Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Physics in need of a revolution
It's a staple of the history of physics that:
(a) in around 1895 the subjects seemed almost complete, apart from the Michaelson-Morley experiment (speed of light is constant) and the peculiar phenomena provisionally called X-rays.
(b) The following quarter century was a golden age of fresh discovery: relativity and quantum theory arrived in a glorious rush.
Michael Brooks' book hints at a further explosion-to-come:
(a) We have no idea what 96% of the universe is made of
(b) The two Pioneer spacecraft, launched in 1976 and 1977 are being slowed down and no-one knows why
(c) The constants of physics might not be constant
(d) The universe is fit for life only because a certain constant (called omega) is exactly the size it is, not a thousand billionth more or less.
So we either are, or aren't in for an exciting time in physics, assuming someone has the cranial capacity to think round this stuff.
A further interesting message in light of current debates about faith and science is that science is a little more rickety, and less sure, than the aggressive atheists might totally wish. Great book.