Anthropic Principle - a hypothetical principle that holds that the universe is fine-tuned so that we can be here to observe it. Many physicists have worried that embracing the Anthropic Principle will spell an end to scientific progress, but in The Cosmic Landscape, Leonard Susskind shows how string theory, rather than reaching a dead end, has led to a vastly expanded concept of the universe, in which the contentious principle makes perfect sense.
Starred Review. As modern physics has developed a better understanding of how the universe operates at its most fundamental levels, one thing has become increasingly clear: we're damned lucky to be here at all. The laws of physics are precariously balanced, and were the value of one constant slightly different, life as we know it wouldn't exist. To explain the ridiculous improbability of it all, some physicists have turned to the "Anthropic Principle": the universe seems perfectly tailored to us because if it weren't, we wouldn't be here to observe it. The underlying rationale for this argument involves the "landscape" of potential laws of physics (which, it turns out, aren't so immutable after all), a whole bunch of extra dimensions and lots of particle physics. Luckily, Susskind?"the father of string theory?"does the job right, guiding readers through the current controversy over the Anthropic Principle. Make no mistake: this is the cutting edge of physics as described by one of the sharpest scientific minds around. While the subtitle is a bit misleading (this isn't about intelligent design in the Kansas Board of Education sense, but actually a controversy at once bigger and less prominent), persistent readers will finish this book understanding and caring about contemporary physics in ways both unexpected and gratifying. (Dec. 12)
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Back Bay Books
November 30, 2006
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