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Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything
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Bloomsbury Publishing 2011
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Description

For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard‚-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade.

Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a profoundly human profile of Jim Carter, Wertheim's exploration of the bizarre world of fringe physics challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
11/01/2011
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780802778734
ASIN:
B005PWMGGO
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Margaret Wertheim. (2011). Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Margaret Wertheim. 2011. Physics On the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Margaret Wertheim, Physics On the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Margaret Wertheim. Physics On the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Margaret Wertheim is a science writer with degrees in physics and matchematics. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian, and is the author of Pythagoras' Trousers and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace. In her pioneering work in new methods of science communication, she founded the nonprofit Institute For Figuring, through which she organized the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project, a touring exhibition at the intersection of science and art.

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Physics on the Fringe
fullDescription

For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard‚-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade.

Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a profoundly human profile of Jim Carter, Wertheim's exploration of the bizarre world of fringe physics challenges our conception of what science is, how it works, and who it is for.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael Shermer
      • content: In an elegant narrative Ms. Wertheim has taken on one of the knottiest conundrums in the philosophy of science, the demarcation problem-that is, how to find criteria to define the boundary between science and pseudoscience... [A] splendid book.
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Review of Books
      • content: Margaret Wertheim's book discusses her encounters with natural philosophers. She is interested in them as characters in a human tragedy, with the seriousness and dignity that tragedy imposes.
      • premium: False
      • source: Discovery News
      • content: A rare peek into this world of alternative theories, that never loses sight of Carter's humanity — whether one accepts his theory or not.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
      • content: [An] entertaining and philosophically provocative new book.
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: With insight, wit, and warmth, Wertheim offers a look into the hearts and minds of the "outsider" physicists.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        August 8, 2011
        With insight, wit, and warmth, Wertheim (Pythagoras’ Trousers) offers a look into the hearts and minds of the “outsider” physicists: solitary figures who, usually with little or no formal training, strive to explain our world. Wertheim builds the book around the affable Jim Carter, explorer, self-taught physicist, trailer park owner, and proponent of circlon synchronicity, with atoms shaped like tiny circles of coiled spring. Carter is one of thousands of outsider theorists with their own books and papers often patterned “ an abundant use of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!!” Those included in this special breed of scientist feel alienated by accepted physics, from gravity to the space-time continuum. Often their work recreates or builds upon concepts proposed and discarded hundreds of years ago. A chapter is dedicated to A Budget of Paradoxes, a collection of alternative science theories compiled in the 18th century by mathematician Augustus De Morgan. NASA’s brief Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project even hoped to exploit outsider ideas, whereas the complex wonderland of mainstream string theories seems to echo the work of fringe theorists. Readers may hope for a deeper look into outsider theories past and present, but this sympathetic portrayal of one outsider’s work offers an entry point into a fascinating corner of pseudoscience.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        August 15, 2011

        Maverick science writer Wertheim (A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space, 2005, etc.) challenges the right of the scientific establishment to lay claim to the position of gatekeepers of truth.

        After receiving an undergraduate degree in physics, the author pursued a career as a journalist, writing a column on science for three fashion magazines including Vogue Australia. At that time, she began following the work of outliers in the field, and in 1994 she discovered Jim Carter, a central figure in this book. She admires his commitment to describe physics in terms a layman can comprehend without knowledge of higher mathematics. Carter rejects the theories of Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and Einstein, as well as quantum theory, in favor of his own view of the universe. Wertheim describes his theory that in this universe, "all matter and energy are explained by the mechanics of subatomic particles each one shaped like a circle of coiled spring." She compares his down-to-earth approach to physics with that of Richard Feynman when he demonstrated the brittleness of O-rings under freezing conditions. The author explains that she decided to write this book about "outsider physicists," whose work is off the beaten track, after attending a 2003 conference of mainstream physicists sponsored by the Institute of Theoretical Physics on the "bizarre, magical worlds" proposed by various String Theories. She contrasts this with a 2010 meeting sponsored by the Natural Philosophy Alliance—a group that offers fringe scientists an online platform where they can publish—attended by "dissident researchers" from around the world who presented more than 120 hotly debated papers—their own version of peer review.

        Although her enthusiasm for alternate science is controversial, Wertheim raises an important question with broader ramifications: Since "anyone can publish a theory of physics online, what can be, or will be, or should be, our criteria for credibility in this field?"

         

        (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 15, 2011

        What does it mean to be a scientific outsider and question contemporary paradigms? Wertheim (Pythagoras' Trousers; The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace) describes the historical background of several nontraditional ideas in this collection of outsider theories in physics, focusing on Jim Carter, creator of the Absolute Motion Institute, in the book's middle section. Rather than an expose, the book is an objective, compassionate look at those on the fringe--individuals with unconventional and potentially revolutionary ideas about the nature of the universe that challenge the status quo. The text's final section discusses the broader implications of the insular culture of theoretical science. Wertheim covers new ground in this treatment of how science is communicated and what it means for scientific ideas that aren't part of the discussion. Her previous work provides the best comparison with this one, as well as older historical works such as August De Morgan's A Budget of Paradoxes. VERDICT Both conversational and easy to read, this is an accessible guide to the world of the weird, although a bit long in the middle section and brief in the final. Both practicing and casual scientists will find value in the content. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.]--Elizabeth Brown, Binghamton Univ. Libs., NY

        Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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For the past fifteen years, acclaimed science writer Margaret Wertheim has been collecting the works of "outsider physicists," many without formal training and all convinced that they have found true alternative theories of the universe. Jim Carter, the Einstein of outsiders, has developed his own complete theory of matter and energy and gravity that he demonstrates with experiments in his backyard‚-with garbage cans and a disco fog machine he makes smoke rings to test his ideas about atoms. Captivated by the imaginative power of his theories and his resolutely DIY attitude, Wertheim has been following Carter's progress for the past decade.

Centuries ago, natural philosophers puzzled out the laws of nature using the tools of observation and experimentation. Today, theoretical physics has become mathematically inscrutable, accessible only to an elite few. In rejecting this abstraction, outsider theorists insist that nature speaks a language we can all understand. Through a...

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Physics on the Fringe Smoke Rings Circlons and Alternative Theories of Everything
crossRefId
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subtitle
Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything
publisher
Bloomsbury Publishing