Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Paul Davies: Cosmic Jackpot

Why out universe is just right for life

I have received a popular book that looks nice. Paul Davies is not only a physicist with some awards and hundreds of papers but he is an achieved popularizer of physics. The long list of his books includes "Mind of God" and "Superstrings: a Theory of Everything". The latter book contained interviews with people like F-GSW-GSW-GE i.e. Feynman, Glashow, Salam, Weinberg, Green, Schwarz, Witten, Gross, and Ellis about string theory. Only the first two failed to be positive. ;-)

Although I don't have time to read the whole book right now, let me say that what I clearly like is the absence of the grumpiness that played a key role in several recent books. Davies is a professional in this kind of business and feels no need to invent propaganda and organize revenge. In other words, it is very nice to see a popular book called Cosmic Jackpot after two or three Cosmic Crackpots pretending to be more than popular books. :-)

The book explains cosmology - Big Bang, microwave background, inflation etc. - as well as particle physics - including the Standard Model, supersymmetry, Higgs mechanism, string theory, M-theory. The author offers some standard as well as unusual ideas about symmetries, unification, the existence of a unique final theory, the fine-tuning that seems to be necessary for life, and the history of chemical elements, especially carbon. He shows why the multiverse may solve some of the bizarre coincidences i.e. the Goldilocks enigma, talks about super-turtles and observations behind the horizon, and discusses both intelligent design as well as not-so-intelligent design. :-)

Finally, you may learn about his original improvement of the multiverse ideas: Davies argues that the existence of intelligent life today helps to shape the past in an acausal fashion but I can't tell you the details because you wouldn't buy the book if I told you the punch line, especially if I mentioned whether I believe a word here or not. :-) The book is recommended by Nature, Michio Kaku, and Joel Primack, and it is dedicated to John Wheeler who never hesitated to ask big questions.

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