Monday, November 28, 2005

Susskind's New Book

I have just ordered Leonard Susskind’s book: The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design.

I am interested to see how Susskind argues against fine-tuning. One thing that I am very happy about: he used the phrase “intelligent design” (yes, I realize he refers to it as an illusion.) I have always been annoyed that the term has been co-opted by the biologists.

Here is what Publishers Weekly has to say about Susskind’s book:
As modern physics has developed a better understanding of how the universe operates at its most fundamental levels, one thing has become increasingly clear: we're damned lucky to be here at all. The laws of physics are precariously balanced, and were the value of one constant slightly different, life as we know it wouldn't exist. To explain the ridiculous improbability of it all, some physicists have turned to the "Anthropic Principle": the universe seems perfectly tailored to us because if it weren't, we wouldn't be here to observe it. The underlying rationale for this argument involves the "landscape" of potential laws of physics (which, it turns out, aren't so immutable after all), a whole bunch of extra dimensions and lots of particle physics. Luckily, Susskind—the father of string theory—does the job right, guiding readers through the current controversy over the Anthropic Principle. Make no mistake: this is the cutting edge of physics as described by one of the sharpest scientific minds around. While the subtitle is a bit misleading (this isn't about intelligent design in the Kansas Board of Education sense, but actually a controversy at once bigger and less prominent), persistent readers will finish this book understanding and caring about contemporary physics in ways both unexpected and gratifying. (Dec. 12)
I like how they contrast cosmological ID to biological: “a controversy at once bigger and less prominent.” I couldn’t agree more.

I once attended a lecture by Susskind. In the middle he stopped, turned to the audience, and said: “I do great physics.”

Actually, he does. It will be interesting to see if he has something new and testable to use in the argument against fine-tuning, or whether it will be the same-old same-old metaphysical sleight-of-hand.

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