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#1 physics book in France

  1. Jun 19, 2007 #1

    marcus

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    http://www.amazon.fr/Rien-va-plus-physique-théorie/dp/2100507028

    The French translation Smolin's book has a preface by ALAIN CONNES.

    It came on the market in late April 2007, but it didn't occur to me to check how it was selling. I imagine it went right to the top of the physics bestseller list, as it did in the UK about the same time.

    Anyway it was there today when I finally got around to checking. Salesrank was 975 among all books----and #1 among physics books

    http://www.amazon.fr/gp/bestsellers/books/302107/

    Since it has already been on the market for 2 months, and is no longer brand new, I don't expect it to stay consistently at the top, but it certainly does seem to be selling well.

    Rien ne va plus en physique ! : L'échec de la théorie des cordes
    de Lee Smolin (Auteur), Alain Connes (Préface), Alexeï Grinbaum (Traduction)
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2007 #2
    I managed to get a pdf copy of Connes' preface from the French editors (Dunod, Paris) just after the book came out. Nothing new there...
     

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  4. Jun 19, 2007 #3
    Not related to the thread, but worth pointing out I believe. Connes and Marcolli are currently working on a monograph "Noncommutative Geometry, Quantum Fields and Motives", a preliminary version of which can be downloaded here.
    Connes' warning: it's still under revision. I haven't had time to read much of it though :frown:
     
  5. Jun 20, 2007 #4

    marcus

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    Nitin, thanks for the copy! Having a preface by a French mathematician of Connes' stature will be a big plus for Smolin's book. I will print the preface out and will greatly enjoy reading it!


    UPDATE Wednesday 10:20 AM pacific
    I just checked and the French version of Trouble with Physics was the #2 physics bestseller in France, with amazon salesrank 1039 among all books. In case anyone is curious, the #1 physics bestseller at the moment is a translation of a Brian Greene book called
    La Magie du Cosmos which currently has salesrank 899.

    at 1:04 PM pacific Smolin's book was the #1 physics bestseller, with all-book salesrank of 503
    pretty good.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2007
  6. Jun 21, 2007 #5
    Connes' preface is sooo to the point : I'll translate most of it so that non french speakers get the idea :

    " For the last 25 years, String theory has focalised the efforts of theoretical physicists and numerous mathematicians...
    This has fueled for many years an extremely fruitfull relationship between pure mathematics and physical concepts.

    So, "where is the trouble ?". The problem, very well analysed by Smolin, comes from the ever increasing gap between the initial successes of the theory from a mathematical point of view, and the concrete physical results. And this despite heavy media coverage which keeps presenting as "truths" what are only ideas that have not yet received the approval of nature.

    I´ll give an example : I heard recently via the press that ST not only explains the Standard Model of particle physics, but also its interractions with gravity. So I wanted to check for myself, and went in June 2006 to an ST world conference in Cargese. I listened to the world's most reknowned specialists, and was stupefied to see that after having "cooked" tens of recipies in order to get to the preferred Calabi-Yau variety, the answer they were getting was looking very different from the standard model (eg. a Higgs pair per generation).

    Here is a real problem, because science does not progress without confrontation with reality. It is perfectly normal to give some time to what is still an immature theory to develop itself. However, it is not normal that this same theory has acquired a quasi-monopoly on theoretical physics, especially without having been confronted with any experimental results. It is unhealthy that this monopoly stops young scientists to choose other roads, and that its leaders are that much assured of its sociological domination as to affirm that " if another theory succeeds where we have failed, we'll just call it String theory" !

    ... nice...
     
  7. Jun 28, 2007 #6

    marcus

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    Chrisina, thanks so much for translating from Alain Connes preface into English for us!

    Connes is an enormously impressive figure. It speaks well for the French reading public that they know who he is, so that Smolin's publisher would want Connes to write the preface.

    I think his praise for Smolin's book has been a factor in its success in France.
    (that's probably a no-brainer, but should be pointed out anyway)

    I hadn't checked the Smolin book's standing in a long time and i just went back this morning to look.

    It had salesrank 512 which is quite good a serious science book and it was again NUMBER ONE on the French amazon physics bestseller list.
    For comparison, the most popular string book was salesrank 14,738 and didn't show up in the top 50 physics bestseller list.
    That was a 9 euro paperback 2005 edition of Brian Green L'Universe Elegant
    Smolin's book is a 23 euro hardcover edition.

    the standings change frequently so anyone interested might want to check for themselves
    http://www.amazon.fr/Rien-va-plus-physique-théorie/dp/2100507028/
    http://www.amazon.fr/LUnivers-élégant-Brian-Greene/dp/2070302806/
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2007
  8. Jun 29, 2007 #7

    marcus

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    Damn! that book is doing well!
    I just looked at the French physics bestseller list
    http://www.amazon.fr/gp/bestsellers/books/302107/
    and it was still the number one.

    the overall salesrank among all books was 471

    this blows me away. the French don't even have the string-monopoly problem, choking non-string research, that we have in the USA
    As far as I know they have a strong non-string QG programs forming a research network in four Universities---a much wiser diversification of funding bets.
    but even though they don't suffer from string dominance AFAIK they are still interested in the QG problem, maybe from a more general perspective, and so they are buying the book. great!

