Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth. Jim Baggott. Pegasus, $ (p) ISBN. Two writers argue that modern science needs to get a grip on reality, rejecting ‘ timeless’ theories of the universe and the ‘fairytale’ physics of. It’s always good when a book of popular science has a clear line to argue, and Jim Baggott’s line is very clear indeed: modern physics has.

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Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Farewell to Reality by Jim Baggott. In this stunning new volume, Jim Baggott argues that there is no observational or experimental evidence for many of the ideas of modern theoretical physics: These theories are not only untrue, it is not even science.

It is fairy-tale physics: This book provides a much-needed antidote. Informed, comprehensive, and balanced, it offers lay readers the latest ideas about the nature of physical reality while clearly distinguishing between fact and fantasy. With its engaging portraits of many central figures of modern physics, including Paul Davies, John Barrow, Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, and Leonard Susskind, it promises to be essential reading for all readers interested in what we know and don’t know about the nature of the universe and reality itself.

Hardcoverpages. Published August 1st by Pegasus Books first published January 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Farewell to Realityplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Aug 04, Manny rated it really liked it Recommends it for: People skeptical of modern physics.

Increasingly often, modern science is being attacked by people accusing it of failing to honor its own rules. The opening salvo was Smolin’s The Trouble with Physicswhich caused some damage; it was taken seriously within the scientific establishment and widely read outside it. Other authors attempting to do the same thing have been less successful. Non-experts found Woit’s Not Even Wrong too mathematical and demanding; Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion was written off as creationist propa Increasingly often, modern science is being attacked by people accusing it of failing to honor its own rules.

Non-experts found Woit’s Not Even Wrong too mathematical and demanding; Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion was written off as creationist propaganda; Kragh’s elegant and meticulous Higher Speculations somehow failed to have an impact; and Unzicker’s Bankrupting Physics came across as an ignorant rant. But I have a feeling that Baggott is about to score another hit.

He has worked as a scientist himself, appears well acquainted with the facts, writes nicely, and presents his material in a balanced and responsible way. The book is divided into two halves. He considers numerous cases from the history of science and philosophy, and concludes that it is hard to frame clear general rules. The borderline between physics and metaphysics is not as sharply defined as one would wish quantum mechanics, or for that matter Newton’s idea of absolute spaceand it is not straightforward to define what it means for a theory to be empirically testable it was surprising that Dirac’s ideas about anti-matter were soon validated, and experts believed for a long time that no one would ever be able to detect neutrinos.


Nonetheless, he argues that there is broad agreement on what constitutes normal scientific reasoning, even if there is a substantial gray area around it. He then spends four chapters presenting an overview of modern physics, concentrating on the fields where controversy has arisen: In the final chapter of the first half, he explains why the currently accepted mainstream picture must be incorrect or incomplete: In the second half, Baggot goes on to talk about the speculative attempts physicists have made over the last 40 years to address known gaps: He argues that these are, simply, not science as it is generally known: When the whole shaky tower is complete, we have the theoretical edifice which Susskind presents in The Cosmic Landscape.

Superstring theory no empirical support builds on supersymmetry no empirical supportand gives rise to the vast Cosmic Landscape of different potential variant theories no empirical support. Eternal inflation no empirical support means that all these different variant universes actually exist. The Anthropic Principle according to Baggott, not even a scientific ideathen allows us both to argue that we have a solution to the fine-tuning problem, andsimultaneously, to claim that the fact that the fine-tuning problem has been solved somehow validates the other links in the chain; circular reasoning at its finest.

I had the same reaction as Baggott when I read Susskind’s book: I was startled by Susskind’s assertion that the choice was between the Landscape and some version of Intelligent Design, and even more startled to see Richard Dawkins endorsing it. Baggott doesn’t like ID any better than Susskind or Dawkins do, but he is is equally unimpressed by the Landscape.

He honestly says that he doesn’t know what the answer is. Over the last years, science has had an incredible track record of explaining the physical world without recourse to supernatural explanations, and one would expect it to succeed here too.

So far, though, it’s completely unclear how it’s going to manage that feat. The universe looks like it has been designed, but no one knows why, and the people who say they do know are the ones you should trust least. If you haven’t yet got involved in this fascinating debate, Baggott’s book is an excellent place to start.

View all 77 comments. Aug 10, Joseph rated it really liked it Shelves: Baggot is currently a freelance science writer. A graduate of Manchester with a degree in chemistry and a PhD in physical chemistry from Oxford he was a lecturer at the University of Reading. He is the author of several books on quantum physics and reality.

Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth by Jim Baggott

There has been an explosion in Physics for the common man, or baggort least the lay person that choos Farewell to Reality: There has been an explosion in Physics for the common man, or at least the lay person that chooses relaity follow.

I was amazed at book about quantum physics that I could follow. Earlier I picked up a book on String Theory and I was thoroughly discouraged as the book was entirely mathematical equations.

Times changed for the better. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time made physics popular again. But is popular good? Since then the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel have kept the general public up to date and tarewell. It’s is actually surprising how many people actually knew something out the Higgs particle last year.


Documentaries baggtt physics, reality, time, and quantum mechanics are all readily available and constantly updated.

Baggott writes a clear introduction with a list of items he would like the reader to think about and follow along with as they read the book. He traces science from the observable to the purely mathematical.

Along the way he explains the corrections made to theories and scientific thought. The idea of what is reality comes into play and does science actually describe reality. Reality can be a matter of perspective. Plato’s cave allegory is an excellent example of reality. From the prisoners view, the shadowy images are reality yet for everyone else it is not. Einstein introduced the world to the idea that time and space were not constant, only the speed of light is constant.

Numerous thought experiments were made, but still, empirical observation supported these predictions. Relativity was, and is, difficult but, all in all, not mind blowing. The Standard Model again is difficult, but has a beauty in it: Then came the discovery of more particles and the need to explain them, Super Symmetry, Sting Theory, additional dimensions, Multiverses.

We have gone from elegant and empirical to seemingly impossibly complex and untestable. Just because mathematics can provide a solution, is it necessarily the right right solution; more importantly which of the several mathematical conclusions is right There comes a point when science loses touch with empirical world.

Baggott uses the term fairy tale. I can see the direct relation to what he is say.


Without empirical data or proof, what separates science from metaphysics or religion? Modern physics seems to have abandoned the scientific method and pursued unobservable, baggktt, and unfalsifiable science: Perhaps it’s the popular science selling itself to the mass market, where popular is better selling than factual.

Selling the idea on a holographic universe is more profitable than being right. Has sensationalism taken over modern science?

Baggott gives his views in this book. Farewell to Reality is doing for science what Zealot is doing for religion. It is setting up a challenge and creating controversy. Baggott’s book is a bit deeper than popular science books like A Brief Naggott of Time. Rather than fame or fortune Baggot wants to save science. He presents a clear and well written book. The realify is well cited and almost 40 pages of documentation are provided.

Farewell to Reality is an excellent book jij the science minded. It may be a bit difficult for those without a science or a physics background. View all 4 comments. Baggott certainly has an agenda. This book is a summary of the present state of physics and he shows it is riven by methodological and epistemological difficulties.

As far as we have tested, General Relativity and Quantum Gravity are both very good at explaining the world we raelity around us and some bits we dont! One of them or both?