Physicists spend a large part of their lives in a state of confusion. It’s an occupational hazard. To excel in physics is to embrace doubt while walking the winding road to clarity. The tantalizing discomfort of perplexity is what inspires otherwise ordinary men and women to extraordinary feats of ingenuity and creativity; nothing quite focuses the mind like dissonant details awaiting harmonious resolution.
But en route to explanation—during their search for new frameworks to address outstanding questions—theorists must tread with considered step through the jungle of bewilderment, guided mostly by hunches, inklings, clues, and calculations. And as the majority of researchers have a tendency to cover their tracks, discoveries often bear little evidence of the arduous terrain that’s been covered. But don’t lose sight of the fact that nothing comes easily. Nature does not give up her secrets lightly.
— Brian Greene in The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, first paragraph of Chapter 16. [Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2004].
Overall, I’ve been really enjoying this book for how it keeps my head in the space I need it to be in for my thesis. Sometimes I just open it randomly to read whatever I happen upon, and sometimes I scan for specific topics. I have almost made it all the way through sequentially, though, or at least I think I have. I might have to read it again, though, but that’s okay because I really have enjoyed all that I’ve read.
I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about spacetime and the current state of research (well, at least, up to 2004). I don’t think much has changed since then, except that the Large Hadron Collider is up and running, and it hasn’t (as of this blog post) found anything yet to prove or disprove any of the theories mentioned in this book (specifically: no Higgs particle has been found yet, no evidence of miniature black holes being formed, and no evidence of the extra dimensions required for string theory).