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The Matter Myth: Dramatic Discoveries That Challenge Our Understanding of Physical Reality [Paperback]

Paul Davies , John Gribbin
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2007 0743290917 978-0743290913 Reprint
In this sweeping survey, acclaimed science writers Paul Davies and John Gribbin provide a complete overview of advances in the study of physics that have revolutionized modern science. From the weird world of quarks and the theory of relativity to the latest ideas about the birth of the cosmos, the authors find evidence for a massive paradigm shift. Developments in the studies of black holes, cosmic strings, solitons, and chaos theory challenge commonsense concepts of space, time, and matter, and demand a radically altered and more fully unified view of the universe.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290913
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 545,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

PAUL DAVIES is Director of the Beyond Center at Arizona State University and the bestselling author of more than twenty books. He won the 1995 Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper meaning of science. His books include About Time, The Fifth Miracle, and The Mind of God.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 16 years out of date 1 Mar 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The publication date given is completely misleading.

It is actually a reprint of the original edition published in 1992! Hence the 'dramatic discoveries' are actually at least 16 years old - an age in the field of physics. There is not even an updated bibliography, most of which are dated in the 1980s.

There is nothing wrong with the book as long as it is regarded as a historical document and not as an up-to-the-minute factual book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Myth and matter in mixed measure. 24 Feb 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have not discovered what this book is meant to be for: its theme, its argument, its purpose. The debunking of the Newtonian view of the world is surely an overworked theme. Perhaps the bibliography provides the best clue; 14 of the 50 volumes cited are the authors' previous works.

Each of ten chapters deals with a separate topic in an inevitably sketchy way. It is not clear whether what is intended is a series of elementary introductions for new students or a set of discussions about the current (1991) state of knowledge for the informed reader. Thus, the presentation varies between ultra-simple explanations of basic concepts, such as talking "of electron waves in the same way as crime waves", and profuse waffly theorising about relatively obscure ideas such as Mach's principle.

Nothing wrong with trying to introduce relativity, quantum mechanics, cosmology, chaos theory, and so on, in 30 pages each; but to do it you would require a succinctness of style which is here lacking. There is surely no room to go off into two pages of speculation about how a black hole might devour a cosmic string if such a thing ever turned up in its diet.

The most rewarding pages are in a brief interlude, "Confessions of a relativist", which reads like a magazine article. Paul Davies refreshingly describes the difficulties he, like the rest of us, has had in getting his head around the Universe.

