Physics & Astronomy

The Whole Truth: A Cosmologist’s Reflections on the Search for Objective Reality

From the Nobel Prize–winning physicist, a personal meditation on the quest for objective reality in natural science


Published (US):
Oct 29, 2024
Published (UK):
Jan 7, 2025
6.13 x 9.25 in.
1 b/w illus. 2 tables.
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A century ago, thoughtful people questioned how reality could agree with physical theories that kept changing, from a mechanical model of the ether to electric and magnetic fields, and from homogeneous matter to electrons and atoms. Today, concepts like dark matter and dark energy further complicate and enrich the search for objective reality. The Whole Truth is a personal reflection on this ongoing quest by one of the world’s most esteemed cosmologists.

What lies at the heart of physical science? What are the foundational ideas that inform and guide the enterprise? Is the concept of objective reality meaningful? If so, do our established physical theories usefully approximate it? P. J. E. Peebles takes on these and other big questions about the nature of science, drawing on a lifetime of experience as a leading physicist and using cosmology as an example. He traces the history of thought about the nature of physical science since Einstein, and succinctly lays out the fundamental working assumptions. Through a careful examination of the general theory of relativity, Einstein’s cosmological principle, and the theory of an expanding universe, Peebles shows the evidence that we are discovering the nature of reality in successive approximations through increasingly rigorous scrutiny.

A landmark work, The Whole Truth is essential reading for anyone interested in the practice of science.