The idea that the speed of light is a constant - at 186,000 miles per second - is one of the few scientific facts that almost everyone knows. That constant - c- also appears in the most famous of all scientific equations: e=mc2- Yet over the last few years, a small group of highly reputable young physicists have suggested that the central dogma of modern physics may not be an absolute truth - light may have moved faster in the earlier life of the universe, it may still be moving at different speeds elsewhere today. In telling the story of this heresy, and its gradual journey towards acceptance, Joao Magueijo writes as one of the three central figures in the story, introducing the reader to modern cosmology, to the implications of VSL (variable speed of light) and to the world of physicists. The initial rejection of Magueijo's ideas is beginning to give way to a reluctant acceptance that the young men may have a point - only the next few years will tell the final fate of this 'dangerous' idea.
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(198mm x 129mm x 17mm)
Arrow Books Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
The speed of light, as most scientists will tell you, is one of the foundations of modern physics: the eternal constant. Even to suggest a varying speed of light (VSL) is tantamount to committing academic suicide. Yet Joao Magueijo has spent much of his professional career doing just that. This is an elaborate cosmological detective story that takes the reader through the early work of Einstein and Hubble to the author's own struggles to get VSL recognized in an atmosphere of academic snobbery, intransigence and downright hostility. More than that, this is the story of an idea - possibly the most significant idea since Einstein's general theory. The possibility that the speed of light is not constant and that, specifically, it travelled faster in the early universe than it does now has staggering implications for the world of science. Magueijo's world is one in which cosmic strings can be used as 'fast lanes' for space travellers. His is an eternal universe powered by a perpetual sequence of big bangs. And this is what makes the book so bewitching. Should Magueijo be right then, his work doesn't just mean rewriting the books on cosmology, black holes and astrophysics but throwing them away and starting again from scratch. Whether posterity remembers VSL as one of science's great 'Eureka!' moments or another academic dead-end remains to be seen. What is indisputable is the power of Magueijo's ideas - conveyed with a passion, humour and an naturalness which will put even the most science-phobic readers at their ease. Faster Than The Speed of Light challenges, charms and compels. After all, how often do you get to read a book that really could change the world? (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Joao Magueijo
Born in Portugal and educated at the universities of Lisbon and Cambridge, Joao Magueijo (pronounced 'zhwow magwayzhoo) is Reader in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London, where he was for three years a Royal Society Research Fellow. He has been a visiting researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and Princeton University, and received his doctorate in Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. Faster than the Speed of Light is his first book.