By Chet Yarbrough
Fundamentals: Reality Is Not What It Seems
By: Carlo Rovelli, Translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
Narrated by: Roy McMillan
Carlo Rovelli (Writer, Italian theoretical physicist specializing in quantum gravity and loop quantum gravity theories.)
Carlo Rovelli is an optimist. He suggests reality “…Is Not What It Seems” but will be revealed by scientific inquiry. It will not be revealed by time because time does not exist. Reality does not lie in infinity but in the revelations of physics research and fundamental laws discovered by scientists from future information.
Rovelli argues information holds the key to unlock the door to reality. That seems simplistic but Rovelli implies the advent of the information age in conjunction with technology multiplies the creation of information. He argues more information is the sine non qua of reality.
The focus of physics today is on understanding quantum gravity and melding quantum physics with Newton’s and Einstein’s understanding of the forces and elemental particles of nature. Rovelli believes the answer lies with loop quantum gravity theory. Others believe the answer is string theory.
The difference is that Rovelli believes gravity is not a force like vibrating strings but a feature of spacetime based on packets of granular space that travel within a Planck length. It has its own atomic structure. This granular space is made of a woven fabric of loops that create a spin network that creates a foam that constitutes gravity.
Whether strings or loops, Paul Dirac believed all fundamental particles of physics have been discovered and physics’ science must correlate that information with the mysteries of dark matter and energy to explain gravity’s role in the cosmos. Though one may have read this in a biography of Paul Dirac, Dirac is considered the heir and equal of Einstein.
What makes Rovelli’s book interesting is his optimism. It is an optimism grounded in his experience as a physicist. (Parenthetically, that makes it a mixed blessing to a dilatant of the subject.) Parts of Rovelli’s book are difficult to follow. However, the history of physics pioneers that are less well know to the public are revelatory.
Matvei Petrovich Bronstein (1906-1938, Executed by Stalin, Soviet theoretical physicist, a pioneer of quantum gravity.)
Matvei Perovich Bronstein is executed by Stalin. Rovelli notes Bronstein’s brilliance as a physicist is revealed in his theory of quantum gravity. He was executed because he protested the Stalinist interpretation of Leninism.
Rovelli helps one understand why time does not exist and that creation of infinity as an answer to an unknown physics anomaly is wrong. To Rovelli, the idea of infinity just means one does not know the answer.
Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906, Austrian physicist and philosopher, developed statistical mechanics, defined entropy.).
Rovelli notes time, as Einstein proves, is relative. Rovelli suggests time is just the function of heat entropy as discovered by Ludwig Boltzmann in the second law of thermodynamics.
Time might be defined as a rock that hits the ground. It creates heat that dissipates by transferring its heat energy to the ground. Time is like a marker for heat that dissipates. To Rovelli, infinity is simply an unanswered question in physics that will be answered with more information.
Rovelli gives another peek at the complexity of the science of physics. He writes with as much clarity as the subject will allow for a non-scientist.