21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum & Macro world explained, easily!
Unreservedly a fantastic book. With no math but brilliant analogies you get an understanding of: quantum mechanics, big-bang, inflation, space - time, branes, strings, relativity and much more and all wonderfully explained so that you can even get a hang on multi-dimensionality (11 space/time dimensions at that!).
And the thorny problem of light speed comes over well...
Published on 8 Dec 2004 by Mr. David Edwards
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Science, Philosophy or Science Fiction?
Brian Greene has made first impressions with "The Elegant Universe" (book and DVD), which were quite successfull. Greene has a very alluring, even thrilling way to convey his knowledge and conclusions to a broad audience.
Already in his first oeuvre, he revealed a talent for most unusual examples to underline his statements, occasionally leaving the realm of...
Published 15 months ago by casey-san
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum & Macro world explained, easily!,
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This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Allen Lane Science) (Hardcover)Unreservedly a fantastic book. With no math but brilliant analogies you get an understanding of: quantum mechanics, big-bang, inflation, space - time, branes, strings, relativity and much more and all wonderfully explained so that you can even get a hang on multi-dimensionality (11 space/time dimensions at that!).
And the thorny problem of light speed comes over well together with the nature of time's arrow. What more can you ask? You know I feel that mathematicians also need good analogies - how on earth can you get a grip on reality (even quantum reality) solely from equations?
83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows Hawking out of the Water,
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)Just before reading this book I finished reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and, though I found it fascinating, it left me feeling unsatisfied - too many topics touched upon and not expanded; too many questions I already had not touched upon at all. All the questions that book left me with, this book answered...and that was before I'd made it half-way. This book opened the world of physics up for me imaginatively, authoritatively and simply, clearly explaining concepts that should be far beyond me. I can not reccommend it enough. Just got to get my girlfriend interested now.
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great intro to physics,
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)After having read other (shorter) books on quantum physics etc. I decided to go for something a bit more dense. And what a book I chose! Not only does it cover the main areas of the history of the development of Physics, but it does so in an easy to understand way.
Greene uses lots of fun analogies and examples to put across complex ideas, making Physics an accessible subject for even an AS student (as I am). A great book to pick up facts to confuse your parents and even better- your teachers!
He soars from chapter to chapter, sweeping over Newton's laws, Einstein's theories of relativity, quantum theory, the quantum measurement problem, Higgs fields, string theory....the list goes on! And all very readable, with lots of subtle repetitions which are good for me as I usually read it at 11.30pm and my brain needs them in order to take it in!
A great book, I just cannot praise it enough! Buy it, buy it, buy it! if you are at all interested in science. I promise you you will not regret it!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best astrophysics book ever,
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This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Allen Lane Science) (Hardcover)If you're interested in the latest thinking of how the universe works and are prepared to put some serious mental effort into understanding it, you'll love this book.
It is written in extremely good english and explains some very difficult concepts superbly. I've read Hawkins' books and to be honest, Brian Greene puts him to shame in the quality of explanations.
It is a rare person who could so comprehensively understand all the subject matter of this book and also have sufficient mastery of the english language to write about it in an understandable way. He also manages to make it humerous in places, with the Simpsons making a few cameo appearances.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and accessible,
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)This thought-provoking book has a wider perspective than Greene’s Elegant Universe, in which he expounded on String Theory. Fabric Of The Cosmos discusses the latest findings in theoretical physics in a style accessible to the ordinary reader.
The book contains a short summary of string theory. In brief, this theory proposes that particles like quarks, electrons et al. are not dots but minute filaments of vibrating energy that produce various particle properties. Superstring Theory reconciles general relativity with quantum mechanics in a single theory, making it a strong candidate for Einstein’s elusive Unified Theory.
The author explores the two most prominent concerns of modern physics: The historical development from Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Hawking, and the very latest theories that arose from this development.
Chapter 12 is basically a summary of The Elegant Universe, whilst the following two chapters explore the possibilities of experimentally testing the string theory.
A very important component of he book is the irreconcilable gap between the theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. General relativity only hold valid for large objects, whilst quantum mechanics explains the subatomic composition of matter/energy. Since the two are incompatible, Greene maintains that a theory of quantum gravity must be developed, one that holds true for both small and large objects.
In the chapters Time And The Quantum and Entangling Space, the author looks at quantum mechanics and the strange phenomena of entanglement. He rejects Niels Bohr’s dualistic interpretation of the world of facts and the world of probabilities, postulating a hidden reality composed of 9 spatial dimensions and 1 of time.
