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From Brian Greene, One Of The World S Leading Physicists And Author The Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Elegant Universe, Comes A Grand Tour Of The Universe That Makes Us Look At Reality In A Completely Different WaySpace 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 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 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 Instantaneously Coordinate Their Behavior, Greene Takes Us All, Regardless Of Our Scientific 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 What an incredible journey this was I think Brian is fantastically gifted to explain esoteric and cutting edge cosmological concepts without the use of formulae and maths He says himself that he will only use metaphors to explain the ideas, but even so he remains respectful of his subject, he does not dumb things down, and I found the metaphors for the most part evocative and helpful Towards the end of the book, however, the ideas get so far removed from human intuition that I would have wanted a little formalism, perhaps But this was on offer as well Brian adds a copious body of footnotes and in this way relegates a rigorous discussion to the back of the book This discussion will of course still not satisfy those who have an in depth understanding of the science involved, but I don t think they are the target group of this book in the first place To me, this was the best account of the current state well, it s ten years old, but close enough of cosmology I have read The field appears to be so fast moving that some of his statements in the later chapters have already been overtaken by reality, but there is a special charm in hearing Brian suggest that the LIGO experiment may demonstrate the existence of gravitational waves in decades to come when you know that this has already happened, much sooner than he thought Equally, I felt a pang of regret when he expresses optimism that the LHC runs may find evidence of extra spatial dimensions soon after the upgrade to higher energies, knowing this has not happened yet, and scepticism is mounting that it ever will.Transcending what Brian was actually teaching me about the science, I also had an epiphany when I was reading the book Brian talks at length about the shortcomings of the Big Bang theory, and explains how the theory of inflation may answer some of its frustrating issues, such as the flatness problem The flatness problem highlights the issue that a tiny difference in origin conditions would have generated a universe entirely different from the one we observe today Now, I have always thought that this is no mystery, the fact that we are here to observe this universe is the reason we may puzzle about these finetuned conditions, but they are just one in many, equally possible, universes, and our surprise is therefore of our own making I even thought this position was enlightened, and quite clever But Brian explained that physicists abhor theories that rely on unknown qualities, on axiomatic pronouncements that accept something as a given I understood that only by asking why were physicists able to develop a theory that explains the finetuning, and go beyond the Big Bang as the creation theory of the universe And this was an excellent lesson to me I think I knew this once, but I had forgotten about it In my case, my anthropic stance was actually an attempt on my part to avoid a deeper question, an attempt to posit an answer where there wasn t one yet Brian reminded me that we must never stop asking why , that asking why is what makes us human I loved this book I can only recommend it to anybody who does not have a formal degree in science and wants to learn about cosmology but is a bit frustrated about the lack of depth popular accounts of this topic typically provide. I like to talk shit about science sometimes Sometimes it s just to push people s buttons and other times it s because of the pop side of science is ridiculous you know like the studies that get quoted on your web browsers start up page, which may even be contradicted a few days from now by some other article, or all those fucking pharmaceutical ad s on TV Hey, thanks Pfizer for helping make me a drug addict I just made a slight at pop science and that is hypocritical of me, it s really the only type of science I can understand and this book basically falls into that category, it s a watered down version of real science so humanities idiots like me can understand concepts that they would stare open mouthed at if they had to read the actual articles about By the way, I loved this book Starting with a seemingly simple problem or I would think it s simple, but it took a few hundred years and Einstein to adequately understand it, apparently not that I could figure it out about why the water in a bucket pushes up against the side of the bucket when you spin the bucket around really fast, Brian Green creates a narrative I m using this in it s normal manner, not in the science as narrative way that I use it when I want to piss people off, this book is a history of science book in quite a few ways that shows how this bucket filled with some water paved the way for Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Uncertainty, the Big Bang, String Theory, M Theory, Branes and other concepts that helped move forward theoretical understandings of the whole universe Oh, actually the underlying theme to the book is how do we understand the concepts of space and time, or spacetime, which is one of the problems of understanding why the water in the bucket does what it does when it is spun around Oh, did I mention I loved this book I feel awkward giving it five stars because I lack the critical acumen to know if Brian Green is really telling the whole story, or if there is a huge bias here because I m an idiot when it comes to matters like this I felt like he was being fair though but maybe I was just dazzled by any of the mathematics he would throw into footnotes that I wouldn t have the first idea on what to do with if someone handed me even the simplest one and asked me to solve it About a hundred pages into the book I had the realization that I should have been interested in math and science growing up More exactly I had the