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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thought provoking look at some very big questions
This book is a review of cosmology and particle physics during the past fifty years - surely one of the most exciting periods for the two subjects. Davies offers his personal interpretation of the current position - the hope that "mind" will turn out to be a crucial part of the universe and not just a minor, un-important side-effect of creation.

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Published on 24 Oct 2006 by R. Wilson

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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not 'Just right'
This book left me with mixed feelings. Maybe I can start with what I found positive about it? The early sections of the book were quite exhilarating. Paul Davies skilfully communicates some complex ideas about the origin of the universe. However by the middle of the book, he (or I?) was losing touch with the material and it seemed to become an exploration of various,...
Published on 3 Feb 2008 by JA Foxton


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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, thought provoking look at some very big questions, 24 Oct 2006
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R. Wilson (Yorkshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is a review of cosmology and particle physics during the past fifty years - surely one of the most exciting periods for the two subjects. Davies offers his personal interpretation of the current position - the hope that "mind" will turn out to be a crucial part of the universe and not just a minor, un-important side-effect of creation.

New instruments and fresh ideas have produced a wealth of interesting ideas. Some theories might, in earlier times, have been regarded as merely speculative or over ambitious. However, improvements in observational methods and technology have given us clear windows into some surprising areas. Davies looks at some huge questions about very small things, such as how many fundamental particles make up the world? He also examines the very large: is there just one universe, or a huge number of parallel creations, a multiverse?

At every turn he explains things clearly and non-mathematically. This does mean that the reader sometimes has to take things on trust, but one of the great strengths of his book is that Paul Davies is careful to point out which ideas are controversial or tentative, and which are firmly established. He presents us with results from physics and discusses the implications for theology, mathematics and philosophy. He tells the story of a very busy period in science and guides the reader through complex, unresolved debates. For those who want to look deeper, he includes many detailed notes, but grouped at the end of his book to avoid breaking the flow of his narrative.

I found this an exciting and challenging book to read. I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in big questions and is willing to live with the fact that many of the answers can't be summed up in a tabloid headline.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible guide to the big questions about 'life, the universe and everything'., 28 Oct 2006
By 
Jazzrook (Purbrook , Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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'The Goldilocks Enigma' is the successor to Paul Davies's 'The Mind of God'(1992) and is a fascinating and accessible account of the current state of cosmology and fundamental physics. The author employs scientific reason to tackle all the 'big questions' such as Where do the laws of physics come from? Is a theory of everything possible? How did the universe begin? What happened before the big bang? Is there just one universe or many? In particular, he focuses on why the laws of physics seem to be fine tuned to produce life in the universe. If any of the various physical forces had been slightly different our universe could now be lifeless. One possible expanation for this is the multiverse theory with billions of different universes each with varying physical constants. We just happen to live in a universe that's 'just right' for life. Hence 'The Goldilocks Enigma'.

This marvellous book is a must-read for anyone attempting to gain some understanding of 'life, the universe and everything'.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deep book on a deep subject., 7 Nov 2006
By 
In his latest book Paul Davies explores rather than definitively answers the deep questions of existance. Why are we here? Why is the universe fine tuned for life and what relationship does consciousness have to the universe at large? The reader is taken on a truly cosmic tour of physics in the attempt to answer some of these fascinating questions.
The first part of the book seeks to explain why the universe possesses certain characteristics and explores various theories such as inflation theory, the big bang,quantum fluctuations and the four fundamental forces,gravitation,electromagnetism,and the weak and strong nuclear forces. He then explains how physicist are seeking to unify these forces of nature into one Grand unified Theory which leads onto String theory and its further development M theory. At this point the reader will feel that they have left the familiar world of common sense. Davies explores the implications of String theory and M theory which posits a number of unobserved dimensions. This eventually leads to the idea that we are living in a multiverse, the concept that trillions of other universes exist and this is why we are so fortuitous in this one.We have won the cosmic lottery and although our universe is fit for life, trillions of others are sterile. If this mind blowing idea is not enough, the possibility is also explored that we are living in a fake universe. An infinity of other universes greatly increases the chances that an intellect could have evolved way beyond anything that we could possibly comprehend. Further it is argued this intellect could have the capability to simulate a universe,ideas that were explored in the film The Matrix. Davies quotes the cosmologist Martin Rees at this point who states,

