The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos


“There can be few better guides to the bewildering array of potential universes, ?and none so readable or entertaining.”—Manjit Kumar, The Independent
Einstein’s theory of general relativity opens the door for the study of other possible universes—and weird universes at that. The Book of Universes gives us a stunning tour of these potential universes, introducing us to the brilliant physicists and mathematicians who first revealed these startling possibilities. John D. Barrow then explains the latest insights ...
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“There can be few better guides to the bewildering array of potential universes, ?and none so readable or entertaining.”—Manjit Kumar, The Independent
Einstein’s theory of general relativity opens the door for the study of other possible universes—and weird universes at that. The Book of Universes gives us a stunning tour of these potential universes, introducing us to the brilliant physicists and mathematicians who first revealed these startling possibilities. John D. Barrow then explains the latest insights that physics and astronomy have to offer about our own universe, showing how they lead to the concept of the “multiverse”—the universe of all possible universes.
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Editorial Reviews

“Starred Review. A narrative laced with humor and poetry . . . mind-expanding.”
New Statesman
“As it turns out, exercising the brain cells in thinking about such matters is great fun, and The Book of Universes is an excellent place to start such an exploration.”
Publishers Weekly
It's apparently the unofficial year of the multiverse, with books arriving from every direction. While Barrow's is far from unique, it is both entertaining and accessible, revealing the amazing possible worlds described by cosmology theory. Barrow reviews how Einstein's relativity theory gave physicists a new kind of mathematics that led to notions of an expanding universe, an oscillating universe that repeatedly expands and shrinks over billions of years, and the big bang theory of the universe's origins. Barrow then moves into newer, less familiar territory, explaining the many other possibilities that mathematics offers: universes without matter, universes where the laws of physics change with location, and irregular "swiss cheese" universes riddled with pockets of nothingness. But Barrow's just getting started. "M theory," the closest we have to a "Theory of Everything," gives us multiverses, universes within universes, continually "budding" off into normal as well as oddball "fringe" universes: those that wrap around, collide, replicate themselves, and change the speed of light. Barrow takes readers through much the same material as other books on the subject, such as Brian Greene's bestselling The Hidden Reality did, but he makes the trip a good deal of fun. 112 illus. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

A guided tour of conceptions of the universe, from the beginnings of modern science to the present.

After a brief look at the cosmological ideas of the ancients, Barrow (Mathematical Sciences/Cambridge Univ.; 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know: Math Explains Your World, 2009, etc.) moves on to the more rigorous formulations arising once Newton's gravitational theory became part of the astronomer's vocabulary. Both the time scale and the amount of space that theory needs to account for expanded radically over the course of the 19th century, until Edwin Hubble's discovery of the expansion of the universe presented cosmology with a key data point. Even Einstein had to adapt his original idea of a static universe to Hubble's observations by adding a fudge factor to General Relativity, the infamous cosmological constant. By that point, others were calculating what kinds of universe Einstein's laws permitted. After Karl Schwarzschild pointed out that the universe need not conform to Euclidean geometry, alternative models proliferated: Willem de Sitter, Georges Lemaître and the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann found ways to tweak the known variables to find possible universes. But the expansion of the universe implied a beginning, a position developed in the 1940s by George Gamow and his associates, now known as the Big Bang. Observations reinforced the idea, and the insights of quantum mechanics began to illuminate the early moments following the initial explosion. A refinement was added in the 1980s by Alan Guth, who postulated a period of rapid inflation following the Big Bang as a solution to several problems, notably the shortage of magnetic monopoles. Barrow brings the discussion up to date by noting that observations in the 1990s forced cosmologists to propose dark matter and dark energy, two entities detectable only by their effects on normal matter. Most recently, some cosmologists propose that we inhabit a small corner of a multiverse, in which multiple universes with different laws coexist. The author covers the various possibilities clearly, with math kept to a minimum, occasionally offering his own speculations to enliven the account.

A solid overview of the evolution of cosmology, with illuminating coverage of the current state of the art. A useful complement to Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time (2011).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393343113
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/11/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 957,855
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. Barrow is professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the best-selling author of many books on science and mathematics, including Mathletics: 100 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about the World of Sports and 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know: Math Explains Your World.
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Table of Contents

Preface xiii

1 Being in the Right Place at the Right Time 1

Two men walking 1

Funny things, universes 2

The importance of place 4

Aristotle's spherical universe 12

Ptolemy's 'Heath Robinson' universe 14

Copernican revolutions 16

2 The Earnestness of Being Important 22

Special times and special places 22

Democratic laws 24

The changing universe 26

The nebular hypothesis 31

Life in an Edwardian universe 33

The decaying universe 37

Karl Schwarzschild: the man who knew too much 41

3 Einstein's Universes 47

Completing a Copernican vision 47

Einstein's insight 49

A digression 52

The creation of Einstein's universe of motionless matter 54

The second universe: de Sitter s universe of matterless motion 57

Friedmann's universes of matter in motion 60

Lemaître's universes 65

The universe of Einstein and de Sitter 74

Tolman's oscillating universe 76

Lemaître and Tolman's kinky universe 80

Milne's universe (and Newton s universes) 82

4 Expected Universes: the Rococo Period 86

Fractal universes 86

Dr Kasner's universe 91

Dirac's universe-where gravity decays 95

Einstein and Rosen's undulating universe 100

5 Something Completely Different 105

A Swiss-cheese universe 105

Perturbed universes 108

Schrödinger's universe 112

Gödel's spinning universe 115

6 The Steady Statesmen Come and Go with a Bang 123

A universe that always was, is and is to come 123

A table-top universe 133

The electric universe 137

Hot universes 139

7 Universes, Warts and All 148

Turbulent universes 148

Distorted universes: from one to nine 153

Smooth universes and a new observational window 160

Chaotic universes 161

Mixmaster universes 165

Magnetic universes 168

The universes of Brans and Dicke 170

Matter-antimatter universes 172

8 The Beginning for Beginners 175

Singular universes 175

Which universes are singular? 180

Cold and tepid universes 188

An unexpectedly simpler universe 189

And a unified way of thinking 191

9 Brave New Worlds 194

Asymmetric universes 194

Problem universes 197

Inflationary universes 198

Chaotic inflationary universes 204

Eternal inflationary universes 208

Suddenly, the universe seems simpler again 212

The many universes run out of control 213

10 Post-Modern Universes 218

Random universes 218

Probable universes 220

Anthropic universes 221

Possible universes 229

Home-made universes 231

Naturally selected universes 234

Fake universes 237

Universes where nothing is original 244

Boltzmann s universe 248

11 Fringe Universes 253

Wrap-around universes 253

Quantum universes 260

A self-creating universe 267

Colliding universes 269

The dying of the light 273

Hyperuniverses 275

12 The Runaway Universe 277

The best-buy universe 277

The preposterous universe 284

The puzzling universe 290

Notes 297

Picture Credits 341

Index 343

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