The Dancing Universe: From Creation Myths to the Big Bang / Edition 1

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Overview

Marcelo Gleiser refutes the notion that science and spirituality are irreconcilable. In The Dancing Universe, he traces mystical, philosophical, and scientific ideas about the cosmos through the past twenty-five centuries, from the ancient creation myths of numerous cultures to contemporary theories about an ever-expanding universe. He also explores the lives and ideas of history’s greatest scientists, including Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein. By exploring how scientists have unlocked the secrets of gravity, matter, time, and space, Gleiser offers fresh perspective on the debate between science and faith.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gleiser, a young physicist on the faculty at Dartmouth and one of only 15 Presidential Faculty Fellows, explores the relationship of science and religion in the area where they intersect most dramatically, the origin of the universe. Describing the cosmological quest as "The Question," he examines religious answers on one hand and scientific theories on the other, noting that both can be classified in equivalent taxonomies. At the first taxonomic level, scientific theories and religious models of cosmic origins can be divided into those with beginnings and those without. Those with beginnings can be classified as creation from something, creation from nothing and order out of chaos. Those without beginnings posit either eternal existence or a rhythmic universe. Gleiser reviews 25 centuries of cultural, religious and scientific history, fitting the prevailing religious ideas and scientific theories into the appropriate boxes on his charts. Some readers may find that organization fascinating. Others, trying to follow the book's second important threadthat scientists are human beings with all the good and ill that designation impliesare likely to be bogged down in excessive detail in the discussions of optics, thermodynamics, relativity and quantum mechanics. That is unfortunate, because in this challenging, sometimes brilliant book, Gleiser frequently displays his own humanity, interjecting descriptions of his personal struggle to merge reason and emotion, knowledge and belief. Nov.
Kirkus Reviews
An attempt to bridge the gap between spiritual and scientific inquiries into the nature and origins of the universe, from a physics professor at Dartmouth.

Actually, Gleiser believes that the studies of cosmologists such as himself are spiritual; it's just that scientists seek to prove their intuitions, rather than to rely on faith. He finds the notion that scientists are cold and objective, rather than passionate, to be ludicrous and even offensive, and his accounts of the work of Einstein, Copernicus, and Newton wonderfully personalize the essentially spiritual quests these men made on their paths to discoveries with reproducible results. Einstein spoke of a "cosmic religious feeling," for instance. To go back a long way indeed, the Pythagoreans were a monastic order of sorts, their mathematical discoveries a way of proving order in the universe and, to their minds, a divine intelligence. Sometimes, Gleiser is hard pressed to find much spirituality at work—in the endeavors of Niels Bohr, for instance. Nonetheless, the spirituality that is evident in the groundbreaking work of many great scientists is convincingly illuminated by Gleiser in this rather unique overview. He begins with a survey of various creation myths, from Hopi to Zoroastrian to Christian, and shows their links to the early astronomy of the Babylonians and Greeks. He devotes a great deal of attention to the Greeks, then moves on to the ideas of the "pious heretic," Galileo; the origins and intent of Newton's laws of motion; the discovery of the laws of thermodynamics; and the turbulent discoveries of the modern age, beginning with Einstein and progressing through quantum physics and on to the ramifications of the uncertainty principle.

Even if one cares little for Gleiser's spiritual asides, this is an exceptionally clear summary of 2,500 years of science and a fascinating account of the ways in which it often does intersect with spiritual beliefs.

From the Publisher
“Sweeping through twenty-five centuries, Gleiser examines how mankind’s discovery of the connections between mythology, philosophy, and science brought about new cosmological insights.”—Natural History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584654667
  • Publisher: Dartmouth College Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2005
  • Series: Understanding Science and Technology
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

MARCELO GLEISER is Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is also the author of The Prophet and the Astronomer: A Scientific Journey to the End of Time (2002).

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Table of Contents

Preface to the 2005 Edition
Beginnings - Creation Myths - The Greeks
The Awakening - The Sun, the Church, and the New Astronomy - The Pious Heretic - The Triumph of Reason
The Classical Era - The World Is an Intricate Machine
Modern Times - Of Things Fast - Of Things Small
Modeling the Universe - Inventing Universes - Beginnings
Epilogue: Dancing with the Universe
Glossary
Bibliography
Index

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