The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

by Brian Greene

Hardcover, 2011

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Description

"The Hidden Reality" reveals how major developments in different branches of fundamental theoretical physics -- relativistic, quantum, cosmological, unified, computational -- have all led us to consider one or another variety of parallel universe.

User reviews

LibraryThing member steve.clason
String Theorist (or string-theory apologist, depending on where you stand) Brian Greene believes the next expansion of the field physics will come when we prove, or collect evidence that argues in favor of, our universe being one of very many universes, collectively accumulated in what he calls "The Multiverse." In this book, Greene describes 9 ways these many universes could have come into being and what it means to us, both as physicists (a lot) and as regular humans (not so much) if the various theories turn out to be true and also whether or not there is any possible evidence that can be discovered that support them.

So largely this is an exercise in imagination and a status-report on string theory, the mathematics of which give rise to several of the multiverse theories. I suspect it's also a brief for continued funding, but if so it's not flamboyant. Greene writes well and is able to provide metaphors and narratives that throw light on topis that are normally closed to those of us not proficient in high-level mathematics.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
Brian Greene really is one of the best popular science writers. His books give you a real sense of being guided by someone who genuinely knows what they're talking about, who uses metaphors effectively, and who effectively weaves the traditional material in with the new points he is making. He also approaches science with curiosity untainted by dogmatism. He is very much open to speculation, but equally open to the speculation not panning out.

This book is about different concepts of the Multiverse. Greene devotes a chapter to each of what he defines as the major types and then has one or two additional chapters on questions like whether these theories are testable and broader implications.

The multiverse's he consider include the quilted multiverse (which is just our universe extending out infinitely, leaving the possibility of endless accidental repetition -- which follows from some cosmological theories that follow the big bang), the inflationary multiverse (a product of repeated episodes of inflationary expansion, which follows from the addition of inflation to the previous theories), three multiverses that come from different versions of string theory (brane, cyclic and landscape), a quantum multiverse (which is Everett's Many Worlds interpretation, and is more conceptual), a holographic multiverse (which comes from the study of black holes and string theory), and simulated and ultimate multiverses (the last two coming from computer simulations and a deeper mathematical world).

In every case, Greene does a good job of describing the physical theories that lead, usually by accident, to the implication that there is a particular type of multiverse, discusses the scientific status of those theories, and addresses issues around testing them. In the end, Greene has some sympathy with Steven Weinberg's adage that the problem with physics is that we do not take our theories/equations seriously enough as a real description of the world. The example he cites is the Positron, which was a byproduct of Dirac's solution of a math problem that turned out to be real. Greene clearly leans towards the view that the same is true of the multiverse, but he doesn't do much to tip his hand about which one.
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LibraryThing member jaybeee
Here’s the thing. I am a science nerd. I very nearly went into theoretical physics at university, but instead opted for pure maths. So it is obvious why I could not resist the siren song of Brian Greene’s latest The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. (As an aside, I am so tired of lengthy subtitles for non-fiction books. I get that the publisher feels compelled to attract readers by giving them a hint of what the book’s about, but you know, that’s what the blurb on the inside jacket is for. I hope we can start having non-fiction books with just one title someday.) In some ways, Brian Greene is living my dream: a professor of both physics and mathematics doing groundbreaking research in superstring theory. (Of course, this is the dream of the me that plays well with others.) And his previous books were well-written, accessible explanations of some of that groundbreaking research with ample background given to ground the reader.

I’m sure that anyone who has read even five pages of science fiction has considered the idea of parallel universes before. It is such a science fiction thing: other worlds, parallel universes! (Explored to great effect, I might add, in Neal Stephenson’s latest, Anathem.) But the thing that Greene does here is make the case for non-fictional parallel worlds. No, seriously. Take a minute to get your head around that. Greene offers up a theoretical framework from established physics and research-in-progress in which other universes are not only plausible, but maybe even necessary. Sadly, here is where science parts again from fiction because even if one of these proposals is correct, chances are we are not going to be able to interact with these universes.

Saving the maths and tricky equations for the endnotes for the most part, Greene casually compares inflation fields to South Park, and turns Samuel Johnson into mathematics. His tone is conversational and he is kind to science-wary readers, offering up brief summaries of complicated ideas and encouraging those timid readers to skip ahead if they need to. And he offers up information in the right place at the right time, so the facts you need to make sense of the theories are fresh in your brain when you need them, something this forgetful brain was grateful for.

