Space Oddities is subtitled The Mysterious Anomalies Challenging Our Understanding Of The Universe. I have become aware of several things that have scientists worried about whether Einstein was right or not. This seemed to at least gather them together for an interesting discussion. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC. It’s due out on March 28.

Space Oddities: The Mysterious Anomalies Challenging Our Understanding Of The Universe

by Harry Cliff

Newly discovered strangenesses could transform our understanding of the fundamentals of physics – and of the nature of reality. In this eye-opening account, CERN experimental physicist Harry Cliff takes the reader on a tour of a new universe . . .

Something strange is going on in the cosmos. Scientists are uncovering a catalogue of weird phenomena that simply can’t be explained by our long-established theories of the universe. Particles with unbelievable energies are bursting from beneath the Antarctic ice. Unknown forces seem to be tugging on the basic building blocks of matter. Stars are flying away from us far faster than anyone can explain.

In Space Oddities, Harry Cliff provides a riveting look at the universe’s most confounding puzzles. In a journey that spans continents, he meets the scientists hunting for answers, and asks: Are these anomalies accidents of nature, or could they be pointing us toward vast, hidden worlds?

With wonder, clarity, and a dose of humour, Cliff leads us on a a mind-expanding investigation of physics and cosmology as they transform before us. [netgalley: link to goodreads]

My Review

Space Oddities is modern science at work. It’s mostly to do with particle physics, but whilst that highly theoretical realm always leaves me feeling ‘does it matter?’ the link between our understanding of the universe and why the only current solution to the missing mass is ‘dark matter’ are things I find baffling.

No longer.

Harry Cliff discusses the most complex science debates in physics to give us lesser mortals a good chance of understanding it. Even if I could only cope with one chapter at a time, due to brain fatigue. He also writes in a way that turns the search for the elusive anomalies into a thriller – and a highly suspenseful enjoyable one (with nobody under sentence of death or a more gory fate). It would have been good to have the diagram of the Standard Theory earlier, though.

Does matter matter?

I did find myself wondering several times: but why does it matter? Why are we prepared to spend billions of dollars on extremely expensive kit that uses enormous amounts of substances extracted from the ground at huge environmental cost, then send billions of volts through them for years at a time to see what happens? The answer is partly that a huge number of academics are involved, and most governments like to support academics who might add prestige to their faltering political careers. What does it do to help you and me?

And then, you could say much the same about football (any version). Why does it matter? It’s the goal, the prize at the end…

Jargon for scifi authors!

On the other hand, I can see myself taking some of the particle theory jargon and inventing a faster-than-light engine for my science fiction stories, one in which ‘the muon adaptor has failed, Captain, we need to shield from the neutrinos’ would be at least plausible. Actually it wouldn’t, because I learnt that neutrinos go through us with hitting anything. Several million have gone through you as you read that. And, as we know from Star Trek, if you can imagine a fictional useful scientific instrument, it may not be that long until someone invents it. Come to think of it, Becky Chambers and Juliana Rew have a good understanding of these things and already bring them into their books to invent whole new worlds and sciences to go with them.

Book Review | Space Oddities by Harry Cliff
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3 thoughts on “Book Review | Space Oddities by Harry Cliff

  • 23 March, 2024 at 1:31 pm

    This sounds like a perfect primer for a sci fi story! And I know someone who would love this book!

  • 23 March, 2024 at 11:44 pm

    I can think of several people in my life who would enjoy this book. Possibly including me.

  • 3 April, 2024 at 2:23 pm

    The science is beyond me, but recently I spent far longer with the cloud chamber, Edinburgh, than any other museum exhibit that day…


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