What is space? It isn’t a question that most of us normally stop to ask. Space is the venue of physics; it’s where things exist, where they move and take shape. Yet over the past few decades, physicists have discovered a phenomenon that operates outside the confines of space and time. The phenomenon of nonlocality—the ability of two particles to act in harmony across the vastness of space—appears to be almost magical. Einstein grappled with this oddity and couldn’t make sense of it, describing it as “spooky action at a distance.” More recently, the mystery has deepened as other forms of nonlocality have turned up. This strange occurrence, which has direct connections to black holes, particle collisions, and even the workings of gravity, holds the potential to undermine our most basic understanding of physical reality. If space isn’t what we thought it was, then what is it?
In Spooky Action at a Distance, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, award-winning science writer George Musser sets out to answer that question, offering a provocative exploration of nonlocality and a celebration of the scientists who are trying to understand it. Musser guides us on an epic journey of scientific discovery into the lives of experimental physicists observing particles acting in tandem, astronomers finding galaxies that look statistically identical, and cosmologists hoping to unravel the paradoxes surrounding the big bang. He traces the often contentious debates over nonlocality through major discoveries and disruptions of the twentieth century and explains how scientists faced with the same undisputed experimental evidence develop wildly different explanations for that evidence. Their conclusions challenge our understanding not only of space and time but of the origins of the universe—and they suggest a new grand unified theory of physics. Delightfully readable, Spooky Action at a Distance is a mind-bending voyage to the frontiers of modern physics that will change the way we think about reality.
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