What we are faced with is basically nine possible universes, or rather multiverses, since the “uni” in universe can be misleading. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking of “universe” in the singular, but our universe is just one of many universes in this book, so the idea of a universe of universes comes in handy. Welcome to the multiverse! Greene gives these multiverses names like “Quilted Multiverse” and “Holographic Multiverse,” breaking them up into their own chapters and exploring various facets of relativity, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, M-theory and so much more to make the case for the possibility of their existence. He follows all this up with a needed discussion on the limits of scientific inquiry as we know it, since at least one of these multiverses simply cannot be detected or measured by us ever. So is it scientific to even discuss its existence? This gets into the very nature of science itself, which is fascinating and got me thinking that I should study more about the philosophy of science.

In the midst of all these fantastic and far-reaching ideas, the one thing I was sad to not see was any real appearance by the ladies. This book is a serious sausage fest. I’m sure this was not deliberate on the part of Greene. He probably looked to the people whose work he was most familiar with, people who made the big developments in the fields that he was looking at. But in the further reading list at the back of the book, three and a half of the authors are of the lady persuasion (one was a co-author), and of the scientists that make an appearance in the text itself, only seven are woman, and three of these only made it into the endnotes. I didn’t keep track of every scientist named when I was reading (my bad), but the index at the end lists 195 people and only seven of those are women. This is just flat-out depressing.

I know part of this is just due to the whole history thing, where ladies were kept out of anything requiring five seconds of brain power. If we’re not talking about computing or radiation or stolen DNA thunder, then the famous lady scientists disappear from the scene. (And please feel free to tell me about other famous lady scientists that I am not aware of!) But I’m pretty sure that part of it is that annoying see-through ceiling that people sometimes talk about, the one that somehow ensures people with lady-bits don’t get to climb that ladder all the way to the top. In most research, it’s the research leader that gets cited and talked about, not all the underlings and grad students and whoevers working with that leader. And these leaders still tend to be men. So even if there are more ladies in science now than ever before (and I have no numbers to back that up, I just believe/want it to be true), they are still not in positions of power and so still not getting their names tossed about in best-selling popular science books.

I, for one, would like to see more lady names tossed about in these books. So here is my plea to all would-be popular science authors: try to find ladies working in the field you are writing about. Maybe they will not be so obvious when you are first writing. Maybe theirs are not the names you are so intimately familiar with. Maybe their results overlap with results that are better known. It’s okay. Take some time. Seek them out. And then put their names in your book. It means something to women who might be thinking about careers in science, but who are maybe put off by the giant sausage party that it appears to be. And every time one of you does make an effort to seek out the ladies, it subtly changes the prevailing mindset of science = dudes. And that is something I would be immensely glad to see.
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LibraryThing member fpagan
Rather like John Gribbin's similarly excellent but less elaborate and less publicized _In Search of the Multiverse_, this meaty volume explains the physics associated with a wide range of multiverse concepts: mutually distant Hubble volumes, inflation bubbles, braneworlds, cyclic universes, string-theory landscape, quantum many-worlds, holographic parallel universes, artificial/simulated universes, and the set of all mathematically possible universes. This makes 3 really good books in a row from Greene.… (more)
LibraryThing member TessCallahan
As in his previous books, The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene uses The Hidden Reality to convey complex scientific ideas in a way that non-scientists can understand. His concept of the "multiverse," with it's ten potential manifestations, is mind blowing and fascinating. I listened to the audio version of this book, narrated by the author, and enjoyed every minute.… (more)
LibraryThing member everfresh1
There couldn't be a better and easier explanation for the average person of such difficult concepts as quantum mechanics, string theory, etc.
LibraryThing member tonynetone
Astrophysics, Recommended Reading, author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos comes his most expansive and accessible book about infinite a vast ocean of bubble universes Infinitely many worlds like our own,looking today we look back in time to understand what the book talking about, to understanding these multiverses we look around Astrophysics, but not regarded with great favour,In a nutshell, that string theory attempts to reconcile a mathematical conflict between. Brian Greene shows how a range of different “multiverse” proposal emerges.… (more)
LibraryThing member RajivC
This is a brilliant book. It is a great book for anyone who wants to learn anything about what is happening in cosmology and the deep laws of physics today. To explain such deep concepts in such clear language is a feat that has to be marveled at. Having said that, some of the concepts simply blew my mind. It has been years since I studied physics and thermodynamics (and, of course, metallurgy!!), yet I could find myself following his train of thought quite clearly.
It is just that the concepts are absolutely mind blowing.
That he kept my interest up and running through the book, and whetted my appetite for more, is a tribute to Brian Greene.

