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Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe [Hardcover]

Lee Smolin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 April 2013

In Time Reborn, Lee Smolin, one of our foremost physicists and thinkers offers a radical new view of the nature of time and the cosmos

Nothing seems more real than time passing. We experience life itself as a succession of moments. Yet throughout history, the idea that time is an illusion has been a religious and philosophical commonplace. We identify certain truths as 'eternal' constants, from moral principles to the laws of mathematics and nature: these are laws that exist not inside time, but outside it. From Newton and Einstein to today's string theorists and quantum physicists, the widest consensus is that the universe is governed by absolute, timeless laws.

In Time Reborn, Lee Smolin argues that this denial of time is holding back both physics, and our understanding of the universe. We need a major revolution in scientific thought: one that embraces the reality of time and places it at the centre of our thinking. E may equal mc squared now, but that wasn't always the case. Similarly, as our understanding of the universe develops, Newton's fundamental laws might not remain so fundamental. Time, Smolin concludes, is not an illusion: it is the best clue we have to fundamental reality. Time Reborn explains how the true nature of time impacts on us, our world, and our universe.

'The strongest dose of clarity in written form to have come along in decades. The implications go far beyond physics, to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. Time Reborn places reality above theory in stronger and clearer terms than ever before, and the result is a path to better theory and potentially to a better society as well. Will no doubt be remembered as one of the essential books of the 21st century' Jaron Lanier

[Praise for Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics]:

'The best book about contemporary science written for the layman that I have ever read . . . Read this book. Twice' Sunday Times

'Unusually broad and deep . . . his critical judgments are exceptionally penetrating' Roger Penrose

'Brave, uniquely well-informed . . . does a tremendous job' Mail on Sunday

Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has made important contributions to the search for quantum gravity. Born in New York City, he was educated at Hampshire College and Harvard University. Since 2001 he is a founding faculty member at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His three earlier books explore philosophical issues raised by contemporary physics and cosmology. They are Life of the Cosmos (1997), Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (2001) and The Trouble with Physics (2006). He lives in Toronto.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (23 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142997
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142994
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

The strongest dose of clarity in written form to have come along in decades. The implications go far beyond physics, to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. Time Reborn places reality above theory in stronger and clearer terms than ever before, and the result is a path to better theory and potentially to a better society as well. Will no doubt be remembered as one of the essential books of the 21st century (Jaron Lanier)

[Praise for Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics]: The best book about contemporary science written for the layman that I have ever read . . . Read this book. Twice (Sunday Times)

Unusually broad and deep . . . his critical judgments are exceptionally penetrating (Roger Penrose)

Brave, uniquely well-informed . . . does a tremendous job (Mail on Sunday)

About the Author

LEE SMOLIN is a senior faculty member and founder of the Perimeter Institute in Theoretical Physics, Waterloo, Ontario. A theoretical physicist and writer, he has greatly contributed to our understanding of space, time and cosmology. A co-inventor of loop quantum gravity and deformed special relativity and the inventor of cosmological natural selection, his work has contributed to the foundations of quantum theory, particle physics, theoretical biology, economics and the philosophy of science. He is a member of the philosophy dept. at U of T. Previously he held faculty positions at Yale, Syracuse and Penn State. On a popular level, he has written 3 previous books which bring to the public his reflections on cosmology and physics. He lives in Toronto with his wife and small son.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real eye-opening science speculation 2 Jun 2013
By B. M. Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Lee Smolin's book is largely accessible (more on this later) and simply mind-boggling in its scope. What he does here is take on time, and specifically the position of time in physics. Even taken as a simple book on time this is brilliant. The fact is, the majority of books that claim to be about time tell you nothing. It's striking that A Brief History of Time tells us that amongst a list of deep scientific questions that have answers suggested by `Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by fantastic new technologies', is `What is the nature of time?' But you can search the book from end to end for any suggestion of what time is or how it works. There is plenty on how we observe time, and how interaction with matter can change these observations, but nothing deeper.

Smolin gives what is, for me, the best analysis of the nature of time from a physics viewpoint in a popular science book I have ever seen. He goes on to describe how most physicists consider that `time does not exist', and comes up with an approach where time becomes real in physics. Now I do have one issue with Smolin here. He says that amongst his non-scientific friends `the idea that time is an illusion is a... commonplace.' This is garbage (or at least his friends are non-representative). The vast majority of people who aren't physicists or philosophers would say `Of course time exists.' However, Smolin sets off to first persuade us it doesn't, using the most common arguments of current physics, and then to show how this is a mistake.

