The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos

The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos

by John D. Barrow
     
 

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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

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Overview

“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.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“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:
06/11/2012
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
1,115,620
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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