" All these multiverse ideas lead to a remarkable synthesis between cosmology and physics...But they also lead to the extraordinary consequence that we may not be the deepest reality,we may be a simulation.The possibility that we are creations of some supreme,or super being, blurs the boundary between physics and idealist philosophy,between the natural and the supernatural,and between the relation of mind and multiverse and the possibility that we're in the matrix rather than the physics itself"

At this point we are clearly in the realm of metaphysics and Davies does relate how some physicist are deeply unhappy with the whole multiverse hypothesis. Nevertheless it does indicate that modern science in some instances does seem to converge onto almost theological ground. Overall this is a fascinating book,it will make the reader reflect on the profound nature of reality and will only reiterate the sentiment of T.H.Huxley when he stated,

"The known is finite,the unknown infinite,intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability.Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land."
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for the ultimate answers, 6 Dec 2006
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Ventura Angelo (Brescia, Lombardia Italy) - See all my reviews
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This is one of Davies'bes t books, clear, informative, and profound. It give us the state of the art of modern cosmology, and of the current theories about the Universe (or Multiverse) origins and evolution, in the light of a puzzling series of coincidences: this Universe seems fine-tuned to permit life, the most intriguing case the helium-beryllium resonance, that permits the synthesis of carbon, the basic element of life. A small difference in the nuclear particle's masses or in the relative strenght of the forces and life simply couldn't be. Davies examines thoroughly a range of possible answers,from the Multiverse Theory, to the Theory of Everything-single -Universe-Theory, to Intelligent design,to String Theory to the Matrix hypothesis-we could live in a simulation!, to Davies' favourite, the self-organizing universe.

A fascinating insight on human speculation on Life, the Universe and Everything.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious and absorbing., 9 Nov 2006
By 
Bruno - See all my reviews
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'Why is there something rather than nothing?' is an ancient metaphysical riddle. Over the last half-century, a new question has emerged on top of this old conundrum - 'why is that something (the universe), against an apparent astonishing level of odds, so structured that it (through the emergence of intelligent life) can ask such a question?'

Paul Davies certainly feels these questions not only need answering, but that both must be answered together. The self-consciousness of the universe for him, is not the anthropocentric trivia that it has historically been relegated to by cosmologists and physicists.

In this typically clear and engaging tour of the increasingly wacky frontiers of contemporary science, Davis seems almost trying to present a reductio ad absurdum argument to convince us of his case. Rather than accept that life must in some way be central to the universe, it seems that the best scientific minds available would have us believe in an infinity of universes, our almost unique one favourable for life being of course the one we find ourselves in (the anthropic observer effect). But this leads to even greater head spinning conclusions, such as that it would be statistically more likely that our universe is a computer simulation running in one of these multitude of 'real' cosmoses. Here, scientific theory becomes as non-testable as religious claims of an intelligent designer for the universe, and applying Occam's razor rule of simplicity would seem to suggest that in fact religious belief is more rational than modern cosmology. This, however, is not something the author does, rather settling on speculation as to how the apparent intrinsic nature of life in our universe may require that any future 'theory of everything' must link consciousness, the physical laws of the universe, and the creation of the universe itself, together in some way we can only make rather wild guesses at now.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, there is no doubt that the goldilocks enigma does need explaining, and Davis brings out the utter weirdness of all current attempts to either solve it or explain it away. Whether we can dismiss the multiverse arguments so easily, unsatisfying as they may be is another matter. One of my former philosophy lectures, David Papinau, reviewing this book in the Independent, pointed out that Davies seems at one key part of the book to fall back on the argument that the multiverse universe doesn't explain why there are any universes at all, when the point of the book is to explain why our universe is seemingly so set up for the possibility of life. But clearly Davis is attempting to reconcile the two questions I introduced at the beginning of this review - making consciousness something fundamental to the universe may (highly speculatively) explain both why the universe is so incredibly structured to enable its own self-awareness and to explain the very fact of the universe itself.

