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Adam Sanitt
New Scientist

Victor J Stenger

The Comprehensible Cosmos

When you start studying physics, you realise that it's a big subject - lots of seemingly arbitrary laws to learn. In The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where the Laws of Physics Come FromVictor J. Stenger claims that in fact it's much simpler than it seems.

Stenger argues that if we accept 'Point of View Invariance' - the idea that how the universe works shouldn't depend on where or when you are looking - and combine this with the idea that the universe is based upon symmetries (including gauge symmetries), then the laws of physics can be deduced.

But , if the universe is so simple and based on symmetry, how come it looks so complex to us. To understand this, Stenger describes the ideas of broken symmetry, and looks at how randomness can enter into the workings of the universe. Stenger applies these ideas to the Big Bang, and to the nature of the vacuum, and in the later chapters of the first part discusses how they can lead to a better understanding of the cosmos.

The first part of the book is non-mathematical. The second part consists of mathematical derivations, which should be understandable to and undergraduate physics student. However, I would say that this book is not as simple as it looks - the ideas in the first part are pretty deep, and the second part is effectively a highly compact derivation of many of the laws of physics. But if you're happy with the challenging nature of the book then you'll find much thought provoking material here.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 340 pages  
ISBN: 1591024242
Salesrank: 1206028
Weight:1.3 lbs
Published: 2006 Prometheus Books
Marketplace:New from $82.61:Used from $9.40
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 340 pages  
ISBN: 1591024242
Salesrank: 684690
Weight:1.3 lbs
Published: 2006 Prometheus Books
Marketplace:New from £89.73:Used from £19.59
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 340 pages  
ISBN: 1591024242
Salesrank: 559610
Weight:1.3 lbs
Published: 2006 Prometheus Books
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 167.50:Used from CDN$ 58.79
Buy from Amazon.ca





Product Description
For those fascinated by how physics explains the universe and affects philosophy, this in-depth presentation of the cosmos, complete with an appendix of mathematical formulas, makes accessible to lay readers findings normally available only to professional scientists. In a series of remarkable developments in the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, elementary particle physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists have removed much of the mystery that surrounds our understanding of the physical universe. We now have mathematical models that are consistent with all observational data, including measurements of incredible precision, and we have a good understanding of why those models take the form they do. But the question arises: Where do the "laws" revealed by the mathematical models come from? Some conjecture that they represent a set of restraints on the behavior of matter that are built into the structure of the universe, either by God or some other ubiquitous governing principle. In this challenging, stimulating discussion of physics and its implications, the author disputes this notion. Instead, he argues that physical laws are simply restrictions on the ways physicists may draw the models they use to represent the behavior of matter if they wish to do so objectively. Since mathematical descriptions of data must be independent of any specific point of view, that is, they must possess "point-of-view invariance" (maximum objectivity), they naturally conform to certain fundamental laws that insure that objectivity, such as the great conservation principles of energy and momentum. The laws of physics, however, are not simply an arbitrary set of rules since the observed data beautifully demonstrate their accuracy.