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on 25 July 2017
Greene manages to make incredible complexity just about accessible even to low-brow idiots like me, and without making it too patronising. It's a tough read and I confess I did find it very hard work, but well worth the effort. I benefited from re-reading each section several times before moving on in order for it to sink in, so not a quick page-turner. Needs time (no pun intended)!
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on 8 July 2009
This is the finest book on modern science that I have ever read. It is aimed at anyone with an interest in major scientific concepts such as quantum physics, relativity, space, time, astronomy and string theory, but who lacks the necessary scientific background - the educated layman.

Brian Greene delivers a fully comprehensive examination of the main scientific principles underlying the universe, as they are currently understood today. This is not a book to devour quickly, but slowly and deliberately, as there are so many topics covered. He has a gift for explaining complicated scientific ideas that you may have previously found to be beyond your grasp, and enforces these with understandable and stimulating examples. He succeeds where so many other popular science authors have failed before.
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on 17 October 2017
This is a very difficult read, and you will need some prior basic science knowledge (physics & astronomy).

However, once you start grasping some of the incredible concepts explained here, you will be blown away.

Brian Greene has a beautiful way of explaining the mysteries of the world and really making you wonder at it all.

However, I had to stop reading at the last chapter, it was all a bit too complex and I was just lost! I need to go back and explore some of the concepts more.
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on 25 March 2008
I'm working my way through this at the moment and I fully agree with other reviewers that it is a life changing book on a par with Blind Watchmaker.

I was a little daunted by the subject material to begin with, but soon lost my inhibitions - it's not half as bad as I expected and I'm actually finding myself second-guessing some of the directions and explanations that author is taking in explaining the wierdness of the relativistic and quantum worlds. Either I'm not as deeply stupid as I thought or Greene's treatment is perfect for the non-expert reader.

It's still a challenging book, and I'll need a re-read at sometime in the near future to fix the concepts in my head, but I'm looking forward to the prospect.

A few minor gripes:

- The illustrations don't seem to have transferred well to the paperback version - they're on the small side and difficult to interpret and return to. Perhaps larger, colour illustrations, gathered in a central section would have been better.
- Some of Greene's analogies grate a little. He makes a lot of use of analogies, which I guess is inevitable and necessary given the esoteric nature of the subject matter. However, one is occasionally left wondering whether these analogies tell the whole story or if there's something important that's been left out for the benefit of the reader's sanity. The early ones on relativity are played out by The Simpsons (obviously Greene is a fan!) which comes across as a little patronising and later ones relate to baseball, which doesn't translate well for the British reader.
- Although the conclusions are mind-boggling (quantum entanglement, string theory) a degree of shell shock is setting in - can the universe get any wierder? I'm only 3/4 of the way through! and it is difficult to lift oneself to the heights of admiration and wonder that Green obviously reaches - Ho hum! More strangeness!

Nevertheless, this is well worth a read and don't be put off by the subject material. You'll never look at the world in the same way again.
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on 5 November 2005
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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on 9 January 2010
`The Fabric of the Cosmos' by Brian Greene is a truly remarkable work of science writing. It covers incredibly interesting topics, is beautifully written, and, most importantly, Greene really has the ability to teach, rather than just tell.

Brief breakdown:
The book begins with a tour of classical physics and special and general relativity, centring on a discussion of space and spacetime and whether these are absolute entities or not, using the classic thought experiment of Newton's bucket. This in an interesting way to approach the relativity theories, but I think they are better described in Greene's `The Elegant Universe'.

Next, Greene takes us into quantum mechanics, beginning with descriptions of interference and double slit experiments then centring on the EPR paradox. He describes Bell's theorem with a brilliant analogy, and really walks the reader through some of the difficult concepts of quantum entanglement. At the end of this section, I really began to appreciate the strangeness of our quantum universe.

Next, he turns his attention to time, and argues that if all of space exists somewhere, then so does all of time. I found this very intriguing. His discussions of the arrow of time, and how physical laws apply in reverse, were very interesting. He introduces us to the concept of entropy and the problems we face if we assume entropy increases in the future and the past. The Big Bang, and its thermodynamic legacy, pull us out of this particular `quagmire'.

Inflationary cosmology then takes over and we learn about the Higgs Field, quantum fluctuations in the early universe and expansion. He also discusses the origin of times arrow in terms of the low entropy of the early universe.

String theory and M-theory dominate the latter part of the book. There isn't really anything here that wasn't discussed in 'The Elegant Universe', but FOTC does discuss this topic in a more focussed manner.

Summary:
Overall, Greene's book is stunning and left me with a sense of wonder. I was equally impressed with the material and the ability of Greene to teach it to me. By example, I often found myself asking questions as I read, and I almost always found that he had anticipated the questions, and answered them within the next paragraph or section.

A mammoth achievement that I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn about what theoretical physics has to say about the workings of the Universe.
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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 16 October 2004
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.
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on 13 January 2011
Having finished "In Search Of Time" (D. Falk) and on the back of an increasing interest in all things Quantum, i challenged myself to tackle this on the back of Greene's reputation. I'm not scared to say that in order to get as much out of it as i could on the first read it took me a good few months, but it was time very well spent. You know it has had an impact when you find your idling moments considering key elements from the book, waiting at traffic lights and considering symmetry and such. That's a major goal achieved for a book like this i would have thought, to encourage people to challenge their thinking is a fantastic thing to achieve; in fact, it matters.

I have no physics background and found it consise, readable well structured and not at all as condesending as some books in this area may be. The fact that there is already 60 odd reviews for this book and i'm writing this should say to you that it's essential - actually, it would easily make my top ten favourite books of all time, without question. I took more away from this book than all my high school science classes combined.
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