In fact, I think the reason most people wouldn't agree is because it isn't really true that modern physics says time doesn't exist.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and brave 24 May 2013
Format:Hardcover
Lee Smolin has truly made a book that does make you think very differently about time. His arguments are provocative and perhaps controversial but that is a good thing. I love that his emphasis is always on making his theories as amenable to experiment as possible. Having read the book I am especially swayed by his arguments about trying to build a cosmological theory that is not based on what he calls the "physics in a box" theories which always involve boundary conditions. The most important thing about this book is that it is easy to read and engaging. Another reviewer was horrified that he was promoting a nonlocal hidden variables theory, but at least he has made a justification for it and his focus is always in trying to build such a justification for a new theory that will be experimentally falsifiable. I also rather like his ensemble-interpretation of quantum physics because it at least is trying to make the theory based on real-ensembles. Almost throughout the book this falsifiability is his main commitment, and if it was throughout the whole book then I would have given it 5 stars. However, he recapitulates in the epilogue and claims that there are things that are probably "intrinsic" and "essence-like" and seems to hark back to dualist and unfalsifiable theories of consciousness. Though this is a tiny section of the book it scares me that he would build such a wonderful relational justification for the universe and then discard it because he can't "see" how consciousness would fit into it. He drives a difficult path through the mire and then seems to jump on an easy one at the end for a bit of light relief! Read more ›
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Melting moments... 26 April 2013
Format:Hardcover
Professor Lee Smolin argues that we need to move away from 'timeless' theories of physics and put 'now' back where it belongs, at the centre of our theories, just as it is at the centre of our experience. This, he maintains, will allow progress in quantum theories beyond the discomfiting and untestable notion that we live in an infinite multiverse, where anything that can happen does happen, an infinite number of times. Exciting stuff, presented in a non-mathematical way that does not presume an extensive knowledge of physics. Einstein found 'now' puzzling... I guess he might approve of this approach.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lee Smolin examines the possibility that our universe is the product of some kind of natural selection involving black holes and/or cyclic Big Bang/Big Crunch scenarios. Like Ilya Progogine, he maintains that the future is uncertain to some extent and amenable to human influence here on Earth, so we should take seriously our responsibility for reducing global warming for example. Entanglement could be explained if the holographic nature of our 3D reality is based on information stored on a quasi 2D surface, analogous to the event horizon of a black hole. By reinstating time, Lee makes a good attempt to bridge the gap between what Einstein's relativity and quantum theory say about the nature of reality.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Really good. If you are thinking of reading this book then look at 'The Trouble with Physics' also by Lee Smolin.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 16 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lee Smolin is a researcher at the Perimeter Institute in Canada and considers low level issues in physics like why it's so hard to formulate gravity in a quantum framework. He's also a bit of an outsider because he thinks modern physics hasn't really progressed in 30 years. Sure we have light emitting diodes and smartphone but there's been no change in fundamental physics. For example, the theoretical under-pinnings of the recently discovered Higgs boson were written down 50 years ago.

So in the book Smolin advances his view of a possible alternative formulation of fundamental physics which he believes will allow progress to be made. Core to this alternative formulation is our perception of time as an eternal, outside constant. This is why the book has the name it does. He's not proposing to rewrite general relativity or quantum mechanics he's just suggesting looking at these pillars from a different perspective.

If you are into physics and want a non-establishment view of current ideas and research in physics this will be a good read for you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A radical new view of time.
The aim of the book is to restore time to its `rightful' place as a `real' quantity in the description of the universe. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Brian R. Martin
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent treatise on all things "time"
Probably the best book in the temporal nature of the universe I have ever read. In part 1, Smolin describes how time is treated in our current theories of physics (from Newtonian... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Richard Leach
5.0 out of 5 stars Most important popular science book since The Origin of The Species
A big claim I know, but here goes. The Origin provided a explanation for the existence of life on Earth while Time Reborn provides and explanation for the existence of our universe... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pete
4.0 out of 5 stars Time Reborn OR Death of Maths?
Mathematics will continue to be a handmaiden to Science, but she can no longer be Queen"
Beyond all the great chat in this book about Time and bringing it back into being a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Richard Atkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
No one explains the history, philosophy and current competing theories of physics as well as Lee Smolin. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Roger Hopewell
1.0 out of 5 stars A woolly unsubstantiated diatribe
I heard Smolin interviewed on a radio podcast (Discovery, I think) talking about this book. It was an interesting and thoughtful interview and this is a writer who normally does... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Swiss TD
5.0 out of 5 stars Maths: no longer the substitue god
I read a great deal of this stuff despite being neither a mathematician nor a physicist. This is a complex and demanding read but deeply satisfying. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Nicolas Milne
3.0 out of 5 stars A good effort
This book doesn't quite bridge the gap between popular science and a scholarly essay. The author belabours many of his points in order to demolish arguments the lay person isn't... Read more
Published 9 months ago by B. Portes
4.0 out of 5 stars intuitively explained
i am a 2nd year studying physics, so i thought i would give this book a go. I'm glad i did, it really makes you think but still is easy to understand. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. Alexander J. Hewitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Reborn book
if you like science fiction this is for you .bought this for my dad he is hooked now with this author.
Published 9 months ago by paul
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