Education: Two science degrees
Thriller Sub-genre: Techno-thriller
The Simon Review
Albert Einstein was one of the early pioneers of quantum physics but would later become one of its staunchest critics. Einstein spent most of his later years in search of one generalized theory, the unified field theory, which would explain how all the four fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetic, gravitational, and the strong and weak nuclear forces, relate to each other. However, to do so would require for him to include the concept of quantum mechanics which he refused to do. The reason for that was the probability problem. One of the defining characteristic of quantum mechanics is that there is a certain element of randomness, such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which states that the position and momentum of an object, such as an electron, cannot be predicted precisely. This lack of predictability lead to Einstein’s famous quote; Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to the secret of the Old One. I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice.
After Einstein’s death, a number of physicists believed that Einstein was on to something with his unified field theory which eventually lead to what is now called string theory. In 1968 Gabriele Veneziano was working on trying to understand the strong nuclear forces, which is the force that holds together subatomic particles such as the cohesiveness between protons and neutrons within the nucleus. Veneziano found that using a mathematical concept known as the Euler beta function seemed to be a possible solution in understanding strong interactions. Veneziano wrote about this in his 1969 paper entitled, ‘Construction of a crossing-symmetric, Regge behaved amplitude for linearly-rising trajectories’, which generated discussion within the community of physicists that would eventually lead to the now famous string theory. The basis of string theory is that the universe is made up of vibrating strings and how these strings vibrate results in the type of elementary particle it will form such as a quark or lepton. String theory maybe the closest thing to Einstein’s unified field theory in that there is a theory that some strings could form what is called a graviton. Gravitons are thought to possibly be the equivalent to a particle that holds the force of gravity, thus linking quantum mechanics to gravity which is something Einstein couldn’t do. However, there is one caveat about string theory that Einstein may not have liked which is that it requires multiple dimensions (as many as 12) beyond the normal three dimensions that we know and love. So with the unpredictability factor and the concept of a multidimensional universe, the quantum world is a strange place. This bizarre aspect of quantum mechanics is what author Douglas Phillips focuses on in his exciting series.
Interstellar and time travel are the two main concepts that dominate this series. Douglas takes the multidimensional aspect of string theory to explain how both interstellar and time travel could be possible by making a fourth dimension component of the universe flexible to the point it could be distorted. With this distortion it could make distant planets physically closer. Phillips’ idea is a bit of stretch, but nonetheless interesting.
The series is not all about the complicated and potentially mind numbing topic of astrophysics, but it also includes some delightful characters and some hair-raising action sequences. The two main characters are Daniel Rice, a government scientist whose job is to investigate any scientific anomaly that might have adverse consequences for American citizens, and Nala Pasquier, a particle physicist that works for the Fermi National Laboratory. Nala Pasquier is a brilliant scientist who also happens to be a rather feisty Haitian beauty. Her foul mouthed bravado makes for an interesting character that is counter for what most people would expect from a particle physicist. Daniel Rice, on the other hand, has the calm demeanor that one would expect for a government scientist, but that doesn’t stop him from having a personal relationship with Pasquier.
Phillips starts the series with Quantum Space which introduces the readers to the concept that a fourth dimension can be warped and interstellar travel is possible. This also results in human’s first encounter with extraterrestrials. Douglas follows Quantum Space with a short prequel to the series, Quantum Incident, which primarily introduces Daniel Rice and Nala Pasquier. Quantum Void is about what happens when humans fool around with Mother Nature and the consequences that can occur when humans perturb the fabric of space without knowing exactly what they are doing. The last book in the series, Quantum Time, Phillips takes his biggest leap in speculative science fiction when the concept of the perturbation of the fourth dimension resulting in time travel.
Phillips takes the complicated subject of quantum physics and amazingly is able to mold it into a fun and exciting series. For the most part, I feel that Phillips explains the elements of quantum mechanics so that one doesn’t need a PhD in astrophysics to read his series. I suggest starting with Quantum Space first and later reading the prequel, Quantum Incident. The prequel is a fun aside and could be read at any time, but doesn’t really have to be read first.
What about the science? Interstellar and time travel have been common topics for many science fiction writers, but Phillips’ approach is a bit more on the science side than most of these writers. Interstellar and time travel are still very much speculative fiction, but Phillips takes real science and does a “what if” approach when dealing with these subjects.
The Daniel Rice Technical Word in Review: Neutrino- I chose this for the technical word in review because in many ways it is as much a character as Daniel Rice and Nala Pasquier. Neutrinos are small, like really really small. They are considered to be an elementary particle, and if string theory is correct, they would be one type of string. In comparison with all the other elementary particles, neutrinos are the most difficult to detect. The reason for that is they virtually have no mass, are neutral with no charge, and are unaffected by the strong nuclear forces. Only when they, in rare instances, collide with other particles do they leave any trace that they exist. Because of this they are often referred to as ghost particles. There is also a lot of them and there are billions of them that are passing right through you at this very moment. Neutrinos are the product of nuclear reactions, so all the stars in the universe are constantly producing many of them. It is their abundance and their inability to interact with anything that is the tool that Phillips uses to cause the expansion of the fourth dimension which is basis of this series. Even though a single neutrino is virtually massless, a whole lot of them combined would have significant mass. In fact, enough mass to warp space.
