Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gravity Does Not Exist

Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything by Margaret Wertheim

Summary: For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard‚-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade.

Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a profoundly human profile of Jim Carter, Wertheim's exploration of the bizarre world of fringe physics challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.

Review: Just about everything you wanted to know about outsiders physicists. 

So this was a case of my perusing the new books section at the library (I always check it whenever I go to the library) and picking out this book based solely on the cover and its Dewey Decimal Classification (or DDC for all the library folk out there). I didn't bother to read the summary, which I should have, but I must admit to be a sucker for a nice cover. I read the summary before I started to read it and while it wasn't what I expecting (I was expecting new and unusual theories of science and physics like string theory), but I was still interested. 

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this book. It focused almost exclusively on Jim Carter, which would have been fine if it actually focused on his theories. It was much more a story of his life though. I can understand why it is harder for people today to posit physics theories due to a number of factors, including mathematics becoming an integral part of physics. I was interested to see what outside physicists could come up with. Wertheim barely mentions any theories and also barely mentions any physics so those with no knowledge of it could not understand the theories.  


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those who enjoy science memoirs or anyone has interest in fringe science. 

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