Davies, Paul 1946- (P. C. W. Davies, Paul Charles William Davies)
Davies, Paul 1946- (P. C. W. Davies, Paul Charles William Davies)
Born April 22, 1946, in London, England; son of Hugh and Pearl Davies; married Susan Woodcock, July 27, 1972; children: Caroline, Victoria, Annabel, Charles. Education: University College, London, B.Sc. (first-class honors), 1967, Ph.D., 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Traditional and contemporary art, World War II history, politics, economics, geography.
Office—Director of Beyond, Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 876505, Tempe, AZ 85287-6505. Agent—John Brockman, Brockman, Inc., 5 E. 59th St., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected]
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, educator, and writer. Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, Fellow of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, 1970-72; University of London, King's College, London, England, lecturer in mathematics, 1972-80; University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, professor of theoretical physics, 1980-90, head of department, 1980-87; University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, professor of mathematical physics, 1990-93, professor of natural philosophy, 1993-97, retired; Imperial College, London, visiting professor; Beyond, Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, director. Also participated in numerous television and radio science shows, including helping to prepare two six-part Australian series, The Big Questions and More Big Questions, and a 2003 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary about his work in astrobiology titled The Cradle of Life.
Institute of Physics (London; fellow), Institute of Physics (Australia; fellow), World Academy of Arts and Sciences (fellow), Isthmus Institute, USA (board of advisors), Indian Astronomical Society (honorary fellow).
ABC Eureka Prize for the promotion of science in Australia, 1991; University of New South Wales Press Eureka Prize, 1992, for The Mind of God; Advance Australia Award for outstanding contribution to science, 1993; Templeton Prize for progress in religion, 1995; Glaxo Kelvin Medal, United Kingdom Institute of Physics, 2001; Michael Faraday Prize, Royal Society, 2002, for promoting science to the public; Glaxo Science Writers Fellowship, for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio 3 documentary Desperately Seeking Superstrings.
The Runaway Universe, Harper (New York, NY), 1978, published in England as Stardom: A Scientific Account of the Beginning and End of the Universe, Fontana (London, England), 1979.
Other Worlds, Dent (London, England), 1980, published as Other Worlds: A Portrait of Nature in Rebellion, Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1980, published as Other Worlds: Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.
The Edge of Infinity: Beyond Black Holes to the End of the Universe, Dent (London, England), 1981, published as The Edge of Infinity: Where the Universe Came from and How It Will End, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.
God and the New Physics, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, 2007.
Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984.
Quantum Mechanics, Routledge & Kegan Paul (New York, NY), 1984.
The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.
The Mind of God, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992, reprinted, 2005.
(With John Gribbin) The Matter Myth: Dramatic Discoveries That Challenged Our Understanding of Physical Reality, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992, reprinted, 2007.
The Last Three Minutes: Conjectures about the Ultimate Fate of the Universe, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.
About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995, reprinted, 2005.
Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?, Allen Lane (London, England), 2006, published in the United States as Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2007.
NONFICTION; UNDER NAME P.C.W. DAVIES
The Physics of Time Asymmetry, Universe of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1974, 2nd edition, 1977.
Space and Time in the Modern Universe, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1977.
The Forces of Nature, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1979, 2nd revised edition, 1986.
The Search for Gravity Waves, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1980.
(With N.D. Birrell) Quantum Fields in Curved Space, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
The Accidental Universe, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Julian Brown) The Ghost in the Atom, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1986.
(With Julian Brown) Superstrings: A Theory of Everything?, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.
(Editor) The New Physics, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with John D. Barrow and Charles L. Harper) Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology, and Complexity, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe, Templeton Foundation Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.
Fireball (science-fiction novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1987.
Contributor of articles to numerous journals, newspapers, and magazines, including New Scientist, Guardian, Economist, Daily Telegraph, Australian, and Sydney Morning Herald. Author's works have been translated into numerous languages.
Paul Davies has sought in his books to bring the realms of space, time, and physics to the public. As Davies once told CA, "In my books I try to communicate to the layperson the sense of excitement and awe which I myself feel when confronted by the challenge of modern physics. Though I may entertain, startle, provoke and perhaps baffle the reader, my primary aim is to share with them some glimpses of nature's dazzling secrets revealed by the power of scientific analysis."
