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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead: Dispatches from the Front Line of Science
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on 30 November 2008
If you're a beginner hoping to learn about the big bang, relativity and quantum theory, then this is probably not the best book for you. A title like Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos would almost certainly offer you a better understanding of these concepts, building your understanding more gradually and methodically.

However if you already have a basic grasp of such topics and fancy a highly (and I mean highly!) speculative detour away from established theories into the realm of fringe topics such as whether we might be living in a computer simulation or where we might begin to look for a possible message from the creator of our universe, then you should find this a mildly entertaining read, even if you question some of the conclusions.

At times it risks straying into theological territory, but not in a Bible-bashing way - for example, Chown relays the proposal of one physicist that the purpose of life might be to create an omnipotent and omniscient super-intelligence. That's the kind of book this is.

It has its faults - several glaring grammatical errors towards the end, and it's also strangely repetitive in parts, making it feel somewhat disjointed. Despite that, it's hard not to find the concepts he relays fascinating. Just don't expect to learn too much from it.
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on 13 August 2007
Big questions. Brave people with even bigger answers which, even if they turn out to be wrong, illuminate vast areas of modern science. Chow takes you by the hand and leads you to the frontier of knowledge - literally, since one of his big questions is: What is the limit of what we can know? What IBM mathematician Gregory Chatin has to say about this will leave your brain reeling, but it has implications for everything from the limits of computers to the origin of human intuition, imagination and creativity. Elsewhere Chow asks: What happened before the Big Bang explosion? Where does the everyday world come from? Can life survive into the infinite future of the Universe? Why do we experience a common past, present and future when none of these concepts appear in our basic description of space and time (remarkably, it may be due to our biology rather than to physics)? And why are fridges hard to shove about?! (because empty space is "sticky"!) This is a very stimulating book which I have raved about to all my friends.
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on 26 January 2007
As soon as I took it off the shelf I was hooked. You get tucked into the pages after the heading of the first chapter. The words begin to flow and you're taken on a smooth ride into the heart of all the really interesting bits of science, the ones that have the most extreme of theories and questions. All the information is explained in true layman's terms Which is a big help to non degree level people like myself, and is broken down in quick night time session chapters, yet don't expect to sleep easy, some of the information and facts about quantum theory are somewhat upsetting and take away most, or any individual belief that we are unique and more than just lucky animals. All and all a great read for the open minded.
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on 11 September 2007
Once in a while comes along a book with breathtaking speculation. Marcus Chowns latest "Dispatches from the frontline of science" certainly fits the description of being "breathtaking". In the words of Brian May (Queen guitarist): "Marcus Chown rocks".

We sometimes forget how big and how weird the universe really is. And then it is nice that we have Marcus Chown around to remind us.

There is only a finite number of ways of arranging protons in a given volumen of space. Just as it is possible to estimate how many oranges that can be stacked together in a box, it it possible to estimate how many protons you can have in a given volume of space. Because of its quantum graininess, the obervable universe has "only" 10^118 locations where a proton can be. When we further assume that the distribution of galaxies in the observable universe and beyond is the result of random processes that went on the first split seconds of the Universe existence.
It follows: Try out enough places in the universe and eventually you come to a part that looks exactly like our observable universe, but is somewhere else. Somewhere out there a copy of you is walking around reading a book that also looks like your book.
- Infinite turns out to be a pretty weird thing.

It gets worse - or better - with Nick Bostroms simulation argument, which suggest that our universe is really some experiment set up by some super advanced civisisation. And with Frank Tiplers resurrection of all humans in the big crunch at the of time (in the universe) - things gets really weird.

Surely, you don't wanna miss the ride. Pick up the book asap.

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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 January 2007
This book is really approachable, yet it covers some of the most amazing scientific theories and speculations around. At times you'll be hard pushed to believe this is real science, not science fiction - but it is. A really excellent read - much better than those silly science questions books about penguins feet freezing that the cover seems to be copying.
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on 10 March 2012
The Never-Ending Days Of Being Dead by Marcus Chown has some crossover content with Michio Kaku's Parallel Worlds which I read in January. Both books tackle the possibility of the existence of parallel universes, both books use the mortality of Elvis by way of example and both books make reference to the short story All The Myriad Ways by Larry Niven.

