The Third Culture

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Edge 77


As providing an insight into the nature of reality, and the nature of the physical universe, this whole area is really fascinating. I've thought a lot about it over the years, and I'm still undecided as to whether nature could never permit such a crazy thing, or whether yes, these entities, these wormholes, or some other type of gravitational system do at least in principle exist, and in principle one could visit the past, and we have to find some way of avoiding the paradox. Maybe the way is to give up free will. Maybe that's an illusion. Maybe we can't go back and change the past freely.
New Reality Club: Joseph Traub, Julian Barbour, Lee Smolin, Gregory Benford

TIME LOOPS [11.3.00]
A Talk with Paul Davies


The theoretical physicist Paul Davies works in the fields of cosmology, gravitation, and quantum field theory, with particular emphasis on black holes and the origin of the universe. A prolific and influential popularizer of physics, he has written more than a dozen books.

In recent years he has pursued an antireductionist agenda, making the case for moving both physics and biology onto "the synthetic path," recognizing the importance of the organizational and qualitative features of complex systems. He advocates a meeting of the minds between physicists and biologists, noting that complicated systems, whether biological or cosmological, are more than just the accretion of their parts but operate with their own internal laws and logic.

– JB

PAUL DAVIES is an internationally acclaimed physicist, writer and broadcaster, now based in South Australia. Professor Davies is the author of some twenty books, including Other Worlds, God and the New Physics, The Edge of Infinity, The Mind of God, The Cosmic Blueprint, Are We Alone? About Time and The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin of Life.

He is the recipient of a Glaxo Science Writers' Fellowship, an Advance Australia Award and a Eureka prize for his contributions to Australian science, and in 1995 he won the prestigious Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper meaning of science. The Mind of God won the 1992 Eureka book prize and was also shortlisted for the Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize, as was About Time in 1996. Davies has just been awarded the Kelvin Medal by the UK Institute of Physics for his success in bringing science to the wider public.

Further Reading on Edge:

"The Synthetic Path" in The Third Culture


A Talk with Paul Davies

DAVIES: I happen to be reading Michael Crichton's latest book, Timeline, one of a succession of books and movies that have come out over the last few years exploring the idea of time travel — it's not a new idea, it goes back a hundred years to H. G. Wells, probably even before that. The basic idea of a time machine, already captured in Wells's original story, is that it's possible to travel in time in much the same way that you can travel in space. It's easy to imagine building such a machine, throwing a lever and propelling yourself into the future or back into the past. Wouldn't that be fun! Wells already recognized the paradoxes that would occur if it's possible to travel backwards in time, although he didn't address them especially well. Traveling forward in time doesn't involve any sort of paradox, however, so long as the time traveller can't go back again to his original time.