Skip to main content

Unraveling the Universe’s Mysteries – Louis A. Del Monte **

As I have mentioned before, we are distinctly fussy about taking on self-published books, but made an exception in this case. ‘Unraveling’ combines an exploration of the currently accepted cosmology with some speculative alternative physics ideas and even a quick discussion of the existence of God.
Although I was prepared to set aside an aversion to self-publication, it does show through quite strongly in this book, and I ought in all fairness to mention the bad side of this first. Like almost all self-published books, the print layout on the page looks wrong – more like a Word document than a book. This isn’t insuperable, but mildly irritating. What’s worse is that it is very clear that the book hasn’t been professionally edited (or if it has, the author should get his money back). There are far too many errors. So, for instance, when talking about string theory, at one point it is sting theory, and at another spring theory. Professor Ronald Mallett, who is discussed at some length, quite often only had one ‘t’ in his name. And so it goes on.
Putting that aside, what we get here is a combination of a quite reasonable introduction to the big bang and string/M theory with some personal speculation from Mr Del Monte and an interesting exploration of some ‘mysteries that still baffle modern science.’ I ought to divide this into three: how well Del Monte does at explaining the basic science, how readable the book is, and what to think of Del Monte’s original theories.
Most of the basic science is good and some is reasonably well explained. The author is a lot better on cosmology than he is on quantum theory and relativity, which can be rather confusing in the way they are covered, but overall it’s a workmanlike job. What is slightly worrying is that the author doesn’t seem to understand special relativity, as he suggests that the ‘twins paradox’ is presented as only being an illusion, because the effect is symmetrical. This runs counter to even undergraduate level physics – in any special relativity textbook it is clearly explained why the twins paradox is real and not an illusion because the symmetry is broken – one twin is accelerated and the other isn’t. That’s worrying.
As for the readability, the book starts off pretty well in an approachable, quite chatty fashion, but it suffers from not having any clear structure, jumping episodically from chapter to chapter, and there is no evidence that the author has any great expertise in science communication. There’s nothing particularly new in the basic science here, and there are plenty of other books on cosmology and string/M-theory that do the job of getting them across better.
We are left with the author’s own theories. I have a problem here. I have no issue with a working scientist with academic standing presenting their own, speculative theories. However when someone without appropriate credentials does so, it is worrying. Del Monte has a masters in physics and then spent his working life as an engineer. Nothing wrong with this, but it does not make him a ‘physicist’ as he is described, and it does not give a great deal of weight to his theories. To be fair I am not saying that they are in the typical ‘Einstein was wrong, my new theory shows why’ fruit-loopery class. There is some interesting reasoning here – but I am not qualified to say if there is anything of interest, and neither, really is Del Monte.
Taking all this into account, this isn’t a bad book, but the combination of self published, poorly edited, not brilliantly written, and combining nothing that isn’t done better elsewhere on standard cosmology with some pet personal theories does not make it one I can recommend either.
Paperback:  
Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lost in Math - Sabine Hossenfelder *****

One of my favourite illustrations from a science title was in Fred Hoyle's book on his quasi-steady state theory. It shows a large flock of geese all following each other, which he likened to the state of theoretical physics. In the very readable Lost in Math, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the way that in certain areas of physics, this is all too realistic a picture. (Hossenfelder gives Hoyle's cosmological theory short shrift, incidentally, though, to be fair, it wasn't given anywhere near as many opportunities to be patched up to match observations as the current version of big bang with inflation.)

Lost in Math is a very powerful analysis of what has gone wrong in the way that some aspects of physics are undertaken. Until the twentieth century, scientists made observations and experiments and theoreticians looked for theories which explained them, which could then be tested against further experiments and observations. Now, particularly in particle physics, it…

Gravity! - Pierre Binétruy ****

I had to really restrain myself from adopting the approach taken by The Register in referring to Yahoo! by putting an exclamation mark after every word in the text when faced with reviewing Gravity! One thing to be said about the punctuation, though, is it makes it easier to search for amongst a whole lot of books on gravity and gravitational waves (the subtitle is 'the quest for gravitational waves') since their discovery in 2015.

Despite the subtitle, Pierre Binétruy gives us far more - in fact, gravitational waves don't come into it until page 160, which makes it really more of a book about gravity with a bit on gravitational waves tacked on than a true exploration of the quest. 

However, those early pages aren't wasted - Binétruy gives us plenty of detail on all kinds of background, for example plunging in to tell us about element synthesis, something you wouldn't expect in a book on gravitational waves. I also really liked a little section on experiments you can…

Brain Based Enterprises - Peter Cook ****

A quick flag on this one: it's a management/business book, and the four star rating is with that in mind. Brain Based Enterprises does contain a surprising amount of science, considering this, which is why it's here, but don't expect it to be like a four star pure science book.

This is an eclectic attack on the status quo of our ideas about business. Peter Cook suggest that much of current business simply isn't oriented to the realities of a modern, technological world, and that we need to handle things very differently in a knowledge-based economy.

The book is divided into three sections. For me, the most interesting was the first 'brainy people' part, as my own business doesn't have teams and such - but for those who do there are also 'brainy teams' and 'brainy enterprises' sections. Cook stirs together a heady mix of science - from psychology to economics - music (a passion of his and a significant part of the way he works) and business the…