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on 14 March 2006
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.
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on 2 January 2006
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!
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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2004
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.
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on 8 December 2004
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?
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on 15 October 2004
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.
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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.
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on 13 February 2006
I am a non-specialist reader and could not believe I was reading about, and understanding, such difficult material. One of Greene's great tricks is to use intriguing sub-headings to divide chapters into bite-sized chunks. This keeps you reading, whereas when you are confronted with a long chapter ahead, you tend to close the book and leave it for the next session.

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.
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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 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.
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on 11 April 2005
It's said that there are many copies of A Brief History of Time gathering dust on shelves the world over...
What they don't tell you is it's because of this book!
You won't find many pictures in this edition, well, not printed ones... instead there's a whole pop-up book of analogy, and lucid explanation many a novellist would give their front-teeth for.
Fabric of the Cosmos is relatively small in volume, but has all the content of much larger tomes such as Roger Penrose's "Road to Reality".
There's little or no mathematics, Greene focuses more on experience than practice, but manages this without watering-down the science.
There is no doubting that this book is a modern classic, it should be on every bookshelf.
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on 27 November 2005
I have read many books on cosmology and this has got to be the best I've read so far.It not only details the research and ideas it also describes the circamstances that lead up to them.Also it shows an unbiased view showing the different ideas and directions the research is going in.By far better than the authors first book "Elegant Universe".Go buy it you wont be disapointed if you've got the slightest interest in the mysterious heavens.
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