realization that the way math and science were taught in the schools I attended did nothing to inspire me at all I m fairly certain that most people never use most of the information they learn in science classes I ve never had the need to know all the parts of a flower, but if I had been taught something about what went into discovering some of the biology of x or say about the real awesomeness of evolution I d probably have perked up and gotten interested Or maybe learned about the difficulties still facing scientists when dealing with the subatomic level, and the weirdness of quantum uncertainty and entanglement might have gotten me interested and wanting to know in a chemistry class than endlessly learning how to balance electrons between elements or whatever that fruitless exercise was called I know these details are really important to doing science, but without any reason to care about wanting to know about science this is all just monumental busy work Shouldn t it be the job of schools to get kids to care and wanting to learn rather than forcing meaningless facts onto them This rantish aside about the misguided importance pedological approach of science education in American schools was just me being bitter It s too late now, and I m too dumb in too many areas of knowledge but I should have been a theoretical physicist That is what I realized reading this book I wish someone had told me about the weird shit these people try to figure out, explained who Parmenides was and the basic gist of his Poem was, and then told me I could work on these problems for the rest of my life if I started to pay attention in math class and gave a shit about my science classes, that there was cool stuff I d get to later on Parmenides is never mentioned in this book, but at almost every step through the book he kept popping into my mind He s my reoccurring fascination His idea of the everything just being One at first glance is so silly I remember the first time reading Zeno s Paradoxes he was Parmenides student and thinking they were just silly games with words, obviously something moves faster than something else and can over come it Obviously an arrow shot at a target eventually hits it Duh But sometime soon after my immediate annoyance at these kinds of meaningless games something clicked in me and I started to try to think through what Parmenides could mean by the whole universe being an unchanging, undivisible, timeless thing A point, if you would On one level Parmenides can be thought of as the logical foil to the pre Socratic materialists, the voice that says your theory is nice but what about x I don t buy into the idea that was Parmenides only goal though Unfortunately it s pretty much impossible to know exactly what Parmenides thought, because of thanks to those motherfucking Christians and Moslems you know for their multiple burnings of the Library of Alexandria and Christians for their wanton destruction of heretical literature we have only a scant few fragments left from Parmenides work, and most of it is second hand from the post Socratic arch materialist Aristotle materialist meaning something sort of different in the Ancient Greek sense than one would think of a materialist today Are you bored yet Anyway, back to Parmenides, I don t buy the idea that his role was only as foil, or goad to the materialists to make their theories logically consistent Why Because of Plato Socrates is bested only twice in the dialogues First as a young man by Parmenides of Elea the guy I ve been writing about in Parmenides and second by the Eleatic Stranger in The Sophist and The Statesman these two dialogues are like a part one and part two to each other The appearance of the Eleatic Stranger is in the two dialogues that come at the end of Socrates life, before the series of dialogues that make up the trial and death of Socrates In both instances Socrates is bested in his arguments by the philosophy coming from Elea Why Why is the only person who Plato allows to give Socrates a philosophical beat down either Parmenides or a stand in for him Parmenides himself couldn t be in a chronologically later dialogue, since he was an old man when Socrates was a youth Anyway, long story that doesn t mean too much to anyone probably, but to sum it up Parmenides has been an thought game for me for years now, and many of the ideas that I ve had to reconcile what Parmenides means I find in this fucking book, there are people who are seriously considering some of the logical games I play in my head about cosmology, but they have math and ways of actually coming up with answers I haven t done a good job at it, but to me this is so exciting It s like all of the crazy shit that philosophers have thought up over the years can be actually studied and not just argued about using a mismash of concepts and logic, but possibly measured and articulated with math and shit This book is like a validation to the stuff I think about when I m not just wallowing in self pity or being sad Of course, I knew that a lot of this stuff existed before reading this book, but I had no idea what any of it really meant I just took the words and applied common meanings to them String Theory Oh, everything is interconnected with vibrating strings Actually, no That s not what String Theory means Multi dimensions, you mean like people could be living in a dimension almost on top of me that I don t see because I don t have access to those dimensions, but one day maybe we could, right No, actually even if the dimensions are big, the word big is being used on a microscopic scale, like the width of a piece of hair big, as opposed to small as in so small we have nothing that can see it I realized that most of the ways books in the new age section use science terms to validate their ideas and how they claim to be drawing on cutting edge research is bullshit, that they are just picking terms out and using them in ways to sell books on hokum I realized reading this book that I wish I wasn t so stupid and that I could at least understand this stuff at than in a non technical watered down way. Did you know that Schr dinger s equation is a perfect anagram of A Second Herring Quits And is a near perfect anagram of Surely someone s taking the piss The second anagram relies, of course and almost