Richard Morris: Dismantling the Universe: The Nature of Scientific Discovery; Simon & Schuster; New York.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Eliot’s title character asks, or muses, at one point, “Do I dare/Disturb the universe?” That question is but one of many in the poem; it is not, then, unlike the two found in one line, “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” Fashion, fruit, and the universe: all are on par for the ironic persona. But, unfortunately, similar equations are made in real life, especially by writers who would be more well suited to spending their time rolling up the cuffs of their trousers. That is, a number of authors have taken it upon themselves to essay as­pects of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other nuclear mysteries in the pages of books, novels in particular. As Richard Morris, a theoretical physicist, explains in his Dismantling the Universe, the way the universe works is so unlike anything found in a more quotidian reality that we can only conclude that the novelistic parallels are nonsense. We’ve always suspected as much, but thanks to Morris’s lucid remarks on his realm, we’re as sure as we can be–given the nature of what the universe might be.