From Brian Greene, one of the world's leading physicists, comes a grand tour of the universe that makes us look at reality in a completely different way. Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past? Greene uses these questions to guide us toward modern science's new and deeper understanding of the universe. From Newton's unchanging realm in which space and time are absolute, to Einstein's fluid conception of spacetime, to quantum mechanics' entangled arena where vastly distant objects can bridge their spatial separation to instantaneously coordinate their behavior or even undergo teleportation, Greene reveals our world to be very different from what common experience leads us to believe. Focusing on the enigma of time, Greene establishes that nothing in the laws of physics insists that it run in any particular direction and that "time's arrow" is a relic of the universe's condition at the moment of the big bang. And in explaining the big bang itself, Greene shows how recent cutting-edge developments in superstring and M-theory may reconcile the behavior of everything from the smallest particle to the largest black hole. This startling vision culminates in a vibrant eleven-dimensional "multiverse," pulsating with ever-changing textures, where space and time themselves may dissolve into subtler, more fundamental entities. Sparked by the trademark wit, humor, and brilliant use of analogy that have made The Elegant Universe a modern classic, Brian Greene takes us all, regardless of ourscientific backgrounds, on an irresistible and revelatory journey to the new layers of reality that modern physics has discovered lying just beneath the surface of our everyday world. With 146 illustrations Jacket photograp
In particular I like how he starts off by tipping his hat to Camus' existensialist dillema but then disagreeding with his idea that knowledge from the sciences can't in fact make a difference. I'm not sure I agree, but I think Greene's appreciation of camus, and his belief that science can make a difference helps to illustrate his passion as a scientist.
While this book covers a lot of general physics the focus is on the implications for our conceptions of space and time, as the title strongly suggests.
I have not yet finished this book, but by less than half way through I have been introduced to a number of topics that I have never really come across in the popular writings of other physicists like Drs Feynman, Weinberg, or Hawking. Greene goes thru special and general relativity and orthodox qm i a delightful manner, showing all the important features, and tho he notes that he agrees with the orthodoxy on philosophic points he does not do disservice to disagreeing views, which he makes note of in the book, as well as in some of the more technical notes.
We also go through some more intricate matters which one does not ordinarily see outside of a philosophy of physics book such as the relational v absolutist stance on space "newtons bucket", Mach's response, and Einstein's update, following which we get an overview on block space-time, and how this is reconciled with the relativistic views of different observers as different angled cuts of the single block. I have never seen this approach or metaphor thoroughly hammered out in any work on popular physics. Green also argues eloquently using the notion of "updating now moments of different observers" that SR discrepancies can be seen over extremely wide spatial separations at even extremely low velocities.
Next we get overviews of entanglement and the implications for space, including some difficult ideas on the matter from eminent researches such as John Bell, David Bohm, as well as Alain Aspects results. While the mathematical details may not be all here in their full rigor, the essence of the ideas surly is.
Right now I am learning that probabilistic reasoning applied with the time reversal invariance of the laws of physics entail that entropy should be higher in the past as well as the future!
This is mind numbing stuff!
I also like the humor and references to pop culture (simpsons, etc).
Read it and enjoy it.
Greene offers a substantive review of quantum mechanics and general relativity, both necessary to examine current conceptions of space and time. The punchline, at the risk of imprecision, is that we cannot look at space in a common sense way at all. There are important ways in which space does not involve a conventional notion of locality; quantum phenomena resist explanations that rely on the familiar behavior of quotidian reality; at the smallest dimensions space and time themselves seem to lose meaning; ultimately there is no such thing as “empty” space, as what appears empty is actually roiling with the energy of quantum fluctuations.
Having established this basis, Greene uses these concepts to paint a picture of cosmic inflation and quantum loop gravity theories, aiming to show how these prominent approaches account for space itself and the vastness of the universe.
Where is the controversy, one might ask? Ultimately, the trajectory of the book leads to Green's great personal interest in physics, string theory. We see how this theory, if true, might address some of the current mysteries in our understanding of space and time. But there are those for whom them’s fightin’ words. Some argue that string theory lacks the quality of falsifiability, and as such cannot be taken seriously. If you are a staunch adherent of this position, you no doubt do not need to be reading this review.
The book was excellent and I highly recommend it. I found it all rather thrilling.