entirely , on a rather judicious application of Heisenberg s uncertainty principle but I do think that one may be illuminating of how I m finding some of the quantum mechanical experiments described in this book There is part of me that would like to believe that in the early part of the last century I don t remember the year, but surely on an April First a group of European physicists got together and decided to come up with an idea so monumentally ridiculous that it would have them chuckling at the gullibility of we mathematically challenged for years to come Einstein was in on the joke at the start, but ended up thinking it had all gone on for far too long Frynman introduced some slapstick into the equations in a fine American tradition but, as always, it takes an Irishman John Bell to put the final touches on the comedy and to make it truly surreal So, why isn t anybody laughing If you are not disturbed by the findings of Quantum Mechanics, well, you re really not trying hard enough This is quite some book so far.UpdateOkay, I ve finished and I ve had problems with this one In fact, I have many problems with modern physics and believe that the only way I could really understand it would be to go back and finish off a degree in this stuff Since I m unlikely to do that, I am going to have to accept that this stuff will have to remain a mystery to me This guy really does try to make this stuff accessible, but I ve a feeling that without the maths it just does not make any sense on any level.My problem is exacerbated by the fact that it seems that every time there is a problem in Physics we are having trouble solving we just make up something invisible to solve it Universe not expanding fast enough Stuff it full of dark matter Expanding too fast Bring back the Cosmological Constant Can t make gravity fit in with quantum theory Postulate string theory Having trouble with quantum theory Why not create an infinite number of universes that can t access each other Having trouble explaining the vibrations of one dimensional strings Vibrate them in 11 dimensional space.Bring back the Ether, I say Physics never seems to do anything by half Even cosmic inflation seems to have inflated the universe to a ridiculous extent in the first nanosecond of the universe.I don t believe I can really say anything sensible about any of this stuff It is so far divorced from my limited understanding that to express an opinion really just makes me feel incredibly ignorant Like I said, I m not prepared to learn the maths, so I should just shut up It is a pity physics has become so esoteric I would like to be one of its great defenders, to use it as a basis to understand the universe, but I come away from these books feeling someone is having me on.This is a good book, in part Some of it is still remarkably hard going even with the allusions to the Simpsons and X Files I ve never seen the X Files or some of the other bits of pop culture mentioned, so that made what I took to be some of the jokes quite inaccessible to me but that will just be me The stuff about Newton s Bucket was utterly fascinating and well worth reading The stuff of string theory was like most stuff on string theory I ve virtually no understanding of this stuff and can t quite follow the controversy that surrounds it Anyway, it sounds like no one will ever be able to test any of this stuff if we can t see an electron how the hell are we ever going to see a one dimensional string My main problem with this book was his early explanation of entropy and how this did not provide an arrow of time He says that if you watch a film of an egg falling and braking that you could reverse the film and there is nothing in the laws of physics to decide which direction the film travelled in that must be the right direction He says that there would be a way to get all the bits of egg to fly back at the right speed and reconstitute This, of course, is nonsense It is not a matter of things coming back together at the right speed that is the issue Have you ever broken a glass You don t get the pieces to go back together again by moving them together at the right speed They never go back together again This is a one way reaction Why Because once the glass is broken the bonds between the atoms in the glass are broken Pushing the pieces together again is pushing negatively charged electrons against negatively charged electrons and they will repeal each other, not just nicely bond There are laws of physics and laws of chemistry that do not allow this reversal I figure that if I have spotted a flaw in this easy bit of his argument there are too many bits of this argument that I struggled to follow that may be just as equally flawed This stuff is from about page 145 169 I did learn some interesting stuff from this book even about entropy I had no idea that the arrow of entropy was double headed or that inflation was the main cause of order in the young universe But large parts of this book deal with questions that are simply too esoteric I ended up knowing that I would never know what was in a black hole or what caused the big bang and basically not really caring I m sure this wasn t Greene s intention, is the pity. If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Going Overboard The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene original review, 2004 Within each individual time slice, your thoughts and memories are sufficiently rich to yield a sense that time has continuously flowed to that moment This feeling, this sensation that time is flowing, doesn t require previous moments previous frames to be sequentially illuminated In The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian GreeneI agree that this is at least as much philosophy as science, though mathematically based philosophy But what irks me is that for all the pages of science books devoted to this subject, no one has pointed out that for us to experience moments sequentially assuming those moments don t themselves move our mind has to move through those moments And movement entails time So while time may be a spatial dimension, if Greene and Godel, etc are right, then there must be at least one other dimension of time that allows our minds to move through the different moments that all exist and experience them sequentially.