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

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Overview

The Dancing Universe traces mystical, philosophical,and scientific ideas about the cosmos through the past twenty-five centuries. Taking us back to the dawn of history, the author explores the legends and myths of such traditional cultures as the Hopi and the Hindu, as well as the enduring contributions of the Greeks. From the universal creation myths of ancient societies to contemporary notions of an ever-expanding universe, Marcelo Gleiser gives us a new understanding of how mysticism, religion, and science have interacted throughout the millennia. He illuminates the life and work of some of our greatest scientists, including Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein - men as renowned for their spirituality as for their scientific brilliance. By probing the ways in which scientists have unlocked the secrets of such world-changing concepts as gravity, electromagnetism, time, and space, Gleiser offers fresh perspectives on the eternal debate between science and faith. And he brings this epic drama of our origins full circle by taking us through such dazzling modern breakthroughs as relativity, quantum mechanics, and particle physics - in a provocative depiction of cosmic creation mysteries that harkens back to our earliest forebears.
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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

1 Creation myths 3
2 The Greeks 23
3 The sun, the church, and the new astronomy 63
4 The pious heretic 97
5 The triumph of reason 120
6 The world is an intricate machine 149
7 Of things fast 191
8 Of things small 212
9 Inventing universes 243
10 Beginnings 280
Epilogue : dancing with the universe 310
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