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About Time: From Sun Dials to Quantum Clocks, How the Cosmos Shapes our Lives - And We Shape the Cosmos Paperback – 7 Feb 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (7 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1851689648
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851689644
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 254,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Beyond exploring mind-bending theories… Frank's book is a fascinating and comprehensive survey of how technology — from farming to railways to telegraphy to the internet — has changed our everyday concept of time… Compelling." Marcus Chown (New Scientist)

“A phenomenal blend of science and cultural history.” Starred review. (Kirkus Reviews)

"This will fascinate anyone curious about the nexus of astronomy and history and, of course, time. Recommended." (Library Journal)

“Eloquent.” (Nature)

Review

“A rich and inspiring tour through some of the biggest ideas that have ever been thought.” (Sean Carroll)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Ogden on 3 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have long been fascinated by time. Why does time's arrow appear to flow in only one direction? Why is it that our experience of time can vary depending on what particular sort of experience we are undergoing?
Adam Frank offers a story in two parts. The early chapters of his book are about the links between culture and time. His remarks on this theme range from the dawn of pre-history (the beginning of time?) through the development of human interest in various cycles of time: the day, the month, the year, and so on. As the accuracy of scientific observations increases so there is a shift in human perceptions of time. As the present time we (in the developed world) are captives to a time-world whose granularity is very tiny; our smart phones and GPS receivers drive us to divide time into ever smaller intervals. This exposition of time as a cultural artefact is excellent.
But with the researches of Einstein we have been taught that things are not quite as simple as we imagined. Time, space and velocity interact in ways that challenge our facile preconceptions. Even as Einstein's results were finding their way into the scientific mainstream, other researchers were probing even deeper imponderables: was there a beginning of time? Is time linear or circular? Can it even go backwards???
So the book shades into its mind-blowing second half, as Frank guides his readers through a bewildering collection of theories about time and its beginnings (or not) and the possibilities of multiple universes. One wonders: where is William of Occam when you need him?
So it is that some cosmologists have become disenchanted with the increasingly weird speculations about time and space and try to draw the scientific community back to evidence-based reasoning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tsuchan on 20 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a curious book: unique in starting the narrative far back in history, and working gradually forward (more or less chronologically) through Egyptians, dark ages, the one-handed clock era, two-handed clock era, the life effects on humans of a changing understanding of time; right through to the modern theories of time in the cosmos. Even as an avid reader of cosmology books, some things were new and fascinating to me; while some things I've read elsewhere became clearer or gave new insight.

Time is abundant in this book. It's the primary subject, of course, but also its strength and its weakness. On the positive side, Adam Frank takes the time other authors cannot afford to give lots more detail. For example, I've often heard that Lamaître was the Belgian Priest who first theorised the big bang, and about Gamow's work in nuclear physics. But this book told the story of how the Big Bang concept was almost separately theorised three times and fell out of favour; about weaknesses of Lamaître's concept; about the Alpher and Gamow paper about the Big Bang to which Gamow spuriously added the name of the Nobel laureate Hans Bethe as a joke to make the paper's authors sound like "Alpha, Beta and Gamma"; that all three scientists had eventually left theoretical physics in some disillusionment, and that Gamow had written "Mr Tompkins" books about a guy falling asleep during lectures of famous physicists and having dreams which explained the principles of their work. This kind of fascinating detail runs through the book, and it's great!

On the other hand, the author takes regular time-outs from his factual account, to relate bizarre stories which seem so tangential, it's like somebody switching TV channels without warning.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tudor C on 19 July 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book is an excellent, comprehensive look at all aspects of time, some of which I hadn't thought of before. It is well written and easy to follow.
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Format: Paperback
This is a curious book that tries to be great - and it almost succeeds. Adam Frank makes a determined effort to interweave two apparently unconnected strands of science and technology history - the personal appreciation of time in human culture and our cosmology. Along the way he brings in a whole host of little details - whether or not you feel that the main aim of the book is successful, there is plenty to enjoy in here.

To begin with, that blend of two disparate strands works very well. We start with time that is linked to the heavens and so is inevitably tied up with cosmology. Later on we get the monastic measures of time, the first clocks, the spread of mechanical time, electrical synchronisation and the railways, modern time keeping, the Outlook program from Microsoft Office and our modern hyper-connected, always aware world, and alongside it the move from mythical cosmologies through Greek and Copernican versions of the solar system, our expanding view of the universe, various Big Bang theories and their burgeoning rivals. (Frank pretty much has the Big Bang as dead by now.)

Sometimes the interweaving is impressive. For instance, I knew that Einstein came up with his special relativity with its very different views of simultaneity while he was working in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. But I had assumed the work was a sinecure he got out of the way quickly before thinking his important thoughts. Frank points out that much of the patent material he was working on would be about electrical synchronisation of clocks - a concept with simultaneity at its heart - so could be directly inspirational in his thinking.
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