There are plenty of short books which deal separately and more thoroughly with each of the other subjects presented here (see Alastair I M Rae on quantum theory for example). In some cases an hour on Wikipedia would be at least as rewarding as ploughing through a chapter.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Peek Behind the Veil 22 July 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
My sense of wonder was engaged from the outset with this book. I did my BSc in physics some years back. I never guessed that the boring old men teaching us about modern physics had managed to take away so much of the scintillating and engaging philosophical ramifications of what we were learning.
The writing style is engaging and very clear. I highly recomend this book for students of physics seeking to get more than the nuts and bolts of their discipline.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Universal Brilliance 18 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback
I write this from the point of view of an amateur cosmologist, however, provided the reader understands what he/she reads, this book is just about the best to be found. As far as cosmology is concerned it falls a fraction short of allowing me a full understanding, but isn't that everone's lot in this complex realm.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very lucid approach to a difficult subject. 31 Mar 2001
By Atheen M. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm not a math-physics type person really. More of a math-physics wanna-be! Because I have more of a verbal/visual than a math mind, I avail myself of every opportunity to read books on quantum and relativity physics that are written for that type of reader. Two of my on-line friends, Steve and Roger, both recommended Paul Davis' books, and I found Matter Myth an extraordinary example of the genre.
Davis and his coauthor, John Gribbin, begin their book with a discussion of Newtonian physics and the 17th Century concept of a "clockwork universe." In this approach to the physical world, every event in the universe might conceivably be predicted given a thorough knowledge of initial conditions. The success with which Newtonian physics described the behavior of the macroscopic world gave rise to a philosophy of materialism that gripped the thinking of succeeding centuries. Davis and Gribbin see the rise of relativity and quantum physics, with the concepts of chaos, uncertainty and virtual particles, as an antidote for the stultifying effects of grim determinism. The attempts to make the two theories compliment one another and the efforts to unify the four primary forces in nature (strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravity) in an all encompassing theory are viewed as setting the stage for a universe where free will in fact has some place.
The book also discusses the string theory and small particle physics, both of which help cosmologists gain some insight into the beginning of the universe, its likely history, and its ultimate end. It also discusses some of the theories regarding parallel universes and anti-universes. The authors also discuss time and its nature, but the interested reader might prefer Davis' book About Time, which goes into the subject in greater depth.
Although The Matter Myth is listed as a religious apologia, in fact there is very little about religion or god in the book. The discussion of multiple words in association with the uncertainty principle and the famous Shrodinger's Cat thought experiment certainly leaves it open to assume the need for an ultimate "observer," but the authors themselves seem to adhere to the scientific position that such an observer is non-testable and therefore outside the realm of scientific investigation. They certainly do not espouse any particular religious outlook.
This is an altogether engrossing volume for anyone interested in the subject. It's very readable; enough so that even someone with very little knowledge of the topic would be able to understand the clearly written descriptions of the scientific concepts. At least three people at work, two nurses and a nursing assistant, after a casual perusal of the contents asked to read the book when I've finished it.
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Update needed! 16 May 2008
By Anton Smit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with the majority of reviewers that this is an excellent book, making some very difficult concepts understandable to the layman. The book was published in 1992, and I bought the October 2007 edition. It is a pity that so much data in the book are outdated: Dark matter is hardly mentioned, and there is no reference to dark energy; the age of the universe is given as 'about 15 billion years', and I quote from page 174: 'The expansion rate (of the universe) is inexorably slowing.' Unfortunately, outdated concepts like these undermine the credibility of the book on the whole. I hope the authors review the book soon.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring the Postmechanistic Paradigm 22 Feb 2000
By Cynthia Sue Larson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Davies and Gribbin succeed in clarifying some of the most intriguing questions known to mankind, such as "How did spacetime come into existence?", "How can matter appear out of nowhere?", "Does the future already exist?", and "How does spacetime curve?" They delve into fascinating reasons why your `now' and my `now' are not necessarily the same thing, and many other exciting implications for our everyday lives from quantum physics. What I love most about THE MATTER MYTH is the way it helps free our thinking from the mechanical, machine-mindedness which has for so long dominated western thinking... as its authors eloquently assert that materialism is dead. The post-mechanistic paradigm is here.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Peek Behind the Veil 22 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My sense of wonder was engaged from the outset with this book. I did my BSc in physics some years back. I never guessed that the boring old men teaching us about modern physics had managed to take away so much of the scintillating and engaging philosophical ramifications of what we were learning.
The writing style is engaging and very clear. I highly recomend this book for students of physics seeking to get more than the nuts and bolts of their discipline.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aging paradigms crumble beneath the 'new' physics. 21 Mar 2002
By Wesley L. Janssen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Issues regarding nonlinear phenomena and systems, as well as quantum physics, string theory, and philosophy of science are examined.
Physicists Davies and Gribbin, two of sciences most prolific writers, discuss the reasons for the impending death of the materialist paradigm which took an almost absolute grip on the philosophy of science immediately after the publication of Newton's Principia. In fact they state that (whether or not it is widely recognized) the reductionists' "mechanistic" paradigm is now dead. "It is fitting that physics -- the science that gave rise to materialism -- should also signal the demise of materialism. ...the new physics has blown apart the central tenets of materialist doctrine in a sequence of stunning developments. ...in the abstract wonderland of the new physics it seems that only mathematics can help us to make sense of nature."
The problem is not that mechanistic Newtonian science is "wrong" but rather that it addresses only a limited representation of actual truth. The book also contains excellent descriptions of things like white dwarfs, neutron stars, and the difficulties in developing a quantum theory of gravity. Theories of wormholes, strings, and GUTs are well presented. The final chapter indulges in speculation about "exotic (non-carbon based, non-DNA based) biologies" -- which the authors concede should not be taken seriously -- and about the difficulties with ideas of "spontaneous generation" and "extra-terrestrial intelligence". The authors proceed to set aside their own cautions and speculate on these ideas, making the final chapter an exercise in science fiction. Otherwise a very good book.
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