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The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford Paperbacks) Paperback – 19 May 1988


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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (19 May 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192821474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192821478
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 3 x 15.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

an engaging book ... practically a universal education in both the history of modern science and the history of the Universe ... will be much quoted, much debated and much praised (Nature)

a feast: the kind of book which tells you everything you want to know about everything (The Economist)

About the Author

Professor of Astronomy at the University of Sussex, John D. Barrow's principal research interest is the early history of the universe. He is well known for his bestselling popular science books including Theories of Everything, Pi in the Sky, and The Artful Universe (OUP, 1995). Frank J. Tipler Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, New Orleans. He is the author of The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead, Macmillan, 1995, £20, in which he presents a scientific proof of the existence of God.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David Attwater on 4 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
The title, density of equations and sheer size of this book will either intrigue you or scare you to death. It intrigued me - and once read - left me with a great sense of wonder at this universe we live in. If you are not an extremely well read physicist you will have to persevere with some of the dense well argued detail and take most of the equations at face value but you will be well rewarded.
This book is as free from bias as I think a book on this topic can be, and is certainly free from the card-carrying philosophical baggage with which may other works in this area are fraught. Opening with a careful definition of the various forms of the cosmological principles the first few chapters take a broad sweep through the history of philosophical thought. It charts the origins of the various streams of thought concerning what we are all doing here - and why. The rest of the book them systematically links these with current scientific thinking very effectively. This introduction is well worth reading in its own right if the subsequent equations are going to scare you!
Approaching the problem from multiple angles - chemistry, biology, stellar evolution, and dimensionality, to name but a few, the journey begins. Taking a belief in the theory of evolution as a pre-requisite, it explains just how remarkable our existence really is. A central theme of the book is the anthropic significance of the continuing uncertainty as to whether the universe will expand forever or collapse back into itself. From every angle the key characteristics that our universe requires to support intelligent life are examined paying particular attention to the tolerance to certain variables that intelligent life can display, highlighting the implied cosmological consequences.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 April 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the revival of anthropic reasoning and why our Universe appears fine-tuned then this is an essential must read classic. The renowned authors present a refreshingly unbiased approach to a complex and potentially dry labyrinth of subjects and even take an irreverent swipe at some topics with the occasional humorous epigram at the beginning of each section. Be aware though, the quotation preceding the foreword "Ah Mr Gibbon, another damned fat square book..." is a warning of the perseverance required of the reader. The density of text and the almost continuous run of scientific equations in the central chapters demand much fortitude. The work can be used as a reference guide with each chapter dipped into independently, which is just as well. However, the content is grouped into the following major discussions in sequence - a romp through the dramatis personae of philosophy, scientific thought and metaphysics from ancient to modern, the re-emergence of the anthropic principle, the significance of the anthropic principle in the modern scientific context and finally several speculative not to say rather wacky chapters covering space travel and the future of the Universe.
Collectively the monograph is well written and presented, but I found the early chapters repetitive and dragged quite a bit. The scientific demonstrations of the anthropic principle were better and particularly persuasive; the chapter on biochemistry and the premise in the chapter on astrophysics that many gross physical properties can be described in terms of only two dimensionless parameters, the fine structure constant and the electron to proton mass ratio, is remarkable.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
I rate this along with Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics (Popular Science) as being on the exact borderline between popular science and the domain of the serious practitioner. If you've got a bit of rusty old undergraduate maths, and you want to engage with some fascinating science that they didn't teach you in school/college, then you should just about be able to hang on for this exhilarating ride.

It's a tour of physics, all of science in fact, but arranged sort of transversely to the usual treatments, in such a way as to illustrate the numerous ways in which anthropic thinking impacts on modern science. So it's as much a philosophy of Physics as a straight physics text.

So starting from the very beginning, we look at all the infinitude of ways the big bang might have worked out: from universes so brief or tiny as to be 'pointless', to those that don't have a sufficient preponderance of matter or anti-matter, and so end up too empty to be interesting. However, we thinking beings find ourselves in a Goldilock's universe that's 'just right', and we examine the exquisitely tuned parameters required for this to be so.

Next we look at how gravity is arranged 'just right' so as to make galaxies, stars and planets, rather than an endlessly dissipating cloud of fog, or at the other extreme, a universe of nothing but black holes.

