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Physics through fiction – string theory and divine intervention

New Springer book, Saint Joan of New York, is a riveting novel of science and religion, whose heroine is determined to solve the equations of string theory

Heidelberg | New York, 16 December 2019    

Book cover: Saint Joan of New YorkIn his book, Mark Alpert reimagines Saint Joan of Arc as a teenage math whiz from New York City. Devastated by the recent death of her older sister, Joan takes on the divine mission of unifying the laws of physics and discovering the mysterious Theory of Everything. 

Saint Joan of New York is an educational tale that takes the reader through the basics of string theory alongside Joan, shedding light on the limitations of scientific explanation in general. Like contemporary physicists, Joan confronts metaphysical questions that scientists may never be able to answer. Does the universe have a purpose? Why does it seem to follow mathematical laws? And how did these mathematical patterns arise? Is a transcendent deity necessary or ludicrous? The book includes a complementary nonfiction essay in which Alpert provides some historical background on the scientific and philosophical questions that Joan tackles. 

Throughout her journey, Joan faces the same challenge that has bedevilled string theorists for the past few decades: how to transform a sprawling, indefinite mathematical framework into well-defined formulas that can make testable predictions about the physical world. As Joan struggles with the complex equations, she falls prey to disconcerting visions of a divine being who seemingly wants to help her unveil the universe’s mathematical design. 

Unlike Joan of Arc, who fought in a war between nations, Joan of New York is caught in the crossfire between science and religion. Fundamental physics has become a battleground; while scientists continue to explore the foundations of reality, both believers and non-believers are examining the findings in search of anything that will support their own philosophical arguments. 

“Fundamental physics seems to be at a crossroads,” says Alpert. “Many researchers have lost confidence that string theory will lead them to a Theory of Everything, a unified set of physical laws that would explain all the forces of nature.”

Apart from being a captivating work of fiction, Saint Joan of New York also serves to teach the fundamentals of string theory and to inspire young people to delve deeper into the intriguing world of physics and to question the fundamental nature of the universe.

Mark Alpert is a graduate of Astrophysics from Princeton University and is currently working as a contributing editor for Scientific American. He is also a bestselling author of science thrillers, whose first novel, Final Theory, was published in 24 languages.

Alpert, Mark
Saint Joan of New York: A Novel About God and String Theory
2019, 238 p. 1 illus.  
Softcover €19.99 | £17.99 | CHF 24.00 | 
ISBN 978-3-030-32552-7
eISBN 978-3-030-32553-4

Further information

About the Book: Saint Joan of New York

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Kevin Grant | Springer Nature | Communications
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