After I finished my novel my wife said, “This isn’t science fiction, it’s science!” In fact it is fiction, and it has a scientific theme, but it does not fit easily into the genre of ‘science fiction’. The one invention in the novel is problematic at best, and catastrophically dangerous to its inventors at worst - and yet they persist because they are compelled by their curiosity.
Similarly, I was compelled to attack one of the most frustrating aspects of modern science, namely the inexplicable nature of quantum physics, because I was unsatisfied with all of the approaches I had studied. For one I cannot understand why there is such a need by some to insist that the universe is deterministic. Nor am I fond of the sometimes sloppy thinking which links ideas found in, say, the Vedas (a few of which I actually include in Timewise – see if you can find them) to modern science and then conclude the universe is conscious, and therefore is God. Nor do I accept the most common tack, which is to say reality cannot be understood or visualized, one must just follow the mathematics.
I am a structural engineer, and am very well aware of the beauty and power of mathematics, but to say ‘just follow the math’ seems inherently flawed. It reminds me of a dictum from some (non-religious) schools of Buddhism. There is a certain frustration in using language to describe the non-describable state of Samadhi (enlightenment). The master must remind his pupils that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, just as language describing Samadhi is not Samadhi.
Similarly, mathematics is a language, it is a finger, it is not reality. I know that my book is also only language, and fictional language to boot. I hope it also has something in common with good poetry which transcends fiction. The most encouraging comment I have received so far is from a friend who admitted she did not understand the science, but the book caused her to break out a book she had on relativity. Some of the ideas I discuss are certainly unusual, and therefore difficult, but I hope to infuse some of the curiosity of my characters into my readers.
Just as Einstein was convinced God would not play dice with the universe, I am convinced the amazing discoveries of modern physics can illuminate our own existence, and are therefore worth trying to understand.
I have received two comments on Timewise I wish to discuss. One reader asked if he was being mislead by the science in my novel. I feel my description of accepted scientific theory is accurate. However, as I told my reader, anything that Regina Russo says has yet to be confirmed.
The second comment I have received is that “The science goes over my head.” First I would like to say I do not believe you need any science background to comprehend the ideas in Timewise, but the concepts are strange, and therefore not always easily assimilated. It may take effort, then, to make sense of the logic involved.
One of my readers told me it was simply too much, and I should have written on something simpler. The truth is this is the subject I wanted to discuss. More commonly I hear my book made a reader think, maybe even do some background research, but in the end they are left with a sort of wonderment that does not leave when the book has been finished.
I could ask for no better result, as that is how I feel.
Listen to my interview at: http://188.8.131.52/CablecastPublicSite/show/6676?channel=1
Many readers of my novel Timewise have noted that it contains real science and have suggested I provide some background information for those whose interest in relativity and/or quantum physics is piqued enough to do further reading. I have put together a small bibliography of books I have found particularly interesting for various reasons, some of which I try to elucidate, in chronological order of publication.
Relativity, Albert Einstein, Methuen & Co., LTD, 1916, revised 1924.
Why read anyone else’s account on relativity when Einstein was such a good writer? I actually own a Signature Press Editions published in 2007. There are many other excellent books on this topic - in particular I recommend One Two Three... Infinity by George Gamow, published 1947, which may be more accessible to anyone without a mathematical background.
Dreams of a Final Theory, Steven Weinberg, Random House, 1994.
Another Nobel Prize winner who writes well. This book is a nice background to my novel because it specifically delineates the goals of a major scientist, and so goes into how scientists think as well as what they have discovered. I want to note that I refer to ‘accepted’ or ‘conventional’ science as a launching point for Regina Russo’s theories, but this book will show how complex and sophisticated that science really is.
A World Without Time, Palle Yourgrau, 2005, Basic Books.
I like this book, and should read it again myself. It contains an account of the philosophical perambulations of Einstein and Kurt Gödel. The reader should have a basic understanding of modern physics to fully appreciate the arguments in this book, but in any case it contains a fascinating depiction of two of the most outrageous and fruitful thinkers of any era.
How Physics Confronts Reality, Roger G Newton, 2009, World Scientific Publishing Co.
Another book about two fascinating thinkers, Einstein (again) and Niels Bohr, and the subtlety of their decades long arguments with each other. Wonderful read, but as with the previous one, a basic understanding of modern physics would help illuminate its content.
Fields of Color: The theory that escaped Einstein, Rodney A. Brooks, 2010, Rodney A. Brooks.
A bit of an outlier in this collection, this self-published book gives a credible account of another way of understanding relativity and quantum physics. I suggest that this be the last book in this series one should read. To my mind he simplifies one problem to create another which he glosses over, but you may see it differently.
The Infinity Puzzle, Frank Close, 2011, Basic Books.
A nice historical perspective of the development of modern quantum physics. Maybe the first or second book to read in this list.
Quantum Enigma, Bruce Rosenblum & Frank Kuttner, 2011, Oxford Press
So, maybe this should be the first book to read, as it speaks directly to some of the issues in my novel, and is more or less meant for a lay reader.
Spooky Action at a Distance, George Musser, 2015, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
A book on entanglement more or less directed at a reader without a background in modern physics. Very readable, reliable.
There is a scene depicted in Quantum Enigma which describes three Nobel Prize physicists, along with a fourth who may someday also get his, screaming at each other at a public convocation of physicists over some of the issues covered in my novel and these books. I mention this because if you seem confused by quantum physics, it may not be because you don’t understand what you’re reading, but because you do. For me, I am one of those who wakes up each day in wonder of being alive and believe the findings concerning the nature of our existence relevant to that wonder.
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