Fabric Of The Cosmos is a most engaging investigation of cutting edge ideas in physics and cosmology. It is highly stimulating and far more readable than Elegant Universe. I highly recommend this brilliant work.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn the Whole History of Physics,
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (Hardcover)Brian Greene has already written a wonderful popular physics book called "The Elegant Universe". It won the Aventis Science Book Prize for 2000, and I can understand why. By using clever diagrams he made it easy to understand the extraordinary multidimensional modern theories of the Universe. In his new book,"The Fabric of the Cosmos", he starts at the very beginning with the ancient Greeks, and then describes every significant innovation in fundamental physics, ending with string and brane theory, which treat the universe as embedded in an eleven-dimensional continuum -- and he shows how every new theory derives from its predecessors. Dr. Greene even surmises how the conditions obtaining BEFORE the Big Bang could have determined the present state of our universe, with, perhaps, quantized space-time. Think you won't understand it? Of course you won't be bothered with the mathematics -- if you want to follow THAT, start a college course in higher math right now! I only wish I could do so -- but at least from Dr. Greene's book I have obtained a thrilling idea of how our knowledge of the Universe is developing.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding work and a challenging read,
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Allen Lane Science) (Hardcover)In some respects this book is an extension (and a substantial one) of physicist Brian Greene's well-received The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (1999) in which he attempted the very difficult task of explaining relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory to the educated layperson while keeping the mathematics in footnotes. Here he covers some of the same ground as he patiently and painstakingly illuminates some of the most important ideas in physics and cosmology, employing new ways to explain the nearly unexplainable.
His watchword is "reality" and his overarching idea is that reality is not as we intuitively think it is. (p. 5) This is one of the startling revelations from relativity and the quantum world: namely that our perceptions and concepts built up through evolutionary experience are NOT adequate to understand the world of the very small or the very large. The dual nature of the particle/wave is the most obvious example, and one that Greene examines at length. We have no way of intuitively appreciating the fact that elementary particles are not just particles but waves as well--actually probability waves. But there is also our notion of something and "nothing" that is being tested by modern physics. What appears to be empty space is in fact far from empty. Moreover, space itself has unsuspected qualities, as Greene demonstrates in his discussion of the postulated Higgs fields.
Particularly exciting was the way Greene makes inflation credible ("the universe could easily have expanded by a factor of 10 to the 30th, 10 to the 50th or 10 to the 100th or more" within a time frame "as short as ten to the minus 35th seconds" p. 284) by positing that before the Higgs field made its phase transition, all quanta had zero mass. It doesn't take much energy to move something with zero mass. (Or maybe something with zero mass can't be moved at all.) At any rate, very shortly after the big bang, space and presumably time, expanded enormously (faster than the speed of light, actually--but, as Greene, assures us, the speed limit on light does not apply to expanding space).
In short what Greene does in this book is take the reader to the edge of what can be understood. What he writes is exciting and awe-inspiring, and he writes so very well, and he works so hard at trying to reach every reader. However you'll forgive me if I get some of this wrong. And of course I am compelled to point out (as Greene does himself) that the Higgs field and therefore inflation, not to mention string theory and M-theory, etc., remain as yet in the category of the not proven.
Obvious is Greene's faith in the "beauty" of mathematics to point the way to physical truth. He recalls the work of Glashow, Weinberg and Salam in predicting the existence of W and Z particles because of the "strong faith these physicists had in the power of theory and the beauty of symmetry that gave them the confidence to go forward." (p. 266) Whether the beauty that physicists see in the equations for string theory, etc., will lead them to a deeper understanding of the cosmos remains to be seen. Most readers are familiar with what one ugly fact can do to a beautiful theory.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is Greene's delineation of time and time's "arrow." I have always been fascinated with time and have spent many hours trying to figure out what it is. Reading between the lines, it would appear that Greene believes that events create time. Or more precisely, that asymmetry creates time. He writes "If the universe had perfect temporal symmetry--if it were completely unchanging--it would be hard to define what time even means." (p. 228) Of course this is somewhat circular, but I think I can add that if the universe were completely empty, it would also "be hard to define" what time means.
On the question of "Does time have a direction?" Greene writes that "the laws of physics...show a complete symmetry between past and future." (pp. 144-145) Yet, in everyday life, time is always aimed toward the future. An egg splatters. It doesn't unsplatter. Why is that? Greene brings entropy into the picture, noting that entropy has increased since the big bang. He explains that the unsplattered egg has a very low degree of entropy (that is, it is highly ordered, thanks to DNA, energy from the sun, etc.). Eggs splatter more easily than they could ever hope to unsplatter because there are an uncounted number of ways that the egg can have high entropy (ways it can be splattered about) but only one (or very few) ways it can be pristine. In a footnote on page 511 Greene articulates something that I have been waiting to hear from a prominent physicist. Suppose the universe began to contract, seemingly reversing time's arrow. Would eggs unsplatter? Greene's answer: "Physical processes (eggs breaking, people aging, and so on) would still happen in the usual direction..."
