The Universe Within | Neil Turok

I love scientists who make physics comprehensible. After hearing Neil Turok interviewed on Quirks & Quarks, I knew that I needed to read his Massey Lectures.

In The Universe Within, Turok covers every scale imaginable. He is equally at home explaining quantum mechanics and the vast scope of the universe. Despite this book being a collection of public lectures, Turok doesn’t overly dumb down his material. There were moments in the book where I reread a few paragraphs and was thankful for the paper copy! This is especially true when Turok elucidates the formula that describes everything that modern physics understands about, well, everything!

There are many good popular physics books on the shelf. This book is set apart by Turok’s humanity. He has a deep connection to Africa and has worked diligently to set up advanced physics schools where people who wouldn’t have a hope of travelling abroad to study at MIT or Oxford can research. His excitement at the thought of mobilizing the minds of the overlooked developing world is contagious.

Another pleasantly surprising element of the book was his little swipe at the new atheists. He quotes philosopher David Albert’s response to Dawkin’s harpooning of religion (in an afterword to Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing). “All that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don’t know, dumb” (247).

I don’t know what Turok’s religious views are (his respect for Pierre Teilhard de Chardin makes me wonder) but his respect for mystery and discovery is inspirational.


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