Posts Tagged ‘String theory’

Revenge of the heirs of Bohr

October 15, 2007

Against those of Einstein, and the revenge of the heirs of Einstein against those of Bohr:

Theoretical physicists are now divided into two main factions. Those who look forward to another revolution mostly believe that it will grow out of a grand mathematical scheme known as string theory. Those who are content with the outcome of the old revolution are mostly studying more mundane subjects such as high-temperature superconductors and quantum computers. String theory may be considered to be the counterattack of those who lost the debate over complementarity in physics in Copenhagen in 1932. It is the revenge of the heirs of Einstein against the heirs of Bohr. The new discipline of systems biology, describing living creatures as emergent dynamic organizations rather than as collections of molecules, is the counterattack of those who lost the debate over complementarity in biology in 1953. It is the revenge of the heirs of Bohr against the heirs of Einstein.

Mundane subjects such as high-temperature superconductors and quantum computersMundane, did he say? Ouch! That hurts!

The New York Review of Books piece of Freeman Dyson from which Jenny Davidson quotes is, alas, not available online to non-subscribers, I was given to understand — though, I could get it on my computer. So, dear readers, keep you fingers crossed and click! If the Lord of Open Access is in a benevolent mood, you might get to read it.

Cartoons and cutting-edge physics

October 15, 2007

Here are a couple book reviews in the Hindu today.

Cultural history of cartoons in Indian newspapers

A R Venkatachalapathy reviews a recent book by Mushirul Hasan titled Wit and humour in colonial North India (and recommends it too):

India’s leading historian of Muslim politics and communalism in colonial India has written and edited an engaging and offbeat book. Mushirul Hasan breaks the widely held misconception of the emerging Muslim public sphere as inward looking and degenerate in the wake of 1857 and its aftermath. The underlying politics behind the publication of the book, though unstated, cannot be missed by the reader. By putting together this riotous volume of cartoons Hasan seems to be conveying a subtle but nevertheless strong message to both Western champions of liberty and Muslim fundamentalists.

Ambitiously titled Wit and Humour in Colonial North India, this book is centred on the Urdu weekly Avadh Punch which was published from Lucknow from 1877 to 1936. Even though we know that the Delhi Sketch Book published cartoons even before 1857, the author is not too far off the mark when he states that the Avadh Punch “was virtually the first Indian newspaper to give us cartoons.”

Critique of string theory

T Jayaraman reviews Lee Smolin’s The trouble with physics and finds it

… a report from the cutting edge of theoretical physics. Such accounts are typically tales of success, occasionally of triumph, that focus on the potential of what in the author’s reckoning is likely to be one of the few major scientific waves of the future. What is uncommon though is the kind of account that Smolin provides in The Trouble with Physics — an absorbing, quasi-first person account from the inside of a sharp controversy related to understanding the foundations of the physics of our time.

However, looking at the cost of the book (Rs. 650), I think the potential buyers might do well to read some of the criticisms of Smolin’s critique at Cosmic Variance and the Storm in a tea cup series at Asymptotia before buying it.