The Problems of Physics, Reconsidered: A Conversation with Tony Leggett

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Science - 53 pages
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This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Physics Nobel Laureate Tony Leggett. The basis of this conversation is Tony Leggett’s book The Problems of Physics and further explores the insightful plain-speaking itemization that he developed of the physics landscape according to four basic categories—the very small (particle physics), the very large (cosmology), the very complex (condensed matter physics) and the very unclear (foundations of quantum theory)—while providing a thoughtful follow-up analysis from a contemporary perspective to assess how much progress we’ve made and which mysteries remain or have come on the scene since the book was published.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, The Gentleman Laureate, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Back to the Future - Setting the Stage

II. The Very Small - Much the same

III. The Very Large - Cosmology

IV. A Glassy Digression - The perils of affirming the consequent

V. The Very Complex - Condensed matter physics meets quantum information

VI. Understanding - What it actually means

VII. Different Regimes - Nature’s Scales

VIII. Schrödinger’s Cat - Different domains?

IX. The Slings and Arrows of Time - Irreversible?

X. The Anthropic Principle - Better left unsaid?

XI. The Future of Physics - From Louis Armstrong to topological quantum computing

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert through a focused yet informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
Back to the Future
The Very Small
The Very Large
A Glassy Digression
The Very Complex
Different Regimes
The Slings and Arrows of Time
The Anthropic Principle
The Future of Physics

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games.

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