Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Grand Design, by Hawking and Mlodinow

I admittedly skimmed this book, but a few thoughts occurred to me as I did.

* Quantum mechanics is baffling as always.

* M-theory (aka, string theory) predicts that uncountable billions of universes exist and are continuously created from nothing with almost unlimited variation in the laws of physics in each. In their view, this eliminates the strong anthropic argument for God's existence.

I dislike the way they present M-theory as being true, with just a few tweaks and experiments needed to fill in the blanks. The reality is a lot messier than that, and some physicists are turning their backs on it due to its untestable claims of 10 dimensions, branes, multiverses, and so on. For example, in this specific instance, the creation of other universes can't be observed or tested.

However, let's assume for a second that M-theory is true. Then I'd ask, why are the M-theory laws this way and not some other way that would produce 0 universes?

* Philosophically, they are determinists. That means no supernatural being can change things "miraculously". The balls on the pool table will proceed on their vectors and the dead will stay dead. They admit it also implies that what we experience as free will and consciousness are ultimately illusions. They're the mechanical result of billions of deterministic chemical reactions in our brains.

Something feels funny here. They got rid of the possibility of miracles by saying that neither God nor even people can really change anything in the universe through a free choice. Does that seem right? I just decided to move my left elbow. Was the universe expecting that?

Anyway, it was an interesting skim. I read a book about M-theory last year. Maybe I'll read something else physics related after I get through some of the other things I'm reading.


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