Mar. 12th, 2006 09:17 pm
threemonkeys: (memory)
All physical knowledge at the fundamental level is contained in two pillars of physics, general relativity and quantum theory. Einstein was the founder of the first and the godfather of the second and paved the way for the possible unification of both.

The above is a quote from Einstein's Cosmos by Michio Kaku. It is a bit of a giveaway how Kaku feels about Einstein. It is a reverent look at the life and work of Einstein with particular emphasis on his legacy on physics as a whole. And by the way, it is wonderful. It isn't a big book but it is one of the most fascinating and plain enjoyable reads I have had in a long time. There are not any serious amounts of actual science to take in, just a well told story about a scientist and his work.

My appreciation of this book is not a huge surprise. Kaku is, in my opinion, the best of the science popularisers around today. In fact if faced with a pile of books to read (like the one in my library) I will pick a Kaku title to read first of all - I bought this book on Friday and it immediately went to "read this one next" status. It is the combination of a top notch scientist and a consummate storyteller that is a winning combination.
threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
My life has run pretty much work. eat. sleep. repeat. It isn't as if my work hours have been all that long although a few evenings have been stretched, but it is the stress levels from that work which have put me into maintenance mode. With luck all the pressure will be over by Tuesday and I will be able to wind down. In the meantime I have not been good company on those occasions when I have had to break out of maintenance mode - that is partly the reason why I go into that mode.

As a side effect, I have also not been doing much reading. Attempting to read a Kim Stanley Robinson book probably wasn't a good choice, but in any case I just cannot really get into fiction at the moment. So, trying another point of attack, I read my shiny new Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. I like Kaku because he pitches his pop science work at a level that assumes a good general level of scientific knowledge but stops just short of going into the maths. That level suits me very well. He also writes in a clear manner using very good analogies when required.

Parallel Worlds is about the current state of cosmology theory. A state which is currently in a huge state of flux as older theories drop by the wayside and newer models are not yet fully developed. The focus of the book is on the newer theories - the inflationary universe and the development of superstring theory into M-theory. All fascinating stuff really.

The book started a bit flat with some historical overview which is well trodden ground for me, but when it go into the more recent work, making up the majority, my attention was well and truly grabbed. This was Kaku at his best as he explained and in a lucid and enjoyable manner things which are intrinsically complex.

However the last couple of chapters of the book were a bit flat as he tried to push the boundaries to see how civilisations might interact with the multiverse predicted by M-theory and even worse pondered the metaphysical implications. This all felt tacked on and poorly thought out which was a bit of a let down after the skill shown through the middle bulk of the book.


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