We then move on to the nuclear forces and find all the ways it might have been whereby there was nothing more interesting than hydrogen, or helium, or nitrogen, or carbon, or where all there is iron, and so on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 38 reviews
85 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Excellent-A profound look past the dogmas of modern physics. 1 Oct. 1998
By TAM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Two respected physicists take a chance with their professional reputations by presenting a text that is simultaneously lucid, brilliant, mathematically sound, and honest (gasp!). This is a work in both physics and biology. It centers around the "Anthropic Principle"-roughly, that our existence necessarily puts some constraints on the evolution of the universe. Indeed, as Barrow and Tipler elucidate, these restrictions can be signifigant. As someone privileged to study under the latter physicist, I can personally attest to the convinction with which Tipler adheres to his beliefs, in the face of contemporary animadversion. Most importantly though, underlying this whole work are some very important concerns about philosophy of science (although maybe the authors might reel back at the notion of any sort of "philosophy" in their work). Perhaps this is for you, the future reader, to determine. My highest recommendation.
53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
This Book Should be Famous but Isn't. 18 May 2001
By galloamericanus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a revolutionary treatise on cosmology and the fate of the human species. It is frankly the most breathtaking book I have ever read, more exhilarating than Penrose's "Road to Reality" or than related efforts by Victor Stengers, John Barrow writing alone, Lee Smolin, or Eric Chaisson. I agree with the reviewer who asserts that this book's breadth of erudition is astounding. While quite technical in parts, other parts are definitely within the grasp of anyone who learned high school science well and is comfortable with algebra. There is much here beyond physics: chemistry, earth science, and biology. The book also contains a superb and lengthy discussion of many fascinating topics in the history and philosophy of science. This discussion remains valuable regardless of the future evolution of our understanding of cosmology. This is the book John Wheeler would have liked to have written but did not.

Among the suprising topics included in this book are:
*A detailed discussion of the large number coincidences of Eddington and Dirac;
*An extensive discussion of the handful of dimensionless constants that ground modern physics: fine structure (137), ratio of the rest masses of the proton to that of the electron (1836), the coupling constant for gravitation (at most 10^-39), etc;
*An anthropic defense of the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics against the Copenhagen interpretation;
*The most extensive discussion I know of why why our universe has 4 dimensions, 3 of space and 1 of time;
*A chapter on biochemistry and the biosphere. In it, Barrow and Tipler agree that because photosynthesis has very gradually increased the fraction of the atmosphere made of oxygen, that fraction will, within a few hundred million years, reach a level such that vegetation will ignite spontaneously, making continued life on earth impossible;
*A chapter on why we are probably the only intelligent species in the Milky Way (Simon Conway Morris's "Life's Solution" concurs), and why it is our fate to colonise our home galaxy.

The above and more should have led to a cover story in Time or Newsweek. It did not, even though at the time of first publication, Tipler was nowhere near as controversial as he since became.

Barrow and Tipler incline to the Big Crunch. If Perlmutter et al are correct, so that it is the case that the expansion of the universe is accelerating and that there is not enough mass in the universe to reverse the process, then the Big Crunch is in trouble. Also, the other great visionary among modern physicists, Freeman Dyson, has been known to disagree with Tipler.

This book was written 20 years ago and has its share of typos. Would the authors please give us a thoroughly revised second edition?
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
NOT a Layman's guide to the Anthropic Cosmological Principle 3 Aug. 2005
By Rob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although this is a very extensive book, covering the Anthropic Cosmological Principle (which in short focuses on the fact that so many aspects of the cosmos and nature are finely tuned to make life possible) in a historical perspective, within cosmology, quantum theory, chemistry and biology, it is definitely not a book for the Layman. It includes a lot of mathematics, which I think should have been included in the references at the end of each chapter. However, when you filter those passages out, and focus on the main points, this book is a must-have and a classic for everyone with an open mind and interest in our place in this universe.

Rob (The Netherlands)
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
One of the most important books of the last 20 years. 1 Sept. 2004
By Charles Rogerson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have been working my way through this for years. It's one of those books where I have to sit back and think after every half page. I'm in the last chapters and this is one of a few books which have caused me to deeply re-evaluate my philosophy. The first chapters on the history of philosophy and cosmology alone should be required reading for any one serious about philosophy and science. Talk about out-of-the-box, yet rigorous, thinking!! How is it that something so unbelievably improbable as us exists? What are the scientific and cosmological implications of the fact that we actually do exist? Why are most scientists uncomfortable with this book? It challenges their narrow world-view. Why are most engineers I've raised these issues with more open to them than the scientists? Because they, having built real systems, know how astonishing it is that this world exists and they aren't comfortable with the glib answers given by conventional scientific ideology.
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
very good addition to the big piles of space books 22 Sept. 2001
By Martijn13Maart1970 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a lot to say about this one: I first thought it was a sort of New Age hippie book, but it is not. This book, written by 2 scientist, mainly deals about the question whether the universe is as it is, exactly because we are here to observe it.
This book should be famous but it isnt, wrote one reviewer. I totally agree.
Every chapter you can read separately, therefore you dont have to be an Einstein to catch the full graps of all formula's presented, but each chapter adds more and more you could say evidence that maybe the theory that we are unique really is all too much of a coincidence NOT to be true: I started really sceptical, but in the end I almost had to agree that maybe the universe and us are really connected much more than we think. After all, science is so separated in disciplines now, e.g. we cannot explain biology with physical laws, so we are not really ready yet to fully understand whats going on in the universe, if we ever will. This book gives a nice objective! opinion, with load of interesting facts in all kinds of disciplines that allow you to make up your mind yourself about it. And a a reviewer also said, along the way you get a nice education about science, astronomy, chemistry and biology!
A very good book.
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