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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and…
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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2004)

by Brian Greene

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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality "Every moment in time just is." That is a huge thing to wrap your mind around. Every moment in space-time just exists. While we experience the "arrow of time," the feeling of moving forward (which Greene explains) every moment already exists in the universe, and always will. When I saw an episode on NOVA made from this book I knew I had to read it. The episode I saw was "The Illusion of Time," and it blew me away. Watch it at the link and you'll be a 25-point Calvinist.

Mathematics might be the highest form of worship; every Christian should read books such as this one about cosmology. The more we learn about the universe, the more improbable a self-existing first cause seems. As Greene points out, the universe we see now is dramatically less probable, statistically speaking, than one that developed from complete randomness. That the universe originated with a low-entropy (Big Bang) event is also highly improbable, but yet we know it happened.

The universe started at a size smaller than the period on the end of this sentence. It had incredible symmetry, such that perhaps all of the forces we know today were combined together in one force. The laws of physics break down at that point, there's the incompatibility of quantum mechanics and generaly relativity such that we have a "fuzzy patch." But newly-discovered inflationary theory tells us much of what happens after the first moment, exactly how the universe began its incredible rapid expansion. (See Greene's recent article in Smithsonian Magazine).But, the "fuzzy patch still looks fuzzy."

Galaxies are now moving apart from each other at high rates of speed. We discover planets and learn more about the makeup of the universe every day. The last third of the book deals with super string theory, which Greene also details more thoroughly in The Elegant Universe (some parts seem to be repeated verbatim in both works; I imagine all of his books essentially say the same things in different ways... one has to make money somehow).

How many dimensions does space have? 10? More? Why did only 3 dimensions experience inflation after the Big Bang? What about curled dimensions? M theory? Planck length? Those are the tedium in the second half of the book.

He does delve into the possibility of Star Trek-like teleportation, showing the recent advances in research that indicate this may one day be possible. Just this week the Army confirmed that it can teleport quantum data, for example.There is also an explanation of the theoretical and mathematical impossibilities of time travel-- traveling backwards in time. These are amusing aspects.

Greene frequently uses Simpsons characters in his analogies. It is not nearly as analogic in language as The Elegant Universe, but it's mostly understandable. The second half of the book gets pretty heavy, though, an audio version is the only way I could get through it. When you get bogged down in quantum mechanics it helps to have the audio keep pushing you on to the main point.

I really should not judge a book by one that followed it, but I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
Good book with some astounding thoughts on where physics and the study of space-time are going. Above my head but there are pearls of information that suggest the immensity and the unseen reality about us all. But a long read. ( )
  JBreedlove | Mar 5, 2015 |
Marking this as finished even though technically I still have two more chapters left -- they're even chapters I look forward to reading. But I know I'll be coming back to this and I wanted to move on to other reading for now.

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. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
This is his second book. I finished this book around the same time I was watching the new Cosmos series on Fox. (It's hard to believe that Seth McFarlane, the man behind Family Guy, is one of the producers of the new Cosmos. I'm still waiting for Stewie to show up, or for a Cosmos parody on Family Guy. But I digress.) Like Carl Sagan and Neil Degrasse Tyson on Cosmos, Brian Greene is attempting to make science understandable to those of us who don't have advanced science degrees. Dr Greene uses a lot of pop culture references to illustrate his points. He seems to have a special fondness for the Simpsons. It's a little more complex, though. He's trying to explain the basics of string theory, with its theories of 10-dimensional space and quantum lengths. It can be a little slow going at times. He saves most of the mathematical equations for the footnotes. I'm not sure it's fully understandable to everyone. I had trouble with it myself. Some updates from the text. The large Hadron collider was finished, and the Higgs particle was discovered. Also, scientists recently discovered ripples from the original big bang. Dr Greene knows about pop culture. (He's appeared on the TV show The Big Bang Theory making fun of himself.) He does well in this book. It's just the subject matter that can be daunting.
  jmcgarry2011 | May 22, 2014 |
Interviewed by Michael Krasney, KQED. ( )
  clifforddham | Mar 19, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375727205, Paperback)

As a boy, Brian Greene read Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus and was transformed. Camus, in Greene's paraphrase, insisted that the hero triumphs "by relinquishing everything beyond immediate experience." After wrestling with this idea, however, Greene rejected Camus and realized that his true idols were physicists; scientists who struggled "to assess life and to experience the universe at all possible levels, not just those that happened to be accessible to our frail human senses." His driving question in The Fabric of the Cosmos, then, is fundamental: "What is reality?" Over sixteen chapters, he traces the evolving human understanding of the substrate of the universe, from classical physics to ten-dimensional M-Theory.

Assuming an audience of non-specialists, Greene has set himself a daunting task: to explain non-intuitive, mathematical concepts like String Theory, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and Inflationary Cosmology with analogies drawn from common experience. For the most part, he succeeds. His language reflects a deep passion for science and a gift for translating concepts into poetic images. When explaining, for example, the inability to see the higher dimensions inherent in string theory, Greene writes: "We don't see them because of the way we see…like an ant walking along a lily pad…we could be floating within a grand, expansive, higher-dimensional space."

For Greene, Rhodes Scholar and professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, speculative science is not always as thorough and successful. His discussion of teleportation, for example, introduces and then quickly tables a valuable philosophical probing of identity. The paradoxes of time travel, however, are treated with greater depth, and his vision of life in a three-brane universe is compelling and--to use his description for quantum reality--"weird."

In the final pages Greene turns from science fiction back to the fringes of science fact, and he returns with rigor to frame discoveries likely to be made in the coming decades. "We are, most definitely, still wandering in the jungle," he concludes. Thanks to Greene, though, some of the underbrush has been cleared. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:06 -0400)

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A foremost string theorist discusses such topics as Newton's perspectives on space, Einstein's fusion of space and time, and recent breakthroughs on multidimensional universe theory.

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