I'm a bit late to the party, so reading the book felt like a time travel. Having read it more than a decade after it's been written, I know that Higgs boson has been discovered, gravitational waves have been detected, and NASA's Gravity Probe B mission has been accomplished. Does that fact take anything away from the book's worth? Well, it depends on your perspective, but I would say "no, not at all!". Lacking the descriptions stellar scientific achievements that occurred in the last 13 years, the book is still a very good exposition of our current understanding of our universe and reality.
My only criticism can be summarized as the following: it's good for a popular science book to stay away from the technicalities of complex physics theories, but I think putting a bit of math in the end notes hardly helps, simply referring to the relevant sources for details would make it more concise. Moreover, I'd expect a more thorough description of loop quantum gravity, instead of a mere few pages of introduction and a very short comparison with string theory.
More dense, the advances in the theories are really took into context without sounding too draconian to strangers like me.
Humans experience three dimensions of space and one of time, and while we can go up or down, forward or backwards, left or right in space we can only travel forward in time. But are these dimensions the real stuff of the universe as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein insisted or just a linguistic expressions of relationships as Gottfried von Leibniz argued? Following time’s single direction Greene leads the reader back to the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang and then forward to a cosmos that may have as many as eleven dimensions. It’s quite a trip.
In particular, my favorite areas of the book were:
- The description of Einstein's General and Special Theories of Relativity
- The sections on Cosmology related to the Big Bang and Inflationary Theory
- Quantum Fluctuations and elementary particles
- Parts of the String Theory section and membranes
- Time travel theories
The most laborious section in my mind was Greene's slow approach to entropy. Anyone with even some level of scientific study would have found this section to be boring and plodding. I can understand the need for covering entropy in his overall approach to "time's arrow" but it should have been seriously reduced in word count.
I would recommend this book to people with more than passing interest in space, quantum mechanics and physics. It makes for an excellent overview for a general reader but perhaps with some searching, books of similar quality (and shorter) could also be found.
The best example comes in the introduction where he gives the example of the rose. On its own we can appreciate its beauty, but using the knowledge of physics, we can be amazed at its existence so much more. That example demonstrates the passion of Brian Greene’s book, but it also reminded me of an episode of The Simpson where the teachers have gone on strike. One of the scientists is teaching a kindergarten class and is using a kids bubble popper. The kids want to play with it, but he retorts with something like, “You won’t appreciate the science of it as much as I do.”
I thought another example from the book is a good explanation of what it is like to read the book. Greene explains about space-time, in that, you are either taking up space or time. When you are resting, you are taking up space, when you are moving, you are taking up time. This kind of concept really blew my mind. I always like the concept of time travel. Scientists provided this theory by sending a plane around the world with an atomic clock to prove the point. When the plan landed the clock was one/one billionth of a second behind. It’s an interesting proof, but my first reaction was, “that’s it?”
I comprehended the first three-quarters of the book. While the book provides mind-blowing facts, you cannot discern them in everyday life, which is the point of the book. It's a fascinating history of physics told in laymen's terms. It’s fascinating to a point, but many of the concepts I couldn't fully comprehend.
Brian Greene writes very clearly, using imagery that is easy to understand for the armchair reader. The book does require concentration and the assimilation of one part before moving on to the next, which is why I only read it in small doses. However it is well worth the effort, providing a clear overview of 'the fabric of the cosmos' from Newtonian physics to superstring theory and beyond.
It is, quite simply, a riveting read.
Having said that, this seems like a good overview of the current (well, as of the date of publication) state of the game in physics. I can't say that for certain of course, but it left me feeling like I had some understanding (not enough -- hence my suggestion I might return to it) of the current issues and the current focus of research for cosmology.
The new and open-ended perspective regarding Multiverses is simply mind boggling and yet I'm curious to know more about it.
The visuals and graphics used in the documentary uncomplicates the understanding of these intricate and composite theories.
But I've got to say this, I felt a lot better reading these concepts in The Elegant Universe by the same author.
"One of the wonderful things about Science is, it is about evidence and not about belief."
I found that the multiple ways of describing various concepts sometimes useful but mostly repetitive. But I can see why they are there as everyone will interpret situations diferently.
The second half of the book which goes into quantum theory and supersting theory the most difficult to understand but i think this is mostly because the concepts are so alien to our everyday understanding of life.