Such speculation will of course give some comfort to those who are unable to share Richard Dawkin's scientific reverence for a cold, blind and accidental universe. Others may shudder that some of the world's greatest thinkers are taking seriously again the idea that this world of suffering and evils may in some way have been intentioned after all. Either way, this is a must read for anyone interested in the big questions of existence.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, magisterial, thought-provoking - Davies tackles the big questions, 27 Aug 2007
This review is from: The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Paperback)
In "The Golidlocks Engima: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?", physicist Paul Davies explains the nature of the cosmos and seeks to provide some answers to a question which has frustrated philosophers, theologians and scientists alike: why do conditions in the universe appear to be so finely tuned as to allow for the emergence of life and consciousness? It is challenging reading (it is a challenging subject) and even those familiar with the subject will pause on occasion for a moment's head-scratching.

The book can be said to fall roughly into two sections, each taking up about 150 of the total 300 pages. The first (chapters 1-6) explores the nature of the universe, from the geometry of spacetime to the fine structure of matter, and the fundamental forces which underlie both. Davies covers all the usual topics you would expect - the big bang, microwave background radiation, dark matter and dark energy - as well as explaining other complicated issues such as the inflation of the early universe. There is a lot of information to take in, densely presented, and Davies' prose can at times prove turgid and difficult to follow. The content would perhaps have benefitted from a little pruning, since not all of it is strictly relevant to the theme of the book.

The second section (chapters 7-10) examines the real meat of the issue, and is the book's real triumph. Having discussed what the universe is made of, Davies turns his attention directly to the book's subtitle and asks *why* the universe is the way it is, whether it could have been made any differently, whether the laws of physics are fixed or mutable, whether our universe exists self-supportingly or whether it forms only part of an extended multiverse, and why anything even exists at all - among other big questions. This is thought-provoking stuff, to say the least. Davies expertly navigates his way through all this material, tying in what we know from modern physics with age-old philosophical problems, and - most importantly - making it all clear, accessible and interesting to the casual reader. Helpfully, he also sums up the principal theories in an Afterword at the end to tie everything together.

Although it takes a while to get going, "The Goldilocks Enigma" is an excellent and enlightening study and therefore well worth persevering with. In the end it serves to emphasise the limitations of our current scientific knowledge and how, though science has explained a great many things about the universe, we are far from a complete explanation of the universe itself. As an alternative introduction to cosmology I would highly recommend Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", while on the subject of the universe's apparent fine tuning for life, Martin Rees' "Just Six Numbers" is similarly excellent.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our place in the cosmos, 9 Dec 2006
By 
Although written with a view to explaining the complexities of physics to the lay reader, this book was hard work. However, this was because of the nature of the material, not because Davies did not make things clear. That said, at the heart of this book is the beautiful idea that human consciousness plays a crucial role in the development of a universe that is "just right" for life. Davies avoids the problem of the origins of the universe (who created the creator?) by proposing a circular system where human consciousness creates the conditions for human consciousness. This is a profound contribution to physics and philosophy and counteracts that feeling of insignificance when you look at the stars.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible guide to the big questions about 'life, the universe and everything'., 16 July 2007
By 
Jazzrook (Purbrook , Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Paperback)
'The Goldilocks Enigma' is the successor to Paul Davies's 'The Mind of God'(1992) and is a fascinating and accessible account of the current state of cosmology and fundamental physics. The author employs scientific reason to tackle all the big questions such as Where do the laws of physics come from? Is a theory of everything possible? How did the universe begin? What happened before the Big Bang? Is there just one universe or many? In particular, he focuses on why the laws of physics seem to be fine tuned to produce life in the universe. If any of the various physical forces had been slightly different our universe could be lifeless. One possible explanation for this is the multiverse theory with billions of different universes each with varying physical constants. We just happen to live in a universe that's 'just right' for life. Hence 'The Goldilocks Enigma'.
This marvellous book is a must-read for anyone attempting to gain some understanding of 'life, the universe and everything'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The road to panentheism, 27 Nov 2011
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This review is from: The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Paperback)
"The Goldilocks Enigma" (a.k.a. "Cosmic Jackpot") is an interesting book by Paul Davies, the maverick quantum physicist who dialogues with theologians. Davies is sometimes regarded as a deist or panentheist, although he is at pains to sound as scientific as possible. Despite this, his collegues seem to regard him with intense suspicion, as evidenced by a 2007 controversy about an article Davies had written for the New York Times, entitled "Taking science on faith".