    ====30 june=====
    checked again a day later, salesrank 399
    as usual, number one on the physics bestseller list
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2007
  9. Jun 30, 2007 #8

    marcus

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    Incredibly the book is #178 in France at the moment, among all books.
    It continues to be the #1 bestseller in the physics category, which is not unexpected. but it must be selling remarkably well in absolute terms to be ranking that high in the entire market.
     
  10. Jul 5, 2007 #9

    marcus

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    Hadn't checked for a week or so, and just now looked
    still number one physics bestseller.
    hard to believe. the book came out in April
    it has been three months and still selling like icecreamcones on a hot day.
     
  11. Jul 6, 2007 #10

    nrqed

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    It feels sometimes like this board is more about politics than discussing physics and maths.:frown:
     
  12. Jul 17, 2007 #11

    marcus

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    I hadn't checked for over a week. Just now looked and saw,
    to my considerable pleasure, that "Rien ne va plus en physique" is still number one physics bestseller!

    the number two bestseller, BTW, was "La magie du cosmos"
    (translation of Brian Greene's Fabric of the Cosmos)
     
  13. Jul 23, 2007 #12

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  15. Jul 23, 2007 #14

    marcus

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    Thanks for the links, Ace. I am glad to see that the book is stirring up some controversy in France. Energetic discussion can add a lot to the book's sales and impact. I am not sure these critiques are actually very strong---they may generally be ignored---but perhaps every little bit helps.

    I will expand out your links to see if there is some possible fuel for controversy...
    http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.2536
    On Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics
    Jean-Paul Auffray
    6 pages
    (Submitted on 17 Jul 2007)

    "Lee Smolin's casual accounting of special and general relativity in The Trouble with Physics raises an interesting question: is it possible to develop a legitimate argument concerning string theories starting from a shaky basis? This is apparently what Lee Smolin succeeded in doing when he wrote The Trouble with Physics. The book's shortcomings are nevertheless troublesome."


    http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.1163
    Mathematics and "The Trouble with Physics", How Deep We Have to Go?
    Elemér E Rosinger
    (Submitted on 8 Jul 2007)

    "The parts contributed by the author in recent discussions with several physicists and mathematicians are reviewed, as they have been occasioned by the 2006 book "The Trouble with Physics", of Lee Smolin. Some of the issues addressed are the possible and not yet sufficiently explored relationship between modern Mathematics and theoretical Physics, as well as the way physicists may benefit from becoming more aware of what at present appear to be certain less than fortunate yet essential differences between modern Mathematics and theoretical Physics, as far as the significant freedom of introducing new fundamental concepts, structures and theories in the former is concerned. A number of modern mathematical concepts and structures are suggested for consideration by physicists, when dealing with foundational issues in present day theoretical Physics. Since here discussions with several persons are reviewed, certain issues may be brought up more than one time. For such repetitions the author ask for the kind understanding of the reader."

    =========================

    J-P Auffray, the first author, has some very complimentary things to say about the book. His main objection is that Smolin implies tangentially that Albert Einstein was the main person responsible for Special Relativity (Auffray thinks Poincaré should get more credit) and for General Relativity (Auffray thinks Marcel Grossman should get more credit).
    This is the "shaky" historical "basis" which bothers Auffray.
    But the focus of the book is post-Einstein---it is not really about events 1905-1915. So I would not consider that to be relevant criticism. More clutching at straws. Actually Auffray has some pretty nice things to say about the book's description of the present situation in physics.

    It is nice to see a French scientist/intellectual taking the book's message seriously enough to want to post an arxiv article about it---only three months after the release of the French edition.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2007
  16. Jul 23, 2007 #15
    will I understand Smolin's book if I am at string theory square 1? Is it still worth reading?
     
  17. Jul 23, 2007 #16

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    I'd say it was worth reading: I'm only about 50 pages in, but it's a very interesting book and, IMHO, Smolin definitely has a better writing style than many popular science writers out there. (And I know nothing technical about string theory, or any other theory of quantum gravity!)
     
  18. Jul 23, 2007 #17

    marcus

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    Sure! Smolin is great at making verbal imagery and analogy substitute for mathematical formalism. It doesn't take education background to read, understand, and enjoy the book. It takes some general intelligence---there are some deep ideas and it's not watered down for mass audience.

    the book is not pablum. Any smart interested person should be able to read it. I think it was written largely for fellow scientists, students, administrators, people in research funding branches of government. The aim was to get down to nitty gritty "tell it like it is" but to do that without relying on mathematical formalism and overly technical language.

    among other things it gives an appreciative and perceptive sketch of string history. You might really like the book---I suggest you give it a try.
     
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