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The View from the Center of the Universe:…

The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary… (2006)

by Joel R. Primack

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226851,336 (3.77)8
  1. 00
    The universe in your hand: a journey through space, time and beyond by Christophe Galfard (br77rino)
  2. 00
    The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler (br77rino)
    br77rino: While Primack uses cosmology to counter the inherent pessimism of The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Koestler uses psychology and evolution.
  3. 00
    Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language and Life by Jeremy Campbell (br77rino)
    br77rino: Another well-written scientific book on the countering of that great Doom, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Both invoke Information as evidence for their optimism, and I think both are descendants of Koestler's Ghost in the Machine.

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I was really disappointed with this book, as it promised to deliver far more than it was able. The book couldn't decide whether it was a science book or a philosophy book, and ultimately failed to do either very well. The authors were attempting to use modern science to give mankind a sense of meaning that's was taken away with the Copernican Revolution, but I felt it failed to actually provide any meaning.

We live about halfway through the lifespan of our planet. There's no center to the universe, so you might as well pretend you're the center. Our size is in the middle (in terms of orders of magnitude) of the size scales of the universe (between the quantum world and galaxy clusters). Therefore, you should feel meaningful! I don't think that follows at all.

The science was decently interesting, but you can find far better if you're interested in the developments of modern physics or cosmology. The philosophy was unconvincing, and also included long sections on past cosmologies that gave people significance in the world (i.e. myths) and proposed new ways of viewing the world. For example, a great (I'm being sarcastic) New Year's tradition would be to have The Cosmic Dessert: a pyramid-shaped dessert of 70% chocolate cake (representing dark energy), 25% chocolate ice cream (dark matter), 4% chopped nuts (invisible mixed atoms), 0.5% whipped cream (hydrogen/helium), a bit of cinnamon (stardust/heavy elements), and a cherry on top (intelligent life, not to scale). Clever I guess, but are we really this desperate for holiday events? And if we are... do you really want your value to come from being made of stardust instead of dark energy? ( )
  ojchase | May 3, 2015 |
The authors believe that their 21st century readers have lost their way because we don't have a valid cosmology to tell us where we've come from (and presumably where we're going). They give a good summary of Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek cosmologies as an introduction to producing a scientific cosmology based on recent astrophysics research. I found their explanations of dark matter, dark energy, expansion of the universe, etc helpful. I haven't finished yet but my biggest disappointment is their assumption that none of their readers hold a (valid) cosmology. ( )
  philiphk | Dec 9, 2013 |
Liking their perspective ( )
  maps2teach | Jan 2, 2012 |
Joel Primack and his wife Nancy do a great job of showing Cosmology in its present form, emphasizing that it is more optimistic than it's ever been. There is a good discussion of Egyptian cosmology involving Nun, Nut, Isis/Sirius, Osiris/Orion, the annual floods, and the birth of geometry. They also discuss cosmic inflation, eternal inflation, the ouroboros, dark matter, dark energy, element evolution, life evolution, human evolution, the cosmiic horizon, benevolent chaos, and angular momentum's counterbalancing of thermodynamic rundown. Their main point is that mankind appears to have an incredibly central place in it all.

A big takeaway for me was their revelation of conceptual mistakes based on an ignorance of the importance of scale. To wit, just as a universe is not like a galaxy and a galaxy is not like a solar system, so too humanity is not like a nation, a nation is not like a family, and a family is not like a person. Ignoring scale is ignoring reality, and leads to all sorts of problems.

But the biggest was this: the fundamental behavior of the universe has been to grow in complexity. ( )
  br77rino | Jul 29, 2010 |
I love this book. I'm on my fourth and most careful reading and am reviewing it indepth one chapter at a time - well, blogging about it, really. See:

http://mindsoup.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/the-view-from-the-center-of-the-univers... ( )
  greg09stone | Dec 10, 2008 |
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Preface: This is a pivotal moment in human history.
Introduction: In their hearts, most people are still living in an imagined unierse, where space is simply emptiness, stars are scattered randomly, and common sense is a reliable guide.
There are few familiar words that can describe the universe as a whole.
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"In this book, Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams argue that, for the first time in human history, a scientific theory of the universe as a whole is emerging - a theory that explains how the universe operates, what it's made of, where is came from, and how it's evolving. Drawing from the latest discoveries and ideas in astrophysics and cosmology, Primack and Abrams show how we are indeed central to the universe and what this might mean for our culture and our personal lives. The result is revolutionary: a science-based cosmology that allows us to understand the universe as a whole and our extraordinary place in it. We are the first generation, the authors explain, capable of grasping what the nature of the universe may imply about Earth - and how this knowledge can be used to protect the long-term future of our planet."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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