Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: A Tear at the Edge of Creation

This book kept me at the edge of my seat. Like an exciting ballgame, "A Tear at the Edge of Creation" kept me in suspense. Who's gonna win? The Unifiers? Or the Breakers? Like an expert commentator, Marcelo Gleiser explained both sides well. However, he has chosen one team to cheer for.

Once, he was a unifier himself. But after a long intellectua-scientific journey, Marcelo Gleiser now argues that the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), or the Final Truth is a construction of the human mind, a monotheistic myth that has inspired brilliant minds like Thales, Kepler, Einstein and so many others, with little support in physical reality.

First he would tell of the wonderful elegant patterns in nature, but then suddenly point out an anti-pattern in the next instant. He would explain the Symmetry of our universe in masterful language and then destroy it with Asymmetries on the next page.

The "Unifiers" are reductionists. They search for a law of nature that is simple and true. The author argues that the notion of a Theory of Everything (TOE) is a cultural one. It is the scientific counterpart of the monotheistic religions. He says, "Why insist on relating Oneness with beauty? Isn't it time to celebrate a different kind of beauty, one inspired by the imperfections of Nature?" This thought somewhat resonated with an old thought I posted a few years ago.

So he proposes on focusing on the imperfections of nature, rather than the search for ultimate harmonies or perfection. He points out the rare circumstances in the universe that led to our existence. That makes us special. It creates a new purpose for humankind. He shouts, "Humans! Wake up and save life with all that you have! Life is rare. Treasure it, worship it, make it last, spread it across the Universe."

This book is great because I've learned so many things from it, and found patterns I never saw before. It gave me insights that give a deeper understanding about some underlying mystery of our universe. Some of them are as follows.

The universe is polarized: There are more right-handed people than left-handed ones (like me and Marcelo). There are more matter versus anti-matter. On a molecular level, Life is left-handed (chirality). Without these imperfections, or imbalance, we would not be here at all. Phase Transition: the universe underwent a phase transition similar to water turning from liquid to ice when the temperature is lowered.

Only one tiny detail bugs me about Marcelo's idea right now. He roots for the absence of Magnetic Monopoles that break Symmetry. But it was finally detected in 2009. So, i guess it's a score for the Unifiers.

What I can say now after reading this book is that, previously I seek for patterns through eyes that are tainted with the Unifier's lens. Now I intend to see things in a more balanced way. Seeing the quips of nature as well, alongside the inherent order and symmetry.