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The Book of Universes [Paperback]

John D. Barrow
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

This is a book about universes. It tells a story that revolves around a single extraordinary fact: that Albert Einstein's famous theory of relativity describes a series of entire universes. Not many solutions to Einstein's tantalising universe equations have ever been found, but those that have are all remarkable. Some describe universes that expand in size, while others contract. Some rotate like a top, while others are chaotically unpredictable. Some are perfectly smooth, while others are lumpy. Some permit time travel into the past. Only a few allow life to evolve within them; the rest, if they exist, remain unknown and unknowable to conscious minds.

Here, in The Book of Universes, we are confronted with the most fantastic and far-reaching speculations within the entire realm of science.

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The Book of Universes + New Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation + The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099539861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099539865
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 421,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"There can be few better guides to the bewildering array of potential universes, and none so readable or entertaining" (Independent)

"Engrossing... He has a fluent and engaging style of writing and a good eye for an unusual quotation, and as a popularising historian of science, he is second to none" (Sunday Times)

"A stunning tour of potential universes, introducing us to the brilliant physicists and mathematicians who first revealed these startling possibilities... [and] the latest insights that physics and astronomy have to offer about our own universe" (Guardian)

Book Description

A book about universes - expanding, contracting, oscillating, time-travelling - from the bestselling author of 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit deep at times but fascinating nonetheless 11 April 2011
This is a book more about the history of theories about what constitutes a universe rather than a book about what we currently believe the current state of our universe is although that is covered to some extent. Barrow describes theories that have fallen by the wayside, such as universes expanding in different ways in different places, or not having begun with a "bang" at all. Through this it becomes apparent that any theories propounded today are just as likely to be "boshed" in years to come as we are at the very boundaries of science and the experimental method. John Barrow is a very readable author, bringing life to potentially baffling and complex ideas and although some old ground is gone over (quantum theory etc) it doesn't do any harm to reinforce all these ideas as I for one still don't quite always "get" it. Whilst Brian Cox's latest tome is "lighter", has better pictures and diagrams and is an excellent book in its own right, I would encourage anyone who has read that to look at this one and put some meat on many of the bones that Prof Cox describes
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I picked this up for free as part of a 3 for the price of 2 offer at Blackwell's in Oxford and I was delighted. It has made quite a lot clear to me that I didn't get before: what Einstein was trying to do when he came up with Relativity, how the current description of our universe (Big Bang, Inflation, Dark Matter, Dark Energy and a tiny, but non-zero Cosmological Constant that appears only to have cut in at round about the time that the Solar System was forming) seems pretty unavoidable, and why the cosmologists hate it (because it is such a Heath Robinson universe). The book won't be for everyone - Barrow doesn't shy away from graphs and equations - but if you've got say A-level Maths or Physics then you should be OK.

I think I spotted some editorial omissions where what Barrow says seems to be at variance with what I think he means. On the other hand, maybe I simply misunderstood what he was trying to say. In either case I don't think I can give the book the fifth star. But give it a go anyway.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BOOK OF UNIVERSES 28 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Once one appreciates that Einstein's equations of General Relativity permit many resonable solutions, one grasps the enormity of the 'multiverse'. And enormity is the apposite word when vacuum states of the string landscape are consisered. This is a very good book written by an expert researcher in cosmology; he just happens top be a good writer too! Not much in the way of mathematics - probably a good thing in a semi-popular book. Nonetheless, clearly articulated and, in my view, better than Brian Greene's latest offering. Thoroughly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Review of the Universes 3 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Barrow describes the development of Cosmology over the last hundred years and the array of possible Universes (and their pasts and futures). As usual with Barrow, the text is clear and lucid, although there are so many universes that it is impossible to keep track of them all. However, it appears that the generally accepted model of a Big Bang followed by inflation, with a multiverse of continuous inflation, is not so certainly established. Cosmology has a long way to go before it finds a wholly satisfying and observationally verifiable theory.

However, there are (it seems to me) some annoying errors in the book.

For example; in Figure 2.7a, illustrating positive, negative and zero curvature, the arrow indicating zero curvature seems to me to be pointing to an area of negative curvature. The arrow should be pointing to the next line of triangles up. What is disappointing about this is that it is a copy of Figure 2.1 in Barrow’s earlier book “Impossibility” where the same mistake is made.

Then Figure 8.7 shows the Weak force to be stronger than the electromagnetic, rather than the other way round. It also shows the weak, electromagnetic and strong forces coming together at one “triple cross-over” (p 192). But in fact, the weak and electromagnetic forces combine first and then the electroweak force equals the strong force at a higher temperature. Figure 5.3 in “Impossibility” has the same triple point, even though the text makes clear that the combinations occur at different temperatures.

It seems to me to be reprehensible, on the part of the author and the publisher, that the errors in the earlier book should have been repeated in a second book. I wonder what Barrow would say if one of his students made such errors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 5 Mar 2013
By Hud
From the beautiful pinkish cover, to the layout of the type and to the written style, I liked everything about this book. I have been reading a lot recently on the Universe, and have tended to stay away from the mathematically focused ones. Yes, there are maths in this but you can easily ignore it.

John D Barrow explains why it is that out of the evidence of inflation, E=MC2, the field equations, quantum mechanics and the cosmological constant we should even contemplate that thinking our universe is the only one is a naive notion.

From start to finish each hypotheses is presented simply as possible - building the reader up so that they feel they really understand the very nature of our universe and why it could be just one of 10x500, thats 10 with 500 zeros after it I think! Read and celebrate.
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