Wednesday, December 15

a confusing history of nothing

Don't feel bad if you have trouble understanding pop physics books—even other physicists don't understand them sometimes. Here's one well-respected theorist panning another well-respected theorists' book:
I must confess I never made it more than a few pages into Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time because I found the reasoning about things like quantum cosmology, imaginary time and so on as confusing and as sloppily argued in the book as in the original papers. If I can't understand what it could mean to say that time "becomes imaginary" at "early times"—and I am a professional who works in the same field—how is the public supposed to understand what is meant?

I tried to read the book in the hope that Hawking used the opportunity to explain the ideas without the technicalities, in a way that I could perhaps finally understand, but ended up feeling that there is possibly really nothing there. However, I have always felt guilty about not finishing the book, and wonder that if I presevered through the bad prose I might finally understand what he is proposing.
Link to the PhysicsWeb article.


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