Doubt And Certainty (Helix Books)

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9780738200064: Doubt And Certainty (Helix Books)

When scientists and philosophers construct models to explain the phenomena and laws of nature, do those models simulate what's really out there in the world, or do they only represent the languages we use to describe the world? In this far-reaching, thought-provoking book, two world-class physicists from different worlds—one born and raised in the West, the other in the East—examines some of the most profound questions ever to be investigated by science.Against the background of one of the most imaginative settings ever devised for a science book—a fictional modern-day version of Plato's Academy—Tony Rothman and George Sudarshan, along with an eclectic assortment of students and academics, delve deep into modern physics and Eastern philosophy, and come up with startling insights on the structure of the physical world. To gain these insights, the Academy members must tackle questions such as, How much of the millennium synthesis of science and philosophy is meaningful and how much is pure nonsense? Which New Age trends are compatible with physics? Can we learn anything from parallels between physics and Eastern philosophy?The common thread that runs through the debates is the tension between the seemingly opposite, but really complementary, notions of doubt and certainty: doubt that certain fields of science really succeed in describing the world versus the rock-solid certainty in the predictions of theories like Newton's mechanics and Einstein's relativity.In these intriguing, often funny, sometimes violent, but always stimulating debates, Rothman and Sudarshan cover a wide range of subjects, including cosmology, quantum mechanics, theology, mathematics, complexity, synchronicity, and the past and future.

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About the Author:

Tony Rothman has written fiction, as well as several highly acclaimed science trade books, including A Physicist on Madison Avenue (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize) and Instant Physics . He is professor of physics at Illinois Wesleyan University. George Sudarshan is the distinguished former director of the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas—Austin and the coauthor of three physics textbooks. Among his discoveries was the first theory of the weak nuclear force. Tony Rothman has written fiction, as well as several highly acclaimed science trade books, including A Physicist on Madison Avenue (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize) and Instant Physics . He is professor of physics at Illinois Wesleyan University. George Sudarshan is the distinguished former director of the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas—Austin and the coauthor of three physics textbooks. Among his discoveries was the first theory of the weak nuclear force.

From Publishers Weekly:

The subtitle of Doubt and Certainty provides a good example of why overly clever writing doesn't necessarily make for a good subtitle?nor for a first-rate book. Rothman (A Physicist on Madison Avenue) and Sudarshan, former director of the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas-Austin, express two goals here: to reconnect science with our broader culture and to reclaim ideas such as quantum field theory from Deepak Chopra and other like writers. Is all science truly relative, as the authors claim? What constitutes certainty and uncertainty? Do seemingly outlandish theories that have captured the public's imagination?the existence of multiple universes, for instance?enjoy widespread acceptance by scientists? The authors pack a great deal of interesting information into their book, and, at their best, they clarify murky topics such as string theory in an exemplary way. But too often their writing reads like note cards cobbled together, and the book's structure?which Rothman and Sudarshan imagine as a cross between Plato's Republic and 1001 Nights?makes the prose maddeningly slow to get through in places. Whimsy and humor are tricky in fiction, let alone difficult scientific topics, unless you're Edwin Abbott or Lewis Carroll. But despite these flaws, the book may fly with popular science readers, because of the wide variety of topics covered and the welcoming, lighthearted approach. Illus. by Shannon K. Comins.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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