I read the book on my Kindle, and my only complaint there, is that the formatting for the diagrams could have been a bit better. It would have been easier to follow the flow of the text with well formatted figures.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Good grasp and explanation of many concepts. Some of the good stuff is buried in the notes, though. Overuses the anthropic principle in the later chapters, which explains nothing. A solid book over all.
LibraryThing member Jamten
A clear and well written explanation of the new ideas about our universe, and all the others. Too imaginative at times, but still very well worth reading.
LibraryThing member hcubic
Brian Greene has emerged as the most significant spokesperson for modern physics. It isn't just that his two previous best-selling books ("The Elegant Universe" and The "Fabric of the Cosmos") were written to be accessible to the interested non-specialist, but also to excite the imagination of laymen. He also has made himself available to the popular media; I have heard him on NPR and even seen him on "The Big Bang Theory" television series. He speaks comfortably, colloquially, and with a sense of humor about the search for the Higgs boson and the recent tentative evidence for a new particle that would destroy the Standard Model. The main subject of "The Hidden Reality" is the possibility that we are all living only only one of a myriad of possible multidimensional quantum membranes (branes). This mind-blowing proposition naturally requires a lot of explanation, and Greene is up to the job. The part that is most relevant to me and my quantum chemistry students is Chapter 8, The Many Worlds of Quantum Measurement, which I think is the heart of the book. As always, it is a pleasure to hear Brian Greene talk about science.… (more)
LibraryThing member applemcg
A disappointment. No, it's not that I "missed" the physics. Surely half a point deduction is due to my e-reader attempt. But a roster of (ten) possible multi-verses. File this one under the philosophy of science. Greene offers plausible means for verifying two or three of the candidates. It's interesting that we are on the verge of such experiments, but this feels like Greene is laying down a marker for the 23 (or later) century. It was fun speculating on "where" the electron may be: Grant's Tomb, or Central Park. The _one_ takeaway is to consider the observer herself must be "located" with quantum considerations as well.… (more)
LibraryThing member inasrullah64
While it was a good survey of current scientific thinking on physical reality, the explanations often remain unclear and protracted.
LibraryThing member tramseyer
The Hidden Reality was more interesting because I had watched the Nova episodes based on Brian Greene's set of books. Remembering parts of the series made it easier for me to understand, otherwise I likely would have gotten lost.

One or two of the chapters did drag on and on, however, those were admittedly the parts where he'd said, look at this and skip the rest if you want to.

However, those are minor faults, and I did enjoy and learn from the book.

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LibraryThing member MarkBeronte
The bestselling author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos tackles perhaps the most mind-bending question in modern physics and cosmology: Is our universe the only universe?

There was a time when "universe" meant all there is. Everything. Yet, a number of theories are converging on the possibility that our universe may be but one among many parallel universes populating a vast multiverse. Here, Briane Greene, one of our foremost physicists and science writers, takes us on a breathtaking journey to a multiverse comprising an endless series of big bangs, a multiverse with duplicates of every one of us, a multiverse populated by vast sheets of spacetime, a multiverse in which all we consider real are holographic illusions, and even a multiverse made purely of math--and reveals the reality hidden within each.

Using his trademark wit and precision, Greene presents a thrilling survey of cutting-edge physics and confronts the inevitable question: How can fundamental science progress if great swaths of reality lie beyond our reach? The Hidden Reality is a remarkable adventure through a world more vast and strange than anything we could have imagined.
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LibraryThing member marshapetry
Pretty good but a little too hard to listen to in the car; need to listen to this when you can think and ponder and concentrate. I'm probably too dumb to understand it anyway... and there was nothing in the book that made me think I just *had* to read it.
LibraryThing member nosajeel
Brian Greene really is one of the best popular science writers. His books give you a real sense of being guided by someone who genuinely knows what they're talking about, who uses metaphors effectively, and who effectively weaves the traditional material in with the new points he is making. He also approaches science with curiosity untainted by dogmatism. He is very much open to speculation, but equally open to the speculation not panning out.

This book is about different concepts of the Multiverse. Greene devotes a chapter to each of what he defines as the major types and then has one or two additional chapters on questions like whether these theories are testable and broader implications.

