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The Life of the Cosmos Paperback – 1 Mar 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195126645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195126648
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2.8 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Science fans, hold on to your hats! Lee Smolin, a professor at the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at Pennsylvania State University, is about to take you on the ride of your life. Imagine, if you will, the theory of evolution applied to physics. What if our universe is so ideally adapted to life because it developed that way? What if ours is just one among many thousands of universes, all engaged in a cosmic survival-of-the-fittest struggle? These are just two of the wildly original theories Smolin posits in The Life of the Cosmos, in which Alice in Wonderland meets quantum physics. According to Smolin, the majority of today's physicists still regard physical laws as immutable, mathematical and eternally true--to them, the universe is an intricate mechanism, a cosmic clock. But what if the laws of physics aren't really "laws" at all, but rather an evolving, developing process of natural selection that began even before the Big Bang?

From Smolin's initial theory, it's a short step to black holes, alternate universes, string theory, gauge symmetry and knots--all complicated abstractions that Smolin describes and explains in a remarkably comprehensible way. Even if you don't agree with Smolin's science, his book makes for great mind-bending reading and more than a little food for thought. If nothing else, The Life of the Cosmos proves once and for all that there really is intelligent life on this planet. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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It is a pleasure to be reminded in detail of how extraordinary this world is. (Times Literary Supplement)

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Science is, above everything else, a search for an understanding of our relationship with the rest of the universe. Read the first page
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jan. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Although both physicists and philosophers may find it hard to agree with Lee Smolin's ideas, neither group could deny that his views are thought provoking. The book provides a refreshing insight into ideas about the structure of space-time and a possible explanation of why the physical constants have the values they have. If you have a taste for cosmological speculation but find daffy science popularisations with "god" in the title more irritating than illuminating, then this book is for you. Smolin writes with clarity and manages to engage the reader with the wonder at the heart of physics without the use of laboured attempts at poetry. A "real" physicist who can write is a rare treat. If you have enjoyed the work of David Deutsch or Julian Barbour, try this. If you haven't, try them next.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Mar. 2001
Format: Paperback
A well written book for anyone who is interested in the Physics of the universe, but doesn't nessesserily have an acute knowledge of Mathematics. Smolin ventures into dimentions and elementary particles with a highly detailed analysis of the smallest things in the universe but sometimes lacks a wide overview. A great book even for beginners. All you need to be interested in this book is some knowledge of Physics and an active imagination.
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Format: Paperback
'The Life of the Cosmos' is an argument for a new way of looking at fundamental physics and cosmology. Its highlight is cosmological natural selection (CNS) but the underlying principle is 'relationalism', an idea derived from Leibniz (and basic to relativity theory), in which physical properties are relational rather than intrinsic. Space and time are principles relating physical things to each other, not absolute backgrounds within which physical things interact but do not themselves take part in interactions.

Lee Smolin argues that the universe is self-organised, a bit like an organism or an ecosystem (though nothing is gained by saying that the universe is actually 'alive'). The universe has evolved and possesses homoeostatic properties that keep many of its components in states far from thermal equilibrium. Another relational principle learnt from Leibniz is that a view of the whole universe as a far-from-equilibrium system does not imply a view-point from outside the universe.

CNS is a Darwinian solution to the 'special-tuning problem', which is the vast improbability that the universe should be set up precisely to suit life (as it seems to be). The answer is that a mechanism of natural selection can produce design without a designer or blueprint. In the case of cosmology, the key is the production of black holes. Assuming each universe is born as a black hole within another universe, then universes take part in a copying competition and the most typical universe (which we may assume ours to be) ought to belong to the lineage with the most fecund universes.

This prediction is testable: by changing any of the parameters of physics in our universe, one will produce a different universe with fewer black holes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hardback, excellent quality. Thankyou. RDR
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2 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Nov. 1998
Format: Paperback
It's a super book but it seems that the thought process goes to far. If we and the universe continuously evolve to explain the improbability of our being here and we avoid inventing god, we only invent an unprovable theory as a substitute.
However I need to know why these other universes on the other side of black hole compare with ours. There is only so much energy around so each must be pretty limited and since they drain this one, I'm surprised we are still here.
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