Audio-book Review
           By Chet Yarbrough


Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality

By: Frank Wilczek

Narrated by: Sean Patrick Hopkins, Frank Wilczek

To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge. Socrates (469 BC-399 BC)

Frank Wilczek (Author, American theoretical physicist, mathematician and Nobel laureate.)

After listening to “Fundamentals”, one recognizes how Socrates’ quote is an apt description of this listener’s knowledge of reality. Frank Wilczek does a good job of explaining the nearly incomprehensible science of physics. 

Wilczek’s ten keys are labels of the known fundamental particles of physics.

  1. Electron
  2. Photon
  3. u quark
  4. d quark
  5. 3 kinds of neutrinos
  6. W boson
  7. Z boson
  8. Higgs particle

After a first listen, the choice of this review is to ignore proffered definitions by offering interesting and partially understood explanations of Wilczek’s keys to reality.  Wilczek explains the science of physics. 

Wilczek argues Physics reveals the truth of reality.

Wilczek suggests a scientist who understands and uses the known ten fundamental particles of physics can create whatever reality there is or may be.  However, that reality is a probabilistic future based on the experimentally proven “uncertainty principle”.  The quanta (the particles of physics) cannot be fixed by position and momentum to insure specific outcomes.  Reality is what it becomes, not what a scientist or anyone else designs by using the particles of physics.

At the level of atomism, reality is a matter of probability, not certainty.

Wilczek explains the science of physics revolves around mass, charge, and spin. Mass is revealed in Einstein’s equation of E=MC2 where energy, as well as an elephant or chair we sit on, is a form of mass and unreleased energy.  Charge is defined by the concept of negative or positive, and spin is either an up or down motion for particular fundamental particles.

Wilczek adds explanation of Einstein’s discovery of the bending of space from the force of gravity. 

Wilczek delves into the creation of the universe, the recognition of dark matter and energy and its use as a weak force that makes up 75% of the elementary particles of nature, though neither dark energy or mass has yet been seen by anyone.

Wilczek recounts the history of physics from ancient times of Democritus to Newton’s experiment and theory of force, to Einstein’s theories of light, mass, and energy, to Bohr’s spectrographic analysis of atoms, to the 21st centuries discovery of Higgs-Bosun.

Wilczek’s last chapter notes the value of complementarity in physics. Though Einstein insists there is a “theory of everything” that explains we live in a cause-and-effect’ world, he is unable to refute Bohr’s experimental proof of quantum physics.

At the level of atomism, probability rather than certainty is reality. Wilczek does not mean an elephant on a rampage will not destroy everything in its path but that atoms that make the elephant do function probabilistically. Reality is both probabilistic and deterministic. That is complementarity.

This is a book to be listened to more than once, particularly for one who is ignorant of higher mathematics and physics. The author’s story is not bogged down by explanations of those essential subjects that relate to understanding reality.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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