Includes bibliographical references (p. 469-489) and index.
Fashion. Mathematical elegance as a driving force ; Some fashionable physics of the past ; Particle-physics background to string theory ; The superposition principle in QFT ; The power of Feynman diagrams ; The original key ideas of string theory ; Time in Einstein's general relativity ; Weyl's gauge theory of electromagnetism ; Functional freedom in Kaluza-Klein and string models ; Quantum obstructions to functional freedom? ; Classical instability of higher-dimensional string theory ; The fashionable status of string theory ; M-theory ; Supersymmetry ; AdS/CFT ; Brane-worlds and the landscape -- Faith. The quantum revelation ; Max Planck's E = hv ; The wave-particle paradox ; Quantum and classical levels : C, U, and R ; Wave function of a point-like particle ; Wave function of a photon ; Quantum linearity ; Quantum measurement ; The geometry of quantum spin ; Quantum entanglement and EPR effects ; Quantum functional freedom ; Quantum reality ; Objective quantum state reduction : a limit to the quantum faith? -- Fantasy. The Big Bang and FLRW cosmologies ; Black holes and local irregularities ; The second law of thermodynamics ; The Big Bang paradox ; Horizons, comoving volumes, and conformal diagrams ; The phenomenal precision in the Big Bang ; Cosmological entropy? ; Vacuum energy ; Inflationary cosmology ; The anthropic principle ; Some more fantastical cosmologies -- A new physics for the universe? Twistor theory : an alternative to strings? ; Whither quantum foundations? ; Conformal crazy cosmology? ; A personal coda -- Appendix A. Mathematical appendix. Iterated exponents ; Functional freedom of fields ; Vector spaces ; Vector bases, coordinates, and duals ; Mathematics of manifolds ; Manifolds in physics ; Bundles ; Functional freedom via bundles ; Complex numbers ; Complex geometry ; Harmonic analysis.
"What can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe? Surely, theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy? In fact, acclaimed physicist and best-selling author Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are just as susceptible to these forces as anyone else. In this provocative book, he argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of the field's most important areas--string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology ... The result is an important critique of some of the most significant developments in physics today from one of its most eminent figures."--Jacket.
Winner of 2017 PROSE Award in Chemistry & Physics, Association of American Publishers 2017