What impressed me the most about this book is just how well produced it is. Greene improves on his previous opus in two important ways. His explanations are more detailed and more accessible to the average reader; and his information and understanding are more up to date. Furthermore, the book is beautifully presented with many drawings, a glossary, selected readings for further study, and a fine index. There are 493 pages of text and 43 pages of notes. It is handsomely presented and beautifully edited and proofread. This is a book clearly worth the money and then some.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My equal-best-ever science book,
Life-enhancing. Also read The Blind Watchmaker (Richard Dawkins) and you are well on the way to understanding the truth (as currently understood) about everything.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Science, Philosophy or Science Fiction?,
This review is from: (THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS: SPACE, TIME, AND THE TEXTURE OF REALITY) BY Paperback (Author) Paperback Published on (02 , 2005) (Paperback)Brian Greene has made first impressions with "The Elegant Universe" (book and DVD), which were quite successfull. Greene has a very alluring, even thrilling way to convey his knowledge and conclusions to a broad audience.
Already in his first oeuvre, he revealed a talent for most unusual examples to underline his statements, occasionally leaving the realm of classical physics. It was there and then when a few scientists, among them Sheldon Glashow, asked the question whether this [string theory] was science or a philosophy, and I like to repeat that question.
With his book (the DVD is imminent) "The Fabric of the Cosmos", it seems that Greene, like many other theoretical physicists, succumbs to the appeal of mathematics, only too often raising ideas that violate the classical and still very valid laws of physics. Examples are numerous:
1: Having studied thermodynamics a couple of years ago, I still recall that the time arrow is the core of the entropy, and most likely the only physical law that provides this confirmation. Besides the ones Greene describes, there are countless examples which support, each and every single one of them, the increase of entropy with time; the ultimate fate of the universe is likely to be the last (and quite dark) one.
Nevertheless, even suggesting that the entropy increases "backwards in time" is a challenge, which would need to be supported by a physical process showing that there is any realism, any reflection of nature to this. Just showing a graph with this statement is most certainly not enough. There is no known way in nature that a physical system could have a higher entropy in the past than at present (or in the future). The possible interpretations of the displayed graph would reach even further, but this would go too far here.
There is definitely no time symmetry for the entropy. Despite the mathematical treatment and the infinitesimally low probability of a splattered egg re-assembling all by itself, any reasonable interpretation of the mathematics would necessarily yield the conclusion that the entropy could "at best" be unchanged, but will increase on any significant level with the flow of time.
A similar "success" would have been the attempt (in the "Quantum Café" ["The Elegant Universe"]) to penetrate a wall.
Both cases seem a bit like what it might be in hell: To try something for an eternity without success.
So: Why propose something like this in the first place?
2: As far as time's arrow is concerned:
Why not consider the cause-effect-relation?
As far as I remember, this is being considered the accompanying explanation for time's arrow (and one reason for the Planck-time).
3: Greene has gone deeper into the subject of the inflation, this very short expansion of space at superluminal speed in the very first instances (Planck times) of the Big Bang.
The basic idea, introducing the inflaton field, fits just fine, but leaves two major issues unresolved:
- How could this energy nucleus expand with a speed orders of magnitude faster than light?
- What made it start / stop, and why did it solve the information question of the homogeneity of the temperature distribution?
(The primordial plasma formed and cooled down until 379000 years after the Big Bang, containing the very temperature fluctuations that later resulted in the structures of the universe we see today.)
A supplementary question:
Why dismissing quantum entanglement, having the universe's master quantum as the source for all required information throughout the cosmos?
Greene considers some rather small nugget of inflation energy to be able to expand, enhancing the energy in the process.
What happened to the conservation of energy?
Is there any hint or even evidence to assume that inflation had to take energy from the gravity potential?
Is it really so far fetched to consider that we have a fifth form of force on our hands, which is likely to be observed even today, as the cosmos is expanding at accelerated rate?!
Has it ever been considered to take a much closer look at the "vacuum energy", which is assumed to have more energy per cubic meter than the entire observable universe?
4: Looking closely at the cosmic background radiation, I believe that there is an important observation that doesn't match the mainstream interpretation.
The left "end" of the displayed graph shows a measured value clearly below the graph, indicating a noticeable deviation from the ideal curve. This has been noted by other physicists
as well, but to my knowledge never been analysed, as this "bend" cannot be explained (yet).
5: With the graphical introduction of the M-theory, it appears that this M-theory is just another (6th) string theory. However, as Ed Witten has described it, M-theory integrates the previous five ones (using an ear, the trunk and the tail of an elephant as elements of the previous string theories, while we are now looking at the entire elephant).
Does this imply that as of now, M-theory is a different, independent string-theory?
6: With the brane model of the cosmos, already given in "The Elegant Universe", Greene suggests that the universe might have been released by a "Big Splat".
How would a splat release a quantum-sized Big Bang?
