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JohnWittle comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: JohnWittle 03 April 2013 10:32:37PM *  2 points [-]

For someone who currently has a teacher's-password understanding of physics and would like a more intuitive understanding, without desiring to put in the work to obtain a technical understanding (i.e. learning the math), I would recommend Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos, which I feel does for physics (and the history of physics) what An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes Law does for Bayesian probability. It goes through history, starting with Newton and ending with modern day, explaining how the various Big Names came up with their ideas, demonstrates how those ideas can explain reality incrementally better than the previous ideas by using easy-to-envision thought experiments, and also contains a skippable explanation of the mathematic principles behind the new ideas for those who want that, although the book is valuable even without these sections. In this way, it's like a popular science book with an optional textbook component.

It has a couple weaknesses, like taking M-theory seriously, but in general I would say that it accomplishes its goal of imparting an intuitive understanding better than other popular physics books with similar goals, like Hawking's A Brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell, or Green's The Elegant Universe.

Comment deleted 04 April 2013 01:20:10PM [-]
Comment author: JohnWittle 04 April 2013 06:45:05PM 1 point [-]

As opposed to not elevating any particular hypothesis out of the hypothesis-space before there is enough evidence to discern it as a possibility. Privileging the Hypothesis and all that.

Comment author: whowhowho 04 April 2013 08:56:42PM 0 points [-]

The majority of physicists working on those kinds of questions are using some form of M-theory of string theory. The next nearest rival is Loop Quantum Gravity. Other theories are minority views. M-theory is favoured because milage can be got out of it in terms of research. The metaphor or a random grab into hypothesis-space isn't appropriate.

Comment author: JohnWittle 06 April 2013 07:40:35AM *  1 point [-]

Without knowing anything in particular about the difference between Quantum Loop Gravity or why M-theory is useful, I concede the point, although I'm a bit annoyed that I feel obligated to leave my comment there to collect negative karma while the parent, whoever they were, felt no similar obligation and removed any context my comment might be placed in.

Comment author: whowhowho 06 April 2013 01:26:00PM -2 points [-]

What? I really didn't understand that.

Comment author: JohnWittle 06 April 2013 05:34:02PM 1 point [-]

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston. That's the feel I got from it from whenever I read all the relevant Wikipedia articles, anyway. If it is not like phlogiston, but actually useful for designing experiments, then obviously I concede.

My annoyance came from the fact that my 06:45:05 comment got a few down votes, while the parent got deleted for reasons unknown. I can't remember who the parent was, or what it said, and it bothers me that they deleted their post, while I feel an obligation to not delete my own downvote-gathering comment for reasons like honesty and the general sense that I really meant what the comment said at the time, which makes it useful for archival purposes.

Comment author: whowhowho 06 April 2013 06:17:02PM -1 points [-]

To a non string theorist, string theory seems like a theory which makes few testable predictions, like phlogiston

it made testable predictions and was falsified for them. There are a lot of retrodictive and purely theoretical constraints on a candidate ToE, they have to be pretty good just to be in the running.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 10 May 2013 03:03:01AM 0 points [-]

it made testable predictions and was falsified for them

Do you have specific examples in mind?

Comment author: whowhowho 12 May 2013 02:42:09PM 0 points [-]

Phlogiston. Falsified because combusted materials gain weight.