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The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew Paperback – 7 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (7 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034580595X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345805959
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Alan Lightman might be the only writer who can dance through not just one but seven universes in a book not much larger than a human hand. (The Columbus Dispatch) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A series of beautifully written, intellectually thrilling essays (in the literary scientific tradition of Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan) by award-winning physicist and novelist Alan Lightman: The Accidental Universe is a meditation on the unexpected ways in which recent scientific findings have shaped our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This 145 page book is about a complex subject -- the universe and our place in it. It is lucid, rational, and persuasively written; a small book on a vast subject which is best enjoyed by the reader personally. In brief, Alan Lightman tells us that the current scientific view which he, as a scientist, is inclined to agree, is that our universe is the result of a random coincidence of forces and events (his first chapter explains this). He also says that current scientific opinion inclines towards the existence of not just our universe but many others. Some may similarly have randomly created conditions that lead to life. However, he accepts that these are based on scientific theories and calculations that are rational, and irrefutable for the time being, there is no way we can prove that there is life anywhere else.

Lightman is a self-confessed atheist although reading his thoughts in this book, one might be forgiven for thinking him to be a Buddhist. He certainly does not believe in the existence of any gods, and he does not believe in any life after death. He believes that we, like every living thing, grows in the time available to us in the space we are in, and gradually, we wither and are gone - like everything else that once lived but are now dead - the one billion people who were alive in the year 1800, for example.

Lightman agrees with the views of Richard Dawkins so far as biology, evolution and atheism are concerned. But he dislikes Dawkins' attitude. Lightman is amenable to people who wish to believe in a personal god or gods. He believes that the scientific people (not science) can live with religious people (not religion). He clearly does not think that science and religion are compatible, but scientists and religious people can be.

It seems, therefore, such a brilliant piece of work will probably attract criticism from Dawkins and extremist religious people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thistle on 14 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a gentle, contextualising survey of recent developments in science, pulling together previously published essays. It reads well, reflecting Alan Lightman's liminal expertise (a morning spent leading a physics class at MIT followed by an afternoon teaching a fiction-writing group across campus provides an unusual academic pedigree), and describes something of a personal odyssey too. As the author notes, it is surprising to see just how often religion appears to creep into the discussion in (English-speaking) science faculties, but he treads a careful and generous path, respecting a diversity of views. Readers may in fact have wished for a little more "bite" in the argument, notwithstanding a tilt or two at Richard Dawkins, but this is a thoughtful, accessible and well-balanced introduction to a wide range of topics for the non-specialist. A slightly fuller set of notes and references might have made it more useful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good book and a great mix of what we 'know' scientifically and 'feel' philosophically. Just one thing that could have made it better and that would be a chapter entitled The Living Universe. The book, The Self-Aware Universe by Goswami, gives some better clues as to what is really going one. I hope one day materialistic scientists discover that all that 'dark stuff' is only dark when you look in the wrong direction and that everything is 'alive' but perhaps not-as-we-know-it.

That said, there are some real gems of wisdom here and the author makes some big concepts easily digestible.
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By Sutinder Bola on 8 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Accessible, informative, thought provoking, witty and deeply engrossing. Alan Lightman respects the reader and the subjects. There is no didactic point of view, he is open about his views as a man of Science but also accepting that Science cannot and does not know all there is to know. The book provides hooks for the reader to formulate his own opinions on some fascinating subjects. An excellent read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sean Connolly on 5 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
I really loved this book. It has an ambitious reach in terms of content and is well written. If you'd always wished you'd paid more attention to physics at school to understand the nature of the universe... then this is the perfect book for you. For me the connection of the latest scientific thinking + deep buddhist style philosophical thinking is a really good combination.
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By J.H.Butterfield on 3 Aug. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent read
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Donaghy on 31 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book. It reminds us that science has allowed us to understand some but not all of the secrets of the universe and that there is much more to be discovered. I loved how the author deals with complicated physics in a user-friendly way and I particularly liked the way the book dealt with the issue of religion in a respectful way. A great book for enquiring minds.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carola I Radulescu on 30 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover
"Yes, we (humans) are certainly a difficult mess of self-contradictions." - so beautifully expressed.

'The Accidental Universe' has been declared one of the best books of 2014 according to brainpickings.org.

I personally enjoyed the last chapter, where the author talks about our future towards, what he calls, a "disembodied existence"... basically living, as half man - half machine, in an almost complete virtual world; but he does think there will be a few of us who will rebel and try to live in the present and visible world and try to enjoy the beauty of the nature.
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