“So, you may ask, where did this space come from?” Park whispered the answer dramatically. “Nowhere!” He leaned back in his chair smiling. “Minutes ago, this dimension was quantum-sized. Real, but far too small to place a camera in it. Now this same space is two meters wide, and we are holding it in place like a clown blowing up a balloon. At this point, we have two choices. If we simply withdraw the neutrino beam, the camera, along with space itself, will fall back to Kata Zero, like releasing the air from a balloon. But if needed, we can temporarily lock this space by twisting the neutrino oscillation wave before reducing power–as if the clown has tied the end of the balloon. In either case, we can bring the camera back whenever we wish.”–Quantum Space
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Books in the Series by Order:
Most Favorite in the series: Quantum Space with a score of 4.45
Least Favorite in the series: Quantum Incident with a score of 4.10
Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)
In the warmth of a summer evening, the gala had spilled out of the ballroom and onto the outdoor patio.
Daniel Rice: Government science investigator
Nala Pasquier: Particle physicist that works at the Fermi National Laboratory
Illinois, Nevada, and California
The long sought Higgs boson has been discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Scientists rejoice in the confirmation of quantum theory, but a reporter attending the press conference believes they may be hiding something.
Nala Pasquier is a particle physicist at Fermi National Laboratory in Illinois. Building on the 2012 discovery, she has produced a working prototype with capabilities that are nothing less than astonishing.
Daniel Rice is a government science investigator with a knack for uncovering the details that others miss. But when he’s assigned to investigate a UFO over Nevada, he’ll need more than scientific skills, he’ll need every bit of patience he can muster.
Amazon Rating-US: 4.41 out of 5 stars based on 83 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: not rated
GoodReads Rating: 4.03 out of 5 stars based on 399 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings
Total Score 4.10
Sergei Koslov floated a few centimeters above his seat, enjoying the last few minutes of weightlessness.
Daniel Rice and Nala Pasquier
Marie Kendrick: NASA operations analyst
Sergei Koslov: astronaut
High above the windswept plains of Kazakhstan, three astronauts on board a Russian Soyuz capsule begin their reentry. A strange shimmer in the atmosphere, a blinding flash of light, and the capsule vanishes in a blink as though it never existed.
On the ground, evidence points to a catastrophic failure, but a communications facility halfway around the world picks up a transmission that could be one of the astronauts. Tragedy averted, or merely delayed? A classified government project on the cutting edge of particle physics holds the clues, and with lives on the line, there is little time to waste.
Daniel Rice is a government science investigator. Marie Kendrick is a NASA operations analyst. Together, they must track down the cause of the most bizarre event in the history of human spaceflight. They draw on scientific strengths as they plunge into the strange world of quantum physics, with impacts not only to the missing astronauts, but to the entire human race.
“It’s the lack of radar tracking that’s most convincing to me.” Marie spoke confidently, the emotion she’d displayed earlier in the day now missing, or at least check. “Think about it… those guys have literally told us they are alive, but no ground station can find them. Of course, if Soyuz were hiding is this bizarre quantum space…”
Looking for a review of Quantum Space? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.67 out of 5 stars based on 1,210 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.30 out of 5 stars based on 5 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.35 out of 5 stars based on 3,213 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.40 out of 5 stars based on 10 ratings
Total Score 4.45
Nala Pasquier slid the bangle bracelet off her wrist and placed it on the security table.
Daniel Rice, Nala Pasquier, and Marie Kendrick
Thomas: Nala’s lab assistant
Jan Spiegel: Theoretical physicist at the Fermilab
AAatazin (Zin): An alien android sent by Core
Illinois, near Austin, Texas, Ixtlub – first alien planet visited by humans
Eight months after the astounding discoveries made at Fermilab…
Particle physics was always an unlikely path to the stars, but with the discovery that space could be compressed, the entire galaxy had come within reach. The technology was astonishing, yet nothing compared to what humans encountered four thousand light-years from home. Now, with an invitation from a mysterious gatekeeper, the people of Earth must decide if they’re ready to participate in the galactic conversation.
The world anxiously watches as a team of four katanauts suit up to visit an alien civilization. What they learn on a watery planet hundreds of light-years away could catapult human comprehension of the natural world to new heights. But one team member must overcome crippling fear to cope with an alien gift she barely understands.
Back at Fermilab, strange instabilities are beginning to show up in experiments, leading physicists to wonder if they ever really had control over the quantum dimensions of space.
She stood in place, thinking. ”Inside this place–this bubble within the void–I think quantum rules apply. Superposition at a macro scale.
Looking for a review of Quantum Void? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.64 out of 5 stars based on 401 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 3 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.31 out of 5 stars based on 1,709 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings
Total Score 4.38
A yell shattered the quiet lobby.
Daniel Rice, Nala Pasquier, Zin, and Marie Kendrick
Jacquelyn: A women that Daniel Rice meets in the future and has important role in changing the future
Everyone knew time travel was impossible. Then reality intruded.
A dying man stumbles into a police station and collapses. In his fist is a mysterious coin with strange markings. He tells the police he’s from the future, and when they uncover the coin’s hidden message they’re inclined to believe him.
Daniel Rice never asked for fame but his key role in Earth’s first contact with an alien civilization thrust him into a social arena where any crackpot might take aim. When the FBI arrives at his door and predictions of the future start coming true, Daniel is dragged into a mission to save the world from nuclear holocaust. To succeed, he’ll need to exploit cobbled-together alien technology to peer into a world thirty years beyond his own.
She listened silently and then answered, “Well I’m not familiar with that term, flowing empros. But I can confirm Marie’s hunch. There’s a CERN team working on quantum time.”
“Yeah, you know. Tiny snippets of time. Quantum stuff we can’t see or feel because it’s too small. Time is like that too. Ever heard of chronon?”
Looking for a review of Quantum Time? Check out:
Amazon Rating-US: 4.48 out of 5 stars based on 172 ratings
Amazon Rating-UK: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings
GoodReads Rating: 4.34 out of 5 stars based on 820 ratings
Library Thing Rating: 4.17 out of 5 stars based on 4 ratings
Total Score 4.37