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Book Review: Ray Fleming, The 100 Greatest Lies in Physics

October 16, 2021
The 100 Greatest Lies in PhysicsThe 100 Greatest Lies in Physics by Ray Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If one ignores the dogmatic confidence at times of this author, still this book raises a fascinating question for me, what if the whole basis of modern physics is founded on lies? There are genuine areas where the physics is far from being as clearly decided as it has been made to seem in the popular science books and the mainstream accounts. Paradoxes of singularities, proliferations of fictional extra dimensions and extra particles, science fiction accounts of a multiverse, wormholes and virtual particles such as Tachyons.

Many of these things have emerged out of what could turn out to be one big mistake in the early 20th century, which was to take general relativity as describing curved empty space. From this all the madness has followed of big bangs, inflationary universes, and inconsistencies between quantum theory and relativistic physics. Perhaps, then, we should stop and think what if there is an alternate way to envisage these phenomena. A more popular approach among even some top physicists is to attempt a purely relational understanding of space and time. A project not achieved by Einstein’s efforts, but in fact ultimately abandoned in his scheme, despite common claims to the contrary. We can see these attempts in some of the works of Lee Smolin and Julian Barbour, for example. Another approach is to move towards a process view of reality or to a view of seeing things as all interconnected, which is more popular in the alternative areas of thought, as in Ervin Laszlo’s work and also in some mainstream physicists such as Carlo Rovelli.

In contrast to both of these directions, this book suggests that if space as being empty leads to paradox we simply must rejuvenate the idea of the Aether, of a plenum, filling physical reality. It is an ambitious suggestion, but this book does a good job making a strong case for this perspective, and it fits well with and shows understanding of some of the living areas of controversy in physics that have also been spotlighted by others, such as Roger Penrose and Paul Dirac in the past. This books offers a fresh perspective on physics, albeit a complicated one at times, that can reward the effort to understand it, alongside offering a damning condemnation of some of the institutionalised dogmas of mainstream physics that are hurting its reputation as a subject interested in deeper truth more than keeping up appearances.

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