Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots

“Reading The Trouble With Physics is like sitting down over a glass of wine with a calm, reasonable person whose knowledge of the field—both inside and outside of string theory—enables him to tell the story, and survey the road ahead, with clarity and grace.”
—Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Quicksilver

“The confrontation between string theory and its critics is one of the great intellectual dramas of our age. With this book, physicist Lee Smolin, one of the principle actors in the drama, finally raises the curtains for all to see. While Smolin is a devastating critic, he is also optimistic and constructive. He exudes a love of science and imagination, and a faith in the next generation of young physicists.”
—Jaron Lanier, computer scientist and Contributing Editor of Discover

“An uncommonly clear and confident account of the great obstacles—and opportunities—facing physics today. Even those who differ with many of Lee Smolin’s contentions can applaud his bringing physicists’ anguished night thoughts into the clear light of day in such an engrossing and illuminating fashion.”
—Tim Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way and The Big Shebang

“I have been reading books on physics for the lay person for a long time, ranging from Brian Greene and Paul Davies all the way back to George Gamow, and I can say without hesitation that Lee Smolin’s “The Trouble With Physics” is a very welcome addition to this list. Not only is it clear, lively, and continuously interesting, but it does exactly what interested lay people like myself want at this juncture: it lays out the outstanding problems still remaining in foundational physics, and gives an up-to-date account of whether or not the various new string theories are going to be able to solve these problems, or are instead doomed to stay stuck always at the level of mathematical construct without experimental confirmation. Smolin also describes other new theories in physics that compete with or extend string theory, and he describes the institutional structures of physics that may impede further progress in the field, with suggestions for changes that might lead to progress. Altogether a very exciting experience and just the contribution needed at this time.”
—Kim Stanley Robinson, best-selling author of The Mars Trilogy

From Publishers Weekly:

“String theory—the hot topic in physics for the past 20 years—is a dead-end, says Smolin, one of the founders of Canada’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics and himself a lapsed string theorist. In fact, he (and others) argue convincingly, string theory isn’t even a fully formed theory—it’s just a “conjecture.” As Smolin reminds his readers, string theorists haven’t been able to prove any of their exotic ideas, and he says there isn’t much chance that they will in the foreseeable future. The discovery of “dark energy,” which seems to be pushing the universe apart faster and faster, isn’t explained by string theory and is proving troublesome for that theory’s advocates. Smolin (The Life of the Cosmos) believes that physicists are making the mistake of searching for a theory that is “beautiful” and “elegant” instead of one that’s actually backed up by experiments. He encourages physicists to investigate new alternatives and highlights several young physicists whose work he finds promising. This isn’t easy reading, but it will appeal to dedicated science buffs interested in where physics may be headed in the next decade. 30 b&w illus. (Sept. 19)”

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Library Journal Starred:

“Smolin offers a compelling argument…This is a well-written, critical profile of the theoretical physics community.”