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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and…

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

by Brian Greene

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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 |
I'm not a Physicist, so Quantum Mechanics is not what I would've done / learned as part of my regular 'work life'. But this documentary explains the basics of Quantum world in a way that is easily absorbed by non-Quantum people (or 'lay men' according other Quantum physicists).

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." ( )
  nmarun | Mar 11, 2014 |
The Fabric of the Cosmos is a long, comprehensive overview of the nature of space and time. It begins with a short history of our view of time and space, moving quickly to Newton and then the precursors to relativity, before covering special and general relativity in detail, before carrying out the same treatment for quantum mechanics. The middle sections cover how relativity and quantum mechanics can start to explain what space and time actually are. Topics such as the big bang, inflation, are described and brought in to further illuminate the latest scientific views of space and time. The final sections of the book are more speculative, first covering string theory, including branes, and then moving on to a very speculative final part, looking at whether time travel or teleportations are consistent with the current view of reality, and then about where physics might be going next in the coming decades. As is apparent from the above, the structure of the book is strong, and very well judged. I preferred it to The Elegant Universe for its broader remit, and because not so much of the book was describing ideas no one as yet has any evidence for.

At the end, I was left with an unsettling sense that the universe is utterly alien, compared with our everyday notions - that the real action is happening at scales so small even our most powerful particle accelerators don't have access to them. Even if they did, it could be that our entire sense of reality, of time and space, and the fabric of it all, might be a holographic illusion. It's as if we see a smooth 3D world in a holographic picture, when what we're really receiving is just different pixels on a 2D surface.

There were just a couple of niggling issues: first sometimes the explanations weren't precise or clear enough (for instance, special relativity was explained far better by Isaacson (not a physicist!) in his Einstein biography). This extended to the endnotes, which were meant to clarify, but the mathematical explanations seemed rushed to me - sometimes there more as a demonstration of his knowledge, rather than for pedagogical reasons. Second, this book is now a decade old, and it is calling out for either a second edition, or at least an update to the endnotes - when he speculates about what the LHC will discover and so on, this just seems so dated, and we really need a way for him to rewrite or add sections in the light of the latest developments.

But overall this was an incredibly fascinating, astonishing, thrilling, beguiling ride - and a fantastic achievement. I felt privileged to have read it. ( )
  RachDan | Dec 28, 2013 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:30 -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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3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141011114, 014103727X, 0141037628

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