When slapping your hands together, there is more area involved than when you just "slap" your fingertips.
On the other hand, this splat would provide an explanation for the information "paradox", as such information would be spread out immediately.
Are we to assume that such a splat does not occur simultaneously, but at slightly independent locations on the brane(s)? In this model, it would explain multiverses (parallel universes) very nicely indeed.
7: When describing gravitational waves, I think many people won't get a correct impression on the magnitudes involved. This started with Greene's suggestion of a "gravity phone" ("The Elegant Universe" [DVD]) and continued right now, suggesting that we might be able to measure gravity waves from supernovae. However, neither LIGO nor GEO (nor others) have captured such a gravity wave, nor has either of the binary pulsars been "seen".
Einstein has predicted that gravity waves would hardly ever been measured, and this just might come true, unless we see the merging of two pulsars (or black holes).
Despite the very high energies released by supernovae or (even more so) by binary pulsars/ neutron stars, the stiffness of space prevents any significant effect to be measured.
Would it not be worthwhile to communicate such insights to the publlc?
8: When considering that space and time might be fundamental concepts on their own, this touches a very sensitive point. Inflation, both from the Big Bang and looking at the
expansion of space, most likely beyond the Hubble horizon, might imply that spacetime and matter could "decouple", as matter and energy decoupled shortly after the Big Bang. I've often heard versions of this idea, one of whom being Michio Kaku, who mentioned that when saying, nothing can exceed the speed of light, this literally means "nothing", i.e. empty space.
Question is: Can we, as of today, consider space as being empty, considering a Higgs-"ocean" permeating space (and knowing that Higgs bosons do have a noteworthy mass)?
9: The idea of a "holographic universe", based on the entropy of a black hole as being described by its event horizon (hence, a 2-dimensional sphere), should be used to look at our long-sought higher dimensions rather than trying to describe our indeed 4-dimensional spacetime or 3-dimensional space. It might just be that some insights could be gained, supporting some issues on higher dimensions in string theories.
Question is, of course, would the holographic way be possible at all, considering that the origin of the idea stems from a 3-dimensional entity with maximum entropy, whereas our universe should be considerably far away from this state?
10: When closing "The Elegant Universe", I hoped for further insights on the "programming" of the cosmos, i.e. how are the (40) constants of nature and their laws "imprinted"?
With Greene's previous description of string theories, I hoped that there would be some progress in resolving such essential questions.
Unfortunately, nothing has been mentioned along these lines. Is it because there is no research any more to deal with this?
(The "temperature paradox" might be the top of the list and a "representative" of the entire area. However, the approach to solve this question just by the inflation does not seem to be convincing, as it just shifts the question to another situation within the Big Bang framework.)
11: It appears that many scientists are still craving for symmetry; this ancient, yet still evident quest for everything "round". The Earth being a disk, then a sphere (of course, a perfect one), the Earth at the center of the universe, all stars and planets on spheres around it, later on just the shift in perspective, but still the quest for simple, yet "perfect" geometry, up to the sought-for symmetry of nature from the very beginning (including the symmetry of physical laws).
However, is it so big a problem to acknowledge that we are the result of a faint, but yet existing break of this perfect symmetry?! With such perfect symmetry, neither of us would be here.
(It appears to be a mental scotoma to some extent.)
12: Is it so difficult to consider a fifth force, the inflation (or inflaton field)?
In the period of the Big Bang, it might well have been the long sought "Grand Unified Force", which would be the first acting force of the universe, and one which is still acting today.
Sometimes called "negative pressure" (which would mean suction), which is not what this force actually does (as it really pushes, i.e. exerts a pressure), it would seem that it is a function of the "vacuum energy". As observation shows, the pressure (the inflation?!) is predominantly
effective in the voids, pushing galaxies ever further away (and perhaps even holds them together, as it is assumed for the dark matter).
The strength of the energy should not be a problem, considering the amount of energy predicted by Quantum Electrodynamics. However, this amount would need a "damping"
element, as the full force would most likely tear the cosmos apart.
As far as I see, there is no research in this area, which I cannot understand at all.
13: (Last, but not least):
Why is there no mention of the description of a black hole in string-theory, including a rough, preliminary sketch of the Big Bang, as proposed by Samir Mathur, a lecture held at the CERN about a decade ago? Apart from the description in loop quantum gravity, this model also - finally - avoids singularities.
To come back to the question in the header:
This is science fiction to some and philosophy to a larger extent. Ignoring essential physical laws certainly has an impact on the overall work.
Nevertheless, my conclusion (and recommendation, if you like) would indeed be to acquire this book, as it offers many points for further study. However, it should be read with appropriate care ("distance") and readiness to doubt every idea at least once.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of some challenging concepts,
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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality (Penguin Press Science) by Brian Greene (Paperback - 24 Feb 2005)