Faster Than the Speed of Light
Joao Magueijo
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Buy *Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation* online

Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation
Joao Magueijo
288 pages
February 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Fundamental theories of science that are initially beyond the comprehension of the masses later revolutionize their very thinking. It is also true that discoveries and theories once thought to be the ultimate answers to the understanding of nature and universe may change radically or get overthrown by newer inquiries. A classic example is the Theory of Relativity, which outdated Newtonís theories, which in turn threw out Aristotleís concepts. Common manís comprehension of some of the major scientific developments of the twentieth century got limited due to increased mathematical content. Thus, explaining hardcore topics like Relativity and Quantum Theory to the masses demanded not only a thorough grasp of the subject but also the ability to present in language comprehendible to them. Only a select few in the scientific community seem to be gifted with such talents.

Through his book Faster Than The Speed of Light, Joao Magueijo, the Portugal-born Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Imperial College, London, makes an excellent contribution in this direction. This book brings to the masses the exciting knowledge of the concepts of Relativity, Speed of Light and the Expanding Universe in a near-fiction style. Right from the start the reader is glued to the book as the author unfolds the physical wonders, the intricacies and the controversies contained in these subjects. His wit and unconventional outlook, coupled with the lucidity of exposition, makes this book a wonderful reading and a good addition to your shelf.

When any theory sinks into the minds of people over a period of time, a state of inertia tends to develop. Even the scientific community gets drawn into a dogmatic slumber until prodded by daring, unconventional ideas. Challenging the universally accepted axiom of the constancy of the Speed of Light cannot just be a "kite flying" exercise and can indeed be suicidal in the career of a budding physicist. Magueijo narrates how his speculations on Varying Speed of Light (VSL), as it evolved, compelled him to explain in detail the very ideas which his theory contradicts, notwithstanding that such earlier ideas have emerged from one the greatest minds and has stood the test of time for a century. No wonder when Magueijo ventured to put forward his new idea Ēpeople shook their heads and said Ė shut up and donít be stupid."

But just the fact that he dared such a venture makes his book worth reading. The self-trust, conviction and vigor with which the author advocates his new theory has also brought into the limelight many different theories, old and new, that question the constancy of the speed of light -- the very foundation of all Einsteinís theories. Magueijo concedes that his VSL Theory is still within the maelstrom of scientific inquiry. He, however, hopes that his theory as well as the variants propounded by others may soon reveal subtle effects which are amenable for experimentation Ė the final verdict that makes or mars the veracity of any theory. And what if his VSL theory is proved wrong? Magueijo has a ready answer: ďIíll just try again with something even more radical, because itís the process of losing oneself in jungle that makes science worth doing."

Although a brash young physicist with a mathematically sharpened brain and a totally unconventional approach in life, Jošo Magueijo is a natural storyteller. He virtually paints the abstractness of mathematical theories for an easy view by the reader. His personal anecdotes and the impulsive utterances peppering his writing add spices of taste and flavor to make the reading enjoyable. Faster Than the Speed of Light reminds one of Richard Feynmanís What Do You Care What Other People Think. We can also perhaps ask Jošo - "Surely, you're joking, Mr. Magueijo."

© 2003 by K.S. Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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