Review of A Fortunate Universe by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes

Posted by in netgalley copy

After finishing a book about illegal Israeli settlements, I picked up my iPad and figured Hey, a book about cosmology won't be too taxing. I have a scientific mind with a math background. I'll be done this one faster than the inflationary period following the Big Bang.

... a week later ...

Physics is hard and my brain hurts! There's a reason I went into pure rather than applied mathematics. Applied stuff is just so dependent on seemingly arbitrary constants, which, kinda, is what A Fortunate Universe is all about -- varying seemingly little things (like slight gravitational things in quarks or how electrons do electrony things), and bam life over. Well, more like life-never-begun since most of the changes happen in the initial conditions of Big Band Land. As long as you're willing to believe Lewis and Barnes because they are physicists and (likely) you are not, the changes they propose give the consequences they suggest, since the maths (likely long and involving many DEs and renormalizations) are not included. So most of the book reads like "Change the spin of something and then hydrogen can't combine into heavier elements, so then there is no carbon, and then no us." And then there are random faux-conversations between Lewis and Barnes (including a fifty page one) to make the book more Socratic I suppose? As well as many supposedly endearing and cutesy footnotes to make sure we know that just because they are physicists, they aren't robots. Oh, and this:

Jerry Gergich: "Because I think comic sans always screams fun."

Many of the figures and equations in A Fortunate Universe are written in comic sans to make math more approachable or something. My eyes bleed.

So I learned lots of physics this week. Or I think I did. I realized I may have been mixing up photons and protons in my brain for a while, so that was helpful. And I appreciated how multiverses were presented (even if this was in the fifty page faux conversation): that they could be out there, but at such a distance that we can't currently see them, and moving away from us (or us from them) so that we will never see them. So all the universes could be out there, but like discrete dots we can never reach or see. I'd never thought of multiverses like that before.

A Fortunate Universe by Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes went on sale November 15, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.