Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation

 
9781422358832: Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation
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According to orthodox physics, as enshrined in Einstein s Special Theory of Relativity, light travels at one speed & one speed only -- it is one of nature s constants. This idea is considered sacred & is one of the foundations of modern physics. But what if it s wrong? In this remarkable & fascinating book, Joao Magueijo puts forward an extraordinary speculation -- that light traveled faster in the early universe than it does today. Tracing the story of this revolutionary idea from its conception, this book tells of one man s quest to decipher the true nature of the universe, providing a first glimpse of 21st-century physics, as well as providing a fascinating & revealing insight into the reality of how science is done. Black & white illustrations.

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Review:

Among physicists, it is widely assumed that one's greatest chance for a breakthrough discovery will come before one reaches the age of 30. True or not, this idea leads young physicists such as João Magueijo to pull out all the intellectual stops in the search for glory and immortality. In Faster Than the Speed of Light, Magueijo reveals the short, brilliant history of his possibly groundbreaking speculation--VSL, or Variable Light Speed. This notion--that the speed of light changed as the universe expanded after the Big Bang--contradicts no less prominent a figure than Albert Einstein. Because of this, Magueijo has suffered more than a few slings and arrows from hidebound, jealous, or perplexed colleagues. But the young scientist persisted, found a few important allies, and finally managed to shake up the establishment enough to get the attention he merited and craved. Magueijo begins the book with a suitably accessible explanation of special and general relativity, then moves on to the ideas that laid the groundwork for VSL. In the process, he rips the doors off of scientific academia and airs quite a bit of dirty laundry. Comparing himself to Einstein throughout the book, Magueijo approaches his topic and its dissemination with cocksure genius, expecting readers to sympathize with him as he battles to win favor. And we do. The scientific process is "rigorous, competitive, emotional, and argumentative," writes Magueijo. His theory could knock down two solid pillars of cosmology--inflation and relativity. Not only does his radical notion deserve a trial by fire, it also deserves a champion like Magueijo, who isn't afraid of the flames. --Therese Littleton

About the Author:

João Magueijo is a lecturer in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London, where he was for three years a Royal Society Research Fellow. He has been a visiting researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton University, and received his doctorate in Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University. Magueijo was featured in a British television documentary, "Einstein's Biggest Blunder," which was broadcast last year. Visit the author's website at http://theory.ic.uk/~magueijo/.

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