The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Nothing lasts forever — not even eternity, as we learned from Steven Hawking a few years ago. The recent discovery of what may be the Higgs boson made me aware again of how little I understand about the universe. Or even about the questions now being posed by cosmologists. Greene makes it all about as clear as it can possibly be to someone — like me — who can't follow the math. For those who can follow it, he offers many of the necessary equations in the endnotes, which also include numerous references for further reading. To substitute for the math, Greene uses metaphors, generally pretty silly ones — Bart Simpson on a supersonic skateboard, for example — that at least give us an idea of, for example, what Einstein meant about space-time in the general theory of relativity. And then beyond Einstein, to quantum mechanics, and why the world and the whole universe appear to us in only three space dimensions (forward and back, side to side, up and down) and one time dimension, when quantum theory, confirmed experimentally, demonstrates that there must be ten space dimensions (but still only one time dimension). Is our universe really a kind of hologram projected by forces outside it, that is, beyond the universe we are capable of perceiving directly? Could be; Greene considers that hypothesis as at least plausible. And how did it all, everything, begin? Or did it? Was the Big Bang, the initial expansion of matter and energy that set everything in motion, just a new configuration of energy that is always, and that therefore may have been dispersed in some other entropic system(s), and may again — if our universe ever reaches the limit of its continuing expansion — shrink to extreme density, preparatory to a new explosion ("Big Bang") some billions of years hence? It took me weeks to get through this book, not because it was unclear, but because the news about the universe seemed so strange, so oddly contrary to our ordinary experience, that I had to keep checking back to re-understand parts of earlier chapters necessary for following the later ones. I remain amazed, and inspired with new speculations about philosophy and existence and what we do and cannot know. Guess it's time for me to learn some math.
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