Wednesday 13 June 2012

Book Review: "The Cosmic Code" by Heinz R. Pagels

I bought this book because it was yet another pop-sci theoretical physics book released in 2012.
It is actually a reprint of the original from 1982.
I felt disappointed as I felt that it was unlikely that I would learn anything new from a 40 year old book on such a dynamic subject.

I was wrong.
Very wrong.

The book is broken down into 3 parts.

Part I is the obligatory historical basics of Quantum theory.
Part II covers the detail of the specifics of the heart of the matter (if you will oblige me).
Part III is a personal take at the end of which I wept at the sheer beauty of it all.

No massive formulas. Just plain talk.

For example, he devotes chapters to Quarks, Leptons, Gluons, Fields, Vacuum Invariances as well as my favorite: Gauge Field Theory. Each has a plain talk explanation without the breathless enthusiasm of Greene. Each shows details and data which had my mind stand up and go "Woah! I didn't know that."

The explanation of the reasoning behind the dispute over EPR and Bells Theorem are cases in point. The invisible cross-correlation that is rooted in the fact that the defining factor that makes human human, is not opposable thumbs, but massively effective (and sometimes faulty) pattern matching and (sometimes faulty) abstract reasoning.

His discussion of Gauge Field Theory and his general discussion about fields in general cleared up several nagging issues I had. Nice.

I was sad to find out he died in 1988 ( in a climbing accident at the age of 49. Given the last words of this book this fact has me in tears right now. But there is a certain joy in me because of the very last line of the very last paragraph of the very last chapter:
"As I continued to fall into the dark void, embraced by the vault of the heavens, I sang to the beauty of the stars and made my peace with the darkness."
Thoroughly recommended.

I go weep now.

1 comment:

  1. That was a good review. Fitting tribute to the emotional ending of the book as well as eeri coicidence of the author's death.