In The Runaway Universe the author examines cosmology—the science of the universe as a whole—and explores how the universe, space, time, and existence came into being. He introduces the reader to some basic scientific ideas, including relativity and the concept of entropy, and contemplates the fate of an ever-expanding, energy-losing universe. Calling this book "one of the most readable surveys to date," Malcolm Browne of the New York Times noted that Davies "suggests some ingenious and mind-boggling ways in which man might prolong his existence a billion billion years after most of the universe has become cold and dead." Davies proposes, for example, that future man might be able to control the energy in black holes, releasing it when other sources of energy have been depleted. "This is a book whose horizons are as distant as man can imagine," Browne claimed.
Although Browne commended Davies for introducing his readers to "both the proven and the speculative aspects of the subject," Gerald Jonas of the New York Times Book Review objected to "the impression that certain issues have been settled to everyone's satisfaction." The reviewer remained unconvinced that the calculations underlying current scientific cosmology are firmly based and expressed skepticism when calling to mind those existing mysteries of space and physics that cannot be explained by current theories. Jonas wrote: "[Davies] is at pains to distinguish fact from speculation." Jonas also noted: "By the very nature of his exposition, however, he cannot do justice to the possibility that current scientific cosmology may be, like the cosmologies of the past, a conceptual house of cards…. There is still room for doubt, and humility, in our confrontation with the universe."
In Other Worlds Davies describes the revolution in physics and philosophy precipitated by quantum theory and the theories of relativity. As Richard Dyott noted in his review for the Chicago Tribune, these theories subverted the Newtonian concept of man as a cog in a clockwork universe, subject to the same laws of cause and effect that govern all other natural objects. Quantum theory in particular disputes this viewpoint, he explained, because it asserts that the laws of chance control all events. In philosophical terms, the theory returns man to the center of things and suggests that reality is a perception of the human mind, as are past, present, and future. Walter Sullivan observed in the New York Times that Other Worlds was "almost as much philosophy as science. Like any treatment of subjects so alien to our daily experiences, it is not easy to read, but it opens the mind to vistas normally reserved to those who lean on arcane mathematics to formulate their ideas." Dyott also held that Davies "manages to cope lucidly with such concepts as super space, the beginning of the world, and black holes—all without mathematical formula." Dyott continued: "This is surely a book to be read not only for information's sake, but also for the sense of achievement of man's attempts to understand the universe."
Continuing his efforts to explain the complexities of the universe to the lay reader, Davies's book Superforce: The Search for the Grand Unified Theory of Nature discusses science's endeavors to tie together the laws of physics "with a clarity and imagination that come from a true understanding of the material," according to New York Times Book Review contributor David N. Schramm. Colin A. Ronan remarked in the Times Literary Supplement that "in spite of some minor historical slips, Superforce is a magnificent exposition of modern particle physics and its hunt for the unity of nature." However, as in Other Worlds, Davies does not restrict himself solely to physics, commented Ronan, who noted that "the author is not afraid to raise, in a provocative last chapter, the question of whether, perhaps, some vast cosmic plan underpins the whole of creation."
Davies goes into more detail about his philosophy in God and the New Physics and The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe. Asserting in God and the New Physics that "science offers a surer path to God than religion," Davies "tries to cover all possible sources of faith in God's existence in light of the ‘new physics’ of [Albert] Einstein, [Niels] Bohr, and [Stephen] Hawking and others trying to assemble a ‘unified’ theory of the universe," commented Washington Post Book World contributor John Tirman. However, Tirman also wrote that "Davies' effort is bound to fail, despite [the author's] eloquence, knowledge and winsome faith in science. The ‘new physics’ simply does not answer the basic puzzles of existence." Other critics, like New York Times Book Review contributor Timothy Ferris, reproached Davies because his "insights into religion seldom plumb very deep." Because Davies's background is more firmly rooted in science than religion, Brian Pippard also averred in the Times Literary Supplement that in God and the New Physics the author "might have done better to stick more closely to physics since neither theology nor popular religion has much in common with the sort of arguments he deploys."