Where the books differ is that Chown goes on to discuss different implication of quantum theory from the Kaku. Topics Chown covers include the possible existence of Extra Terrestrial Life, whether the universe is in fact the result of a computer program what happens to us when we die, what happens to us when the universe dies, what binary, pi and the omega point can tell us, and the problem of mass.

Between the Kaku and the Chown, I felt Chown's was the more accessible work. I understood it, as a lay person who didn't get on with Physics well at school better than I did the Kaku. I struggled significantly with the section on Mass but that's just an issue of personal deficit in knowledge than a reflection on Chown's writing.

As with Parallel Worlds, I found it incredibly heartwarming that unlike many atheists who use the Big Bang Theory to illustrate that "God" did not create the world, many physicists on the cutting edges of latest theories look to the existence of some sort of "Creator" as the only means to explain the unexplainable; and that physics at its most theoretical has more in common with theology than many would like to believe.

Some of the theories presented in this book are mindblowing and lead to much existential philosophising. I remember I asked a friend once whether he thought we might just be a really, really big game of "The Sims" and somewhat dishearteningly quantum theory by no means rules this out. Who are we, and why are we here? This book doesn't answer that question but it opens the door to many possibilities to be considered. I will certainly read more of Chown's books. 9/10
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on 17 June 2010
Don't be deceived by the cartoon on the cover. This fabulous book starts off with a gentle slope down to the water hole but soon I found myself waist-deep in mind-boggling ideas. The book is written in a friendly, conversational language with occasional references to Douglas Adams but the pleasant words are there only to help you digest the collossal ideas.

I found this book highly entertaining and informative but it did take me a while to read it, because my brain kept getting indigestion: so many ideas, some mutually-exclusive. It isn't a book to read in one sitting - more like a brain-food buffet to keep returning to between drinks and conversations with fellow diners.
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on 3 March 2009
This morning I was finishing of one of the most enjoyable books I have read, that being Marcus Chown's "The never ending days of being dead"

The most interesting part of this book for me was learning about the concept of the "Omega Point Universe" This being a universe which contracts faster in one direction than all other directions. In such a universe, the temperature difference grow without limit, enabling an infinite amount of information processing before the universe ends in the Omega Point

I loved Chapter 11 - "The never ending days of being dead" and plan to look up more material from Frank Tipler as soon as possible. This particular concept is extremely similar to Anthony Peake's Theory in many ways. Chown explores the possibility that we may already be in a computer generated reality brought about by the future fate of the universe.

I was also fascintated to learn more about "Omega" That being a number that cannot be generated by a computer programme shorter than itself. Far more interesting that I first anticipated. Chown's style of wrirting is so addictive and so easy to understand, he makes it enjoyable to learn as he has a great sense of humour about the topics he discusses.

Interesting insights also into the opinion that we should be searching for E.T in the computer rather than the universe. The entire book was an absolute pleasure, every bit as educational and enjoyable as "The universe Next Door". I will definately go out and get a copy of "Quantum Theory cannot hurt you" as soon as possible.
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on 14 February 2007
This is the most exhilarating popular science book I have read since Carl Sagan's 'The Cosmic Connection', and I must have read that 30-odd years ago. Sagan's book opened my eyes to truly cosmic vistas and enriched my life. I think this book will do the same for today's generation. I've already started reading it again!
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on 31 December 2014
Marcus Chown’s book presents varying theories both about cosmology and the universe. He covers
the main scientific ideas in cosmology in a simple way, so that even those who have no prior
knowledge in the topic can understand key points relatively easily. Chown does introduce a few
curve ball ideas as well, such as the idea we may be living in a computer game, but these only add to
the interest of the book. Chown does not only cover common theories, such as branes or the hyper
expanding universe theory, but also other theories such as the universe of simplicity. Chown
discusses areas around his topic, providing food for thought and helping you grasp the full picture of
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