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Faster Than The Speed Of Light


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The story of the most radical idea to have been proposed in physics since Einstein's relativity - the suggestion that the speed of light may not be constant - by the scientist who first proposed it.

About the Author

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.


Physicists have long struggled to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics. While trying to solve "the cosmological problems," Portuguese physicist Magueijo (Imperial Coll., London) may have found a way to do so in a theory that allows the speed of light to vary. He gives fairly good explanations of the problems and why a variable speed of light (VSL) should solve them. Unfortunately, the young scientist (he's 35) seems to believe that a public forum means that he may voice every criticism that comes to mind. In many cases, he has grounds for complaint against the scientific establishment, but most of his characterizations come off more as personal attacks (he refers to the editor of Nature as a "first-class moron") than as sound, rational arguments for change. Further, his copious use of coarse language ("unlike most other quantum gravity scientists, Lee did not believe that God was about to give him a blow job") renders the book unsuitable for school libraries. Even a reader deeply interested in learning more may have difficulty getting through the tangle of venomous opining. Public and academic libraries should take into careful consideration the questionable balance between content and presentation and decide whether the merits of adding this undoubtedly valuable new scientific perspective outweigh the drawbacks of the author's unorthodox, sometimes offensive writing style.-Marcia R. Franklin, Academy Coll., Bloomington, MN Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Could Einstein be wrong and Magueijo right? Equally pressing for Magueijo, a lecturer in theoretical physics at London's Imperial College, is whether the physics editor at the preeminent science journal Nature is in fact "a first class moron" for rejecting his last paper. And did that cosmologist from Princeton steal his idea? What about all those hours wasted writing requests for funding from those "parasites," those "ex-scientists well past their prime" who dispense the monies that make contemporary science possible? Welcome to the world of career science, disclosed here in all its flawed brilliance. Magueijo's heretical idea-that the speed of light is not constant; light traveled faster in the early universe-challenges the most fundamental tenet of modern physics. Deceptively simple, the theory came to the author during a bad hangover one damp morning in Cambridge, England (many of the author's breakthroughs seem to arrive at unexpected moments, like while he's urinating outside a Goan bar). If true, Magueijo's Variant Speed of Light theory, or VSL, rectifies apparent inconsistencies in the Big Bang theory. Magueijo cunningly frames his journey with the stories of other famous, courageous heretics, notably Einstein himself, and one suspects an apologetics at work here. Magueijo, a 35-year-old native of Portugal, is opinionated and can seem immature and almost bratty in his diatribes against the banalities of academia or the hypocrisy and backbiting of peer review. But his science is lucidly rendered, and even his penchant for sturm und drang sheds light on the tensions felt by scientists incubating new ideas. This book shows how science is done-and so easily can be undone. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Magueijo tells the story...with passion and considerable verve, familiarising his readers with some of the hippiest ideas in modern science. * The Observer *
For its lucidity and persuasiveness, Joao Magueijo's book on cosmological thinking stands comparison with Simon Singh's Fermat's Last Theorem- a hip, raucous, hot-blooded, bilious and altogether bewitching expose of real science from the inside. * Daily Telegraph *
A highly readable account of the problems besetting modern cosmology and how they appear to be resolved by [his theory]. Better still, he gives an honest and revealing insight into what it's like to carry out scientific research * Guardian *
Like many of the best popular science books, this is not so much a definitive statement as a thrilling report from the front. There hasn't been a writer about science this bolshy since the young James Watson- Fascinating * Time Out *

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