Little, Brown and Company
December 12, 2005
The beginning of the twenty-first century is a watershed in modern science, a time that will forever change our understanding of the universe – and The Cosmic Landscape is the first book to illuminate the new paradigm.
Leonard Susskind is the renowned physicist who introduced the concept of string theory to the world of physical science. In doing so, he inspired a generation of physicists who believed that the theory would uniquely predict the properties of our universe. Now those string theorists find themselves stymied. The results don’t describe an “elegant universe” at all. But what they did discover is so surprising that it is rapidly changing the foundations of physics and cosmology.
The book is about one of the greatest scientific revolutions in history – as important to our understanding of the world as the great Darwinian debates. Physics and cosmology are split by a giant intellectual gulf, and the split is proving to be as bitter as any in the past. The question: how is it that the laws of nature are balanced so delicately on the knife-edge between the possibility and impossibility of life? The physical laws of our universe are perfectly calibrated for our existence – but why?
The argument is between two warring factions in science – those who believe that the laws of nature are determined by mathematical relations, which by mere chance happen to allow life, and those who believe that the laws have been determined by the requirement that intelligent life be possible. The bitterness and rancor of the controversy have crystallized around a single phrase – the Anthropic Principle – a hypothetical principle that holds that the universe is fine-tuned so that we can be here to observe it. Many physicists have worried that embracing the Anthropic Principle will spell an end to scientific progress, but in The Cosmic Landscape, Leonard Susskind shows how string theory, rather than reaching a dead end, has led to a vastly expanded concept of the universe, in which the contentious principle makes perfect sense.
Prepare to leave behind the narrow twentieth-century view of a unique universe and herald the cosmic landscape – a megaverse, pregnant with new possibilities.
Leonard Susskind is widely recognized as the father of string theory. He has been the Felix Bloch Professor in theoretical physics at Stanford University since 1978 and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.