What is a constant? What role do constants play in the laws of physics? How can we verify that they are indeed constants?
The authors take us though the history of the ideas of physics, evoking major discoveries from Galileo and Newton to Planck and Einstein and raising questions provoked by ever more current accurate observations. They approach physics by way of its constants in order to distinguish the fundamental from the particular, and to recognise different physical forces, but these cannot be drawn together into one unique force, as those seeking a unified theory would like. The book shows how the development of theories leads to simplification, analogy and the regrouping of phenomena. It describes how physicists seek to explain why the world is as it is and why can they cannot explain the values of the mass of elementary particles such as the electron and the proton. The authors ask if we can have confidence in the promising theory of superstrings, which would reinterpret these particles as states of vibration of the strings, extended objects appearing only in macroscopic dimensions.
This highly instructive survey of physics, from the laboratory to the depths of space, explores the paths of gravitation, general relativity and new theories such as that of superstrings. It is complete and coherent, and goes beyond the subject of constants to explain and discuss many ideas in physics, encountering along the way, for example, such exciting details as the discovery of a natural nuclear reactor at Oklo in Gabon.
The response of atomic structure to environmental pressure predicts non-Doppler cosmical redshifts and equilibrium nucleogenesis by α-particle addition, in accord with observed periodic variation of nuclear abundance.
Inferred cosmic self similarity elucidates the Bode –Titius law, general commensurability in the solar system and the occurrence of quantum phenomena on a cosmic scale.
The generalized periodic function involves both matter and anti-matter in an involuted mapping to a closed projective plane. This topology ensures the same symmetrical balance in a chiral universe, wrapped around an achiral vacuum interface, without singularities.
A new cosmology emerges, based on the theory of projective relativity, presented here as a translation of Veblen’s original German text. Not only does it provide a unification of gravity, electromagnetism and quantum theory, through gauge invariance, but also supports the solution of the gravitational field equations, obtained by Gödel for a rotating universe.
The appearance of an Einstein–Rosen bridge as outlet from a black hole, into conjugate anti-space, accounts for globular clusters, quasars, cosmic radiation, γ-ray bursters, pulsars, radio sources and other regions of plasma activity.
The effects of a multiply-connected space-time manifold on observations in an Euclidean tangent space are unpredictable and a complete re-assessment of the size and structure of the universe is indicated.
The target readership includes scientists, as well as non-scientists – everybody with a scientific or philosophical interest in cosmology and, especially those cosmologists and mathematicians with the ability to recast the crude ideas presented here into appropriate mathematical models.
Physicists will tell you that four forces control the universe. Of these, gravity may the most obvious, but it is also the most mysterious. Newton managed to predict the force of gravity but couldn't explain how it worked at a distance. Einstein picked up on the simple premise that gravity and acceleration are interchangeable to devise his mind-bending general relativity, showing how matter warps space and time. Not only did this explain how gravity worked – and how apparently simple gravitation has four separate components – but it predicted everything from black holes to gravity's effect on time. Whether it's the reality of anti-gravity or the unexpected discovery that a ball and a laser beam drop at the same rate, gravity is the force that fascinates.
Many people have a sketchy idea of the work of cosmologists, but Professor Levin’s experience in teaching both scientific and liberal arts students has enabled him to impart much of our current thinking without resorting to difficult mathematics. Theoretical concepts are emphasized, in particular the symmetries of homogeneity and isotropy enjoyed by our universe on the largest scales, how these symmetries lead to only one quantity being needed to describe the growth of the universe from its infancy to the present time, and how the so-called parameters of the universe are the ingredients used to construct the model universes to which ours – the real thing – is compared.
Levin includes the 2003 results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the 2003 and 2004 results of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to ensure that the book is up to date. He explains the relevance of the discoveries done by the new physics Nobel laureates Smoot and Mather!
Background material is provided in the first four chapters; the current picture and how it was attained are discussed in the next four chapters; and some unsolved problems and conjectured solutions are explored in the final chapter.