In The Cosmic Blueprint Davies argues that there exist as-yet-undiscovered laws of physics that will ultimately explain that the universe is actually self-organizing, and that these laws can explain the processes of evolution. "What makes his approach worthy of consideration," wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Lee Dembart, "is that even though it rejects chance as the ultimate explanatory principle of the universe, it does not rely on a creator to explain all that we see around us." Washington Post Book World contributor Don Colburn commented: "It's an intriguing theory, provocatively argued, and of course one that cannot be proved or disproved. What is most impressive is that the evidence Davies marshals in its support is scientific, not theological." It is for this knowledge of physics and his ability to lucidly convey the ideas behind scientific theories that many critics have praised Davies's books. "When Mr. Davies settles down to the business of explaining physics," noted Ferris, "he proves to be one of the most adept science writers on either side of the Atlantic."
One of Davies's most lauded works, The Mind of God, published in 1992, continues the examination of the issues raised in God and the New Physics and The Cosmic Blueprint. Cosmology is now mapping out the first microseconds of creation—the very first moments of the universe. The eternal question, "What caused the universe to begin?" can be answered, says Davies, without need of an external cause. Marcia Bartusiak, in the New York Times Book Review, quoted Davies: "‘Given the laws of physics, the universe can create itself…. Or, stated more correctly, the existence of a universe without an external first cause need no longer be regarded as conflicting with the laws of physics.’" Though Davies is an atheist, he argues that "the universe is more than a purposeless accident. He rejects the existentialist view that we are all bit players in an indifferent cosmic drama," summarized Bartusiak. The critic lauded Davies' "crisp and personable style," calling the work "both stimulating and enlightening."
In May of 1993, the University of Adelaide created the Professor of Natural Philosophy position for Davies, a position he held until he retired in 1997. He has since devoted himself to writing books such as About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, discussing the properties of and theories about time since Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity, Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life, discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life, surveying the scientific knowledge of the origin of life itself.
In his 2007 book, Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life, Davies explores the "anthropic principle," which is concerned with the fundamental principles that make the universe "just right" for the creation and existence of life. The author presents physicists' current understanding of cosmology, discusses particle physics, and explores various theories concerning the universe's structure. He also writes of the theory of the "multiuniverse," or the idea that the universe we live in is just one of many similar but slightly different universes. In addition, Davies explores the issue of whether or not an intelligent designer, or God, is necessary for the creation of the universe. "Clear language and analogies make this work … accessible … and enjoyable," wrote Joseph H. Murphy in the Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the book as "a lively exposition of cutting-edge science."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life, p. 12.
Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1980, Richard Dyott, review of Other Worlds: A Portrait of Nature in Rebellion, Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2006, review of Cosmic Jackpot, p. 1253.
Library Journal, February 1, 2007, Joseph H. Murphy, review of Cosmic Jackpot, p. 93.
Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1988, Lee Dembart, review of The Cosmic Blueprint.
New York Times, January 9, 1979, Malcolm Browne, review of The Runaway Universe; April 7, 1981, Walter Sullivan, review of Other Worlds.
New York Times Book Review, November 26, 1978, Gerald Jones, review of The Runaway Universe; May 3, 1981; April 25, 1982; June 26, 1983; November 20, 1983; December 9, 1984; December 23, 1984; October 20, 1985; February 23, 1992; October 1, 1995; April 18, 1999.
PR Newswire, November 30, 2006, "Renowned Physicist Paul Davies to Lead Institute to Look at ‘Cosmic Questions.’"
Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2006, review of Cosmic Jackpot, p. 51.
Times Literary Supplement, July 29, 1983, Brian Pippard, review of God and the New Physics; June 21, 1985, Colin A. Ronan, review of Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature.
Washington Post Book World, January 3, 1984, John Tirman, review of God and the New Physics; May 8, 1988, Don Colburn, review of The Cosmic Blueprint.
Big Questions—ABC News Online,http://www.abc.net.au/science/bigquestions/ (September 17, 2007).
More Big Questions—ABC News Online,http://www.abc.net.au/science/morebigquestions/ (August, 9, 2007), biography of author.
Paul Davies Home Page,http://cosmos.asu.edu (August 9, 2007).