The multiverse's he consider include the quilted multiverse (which is just our universe extending out infinitely, leaving the possibility of endless accidental repetition -- which follows from some cosmological theories that follow the big bang), the inflationary multiverse (a product of repeated episodes of inflationary expansion, which follows from the addition of inflation to the previous theories), three multiverses that come from different versions of string theory (brane, cyclic and landscape), a quantum multiverse (which is Everett's Many Worlds interpretation, and is more conceptual), a holographic multiverse (which comes from the study of black holes and string theory), and simulated and ultimate multiverses (the last two coming from computer simulations and a deeper mathematical world).

In every case, Greene does a good job of describing the physical theories that lead, usually by accident, to the implication that there is a particular type of multiverse, discusses the scientific status of those theories, and addresses issues around testing them. In the end, Greene has some sympathy with Steven Weinberg's adage that the problem with physics is that we do not take our theories/equations seriously enough as a real description of the world. The example he cites is the Positron, which was a byproduct of Dirac's solution of a math problem that turned out to be real. Greene clearly leans towards the view that the same is true of the multiverse, but he doesn't do much to tip his hand about which one.
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LibraryThing member antao
(Original review, 2011)

The Multiverse is awesome.

We all look, we find what we may, but we all have to choose what we look at more deeply than we will look at the rest of what there is. Yes, I refuse to spend much time on multiverse hypotheses; I used to spend a lot of time looking at quantum field theory instead (and doing QFT, thinking about it, developing a feel for and making choices about what I think is important or not, and changing my mind endlessly, and becoming intimate with it as much as my abilities will let me, all of which takes more time than anyone has).

Positive knowledge gained through natural science as opposed to myths (primitive, religious or mathematical ones, created in the mind idea of man), always leads to relative freedom of mankind through a progressively better understanding and the knowledge of the natural laws and the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite subjective ends.

In dialectical terms, classical materialism (the basis of natural science) and idealism/theology are the polar opposites of a unity. The natures of polar opposites are such that when extended beyond their natural limit, they either turn to their opposite or to an absurdity. Modern theoretical physics extended to its mathematical idealism (creator of myths - curved space-time, big Bang, infinite or multiverses ad nauseum) is just following this dialectical law and churning out the absurdity of meaningless Kantian unknowable of things-in- themselves!

It is matter that thinks; thought/idea does not crystallize to matter. Myths (primitive, religious or modern mathematical ones) were always created to control humanity and to serve the power of the decadent ruling authority. Modern official theoretical physics stands in the same relation to monopoly capitalism as theology was to feudalism. Copernicus and Darwin undid the myths of theology and in the process, they helped undo the rule of feudalism itself and vice-versa. The undoing of the myths of modern physics and hence monopoly capitalism itself will only come about by undoing either one or the other or both at the same time.

Questions to ponder:

- What if there is a tripleverse, like a universe filled with multiverse?
- What if in another universe... everyone's a furry?
- Multiverse...In another universe...WILL THERE BE HEROES WITH REAL POWERS?
- What if each observer is their very own You-niverse, all coexisting together as One?
- And most important, is it possible to be healthy and have blood farts simultaneously?
- (...)

This is the shit that keeps me up at night.
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LibraryThing member gayla.bassham
A little bit mind-blowing. Greene is very good at making complex scientific principles accessible, although some of his examples are a little cutesy for my taste.
LibraryThing member SChant
Despite the detailed explanations a lot of this went over my head. probably a better book for someone more grounded in physics than I am.
LibraryThing member Jewsbury
This is a book about the possibility that there exists an array (ie the multiverse) of universes. Brian Greene skilfully weaves an entertaining tale as he talks about many different conceivable styles for this multiverse. Some are tentative hypotheses, some inferred conjecture and several just wild speculation. Unsurprisingly for the author, string theory features strongly in the latter. He idly ponders on whether the reason such proposals are popping up in quite different theories could be because nature is offering hints about an actual multiversal format beneath our observable cosmos.

Of course it is more likely that such suggestions are a symptom of a general malaise gripping some who are greatly disappointed at the shortage of recent telling revelations. After all, multiverse proposals go against every inclination of science. It leaves us without an ultimate justification, cause, explanation or reason for anything. It would mean that things in our universe just are the way they are because we are here in this part or version.

It is difficult to fault Greene but be warned that readers are expected to be familiar with US culture. You will be expected to understand references to a Cartman on a mountaintop, the shape of a pringle, TMI, Blue Man Group, CliffsNotes and terms like get-go, and you had me at hello.
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