The first part of "The Goldilocks Enigma" is cosmology 101, but already here, Davies asks the mischievous question *why* the natural laws look like they do, and why the universe seems to be "just right" for life. This "fine-tuning" of the universe is known as the anthropic principle, and is often used by Christians as an argument for God's existence (see Patrick Glynn's book "God: The Evidence" for a typical example). Small wonder cosmologists attempted to avoid the issue for decades! The reasons are clearly ideological.

As the book progresses, it becomes progressively more interesting. In one section, Davies takes on the idea of a "multiverse". The multiverse theory in all its exotic permutations is an obvious attempt to break free from the theistic implications of the anthropic principle. Davies points out that the multiverse concept, in its worst versions, actually resembles pagan polytheism, with highly advanced "creators" generating fake universes, Matrix-like, with the aid of super-computers! One sure wonders what's wrong with science, if the "naturalist" explanations are more bizarre than the theistic ones they are supposed to overcome?

Davies, however, isn't satisfied with theistic Intelligent Design either. His objections are largely philosophical: how can a being be "necessary", how can a necessary being create "freely", etc. And who created God, anyway? He concludes that the traditional idea of God is really no different from the idea of self-existing physical laws: both are a kind of "levitating superturtle" whose existence has to be taken on faith. (The turtle analogy comes from the funny story about the lady who said that the Earth rests on an elephant, which in turn rests on an infinite number of turtles, all the way down!) Davies also amasses scientific arguments against a Designer, however. Our author claims to believe in the Neo-Darwinist scenario with living organisms changing due to random mutations and non-random selection, and he expresses confidence that the origins of both life and intelligence will soon be explained without the need for miracles.

Despite this, Paul Davies is nevertheless sceptical to out-right materialism. He believes that mind and intelligence are somehow basic properties of the universe, and occasionally sounds a bit like an idealist or even vitalist. Davies' preferred hypothesis seems to be a kind of self-explanatory, participatory universe in which consciousness somehow "creates" the universe by backwards causation in time. This is very difficult to take seriously, unless the consciousness doing the creating is of truly cosmic proportions - in which case we would indeed get a kind of pantheist or "panentheist" god! For reasons all his own, Davies stops short of saying this. Obviously, if Davies is right, then Darwinism cannot be correct, since "blind" mutations and selections would have to be combined with a teleological principle, in effect making evolution somewhat less than blind.

Davies ends by pointing out that his theory is a distinct minority position, and that most scientists prefer the multiverse, the so-called theory of everything, or simply don't give a damn, accepting the natural laws as brute facts and (presumably) our existence as a fluke.

"The Goldilocks Enigma" isn't an easy read, despite being a popular science book. However, if you manage to digest it, it will both introduce you to the strange land of cosmology and quantum physics, give you an overview of the major theories (and problems) in the field, and - the real point of the book - summarize Davies' own crypto-religious alternative.

And yes, the present reviewer does admit a certain partiality towards Paul Davies, that constant gadfly of modern science and recipient of the Templeton Prize. ;-)

(Please note that "The Goldilocks Enigma" and "Cosmic Jackpot" is really the same book in two different editions.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mind bending, 16 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? (Paperback)
An excellent introduction to cosmology and fundamental physics, but for my taste the 'dumbing' switch could have been turned a bit lower - some of the material is quite tough. Also, towards the end you got the feeling that all sorts of stuff was being thrown in just to cover all the bases. I enjoyed it though, and will probably read it again in another six months or so.
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