The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes and Its Implications

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For David Deutsch, a young physicist of unusual originality, quantum theory contains our most fundamental knowledge of the physical world. Taken literally, it implies that there are many universes “parallel” to the one we see around us. This multiplicity of universes, according to Deutsch, turns out to be the key to achieving a new worldview, one which synthesizes the theories of evolution, computation, and knowledge with quantum physics. Considered jointly, these four strands of explanation reveal a unified ...

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The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications

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For David Deutsch, a young physicist of unusual originality, quantum theory contains our most fundamental knowledge of the physical world. Taken literally, it implies that there are many universes “parallel” to the one we see around us. This multiplicity of universes, according to Deutsch, turns out to be the key to achieving a new worldview, one which synthesizes the theories of evolution, computation, and knowledge with quantum physics. Considered jointly, these four strands of explanation reveal a unified fabric of reality that is both objective and comprehensible, the subject of this daring, challenging book. The Fabric of Reality explains and connects many topics at the leading edge of current research and thinking, such as quantum computers (which work by effectively collaborating with their counterparts in other universes), the physics of time travel, the comprehensibility of nature and the physical limits of virtual reality, the significance of human life, and the ultimate fate of the universe. Here, for scientist and layperson alike, for philosopher, science-fiction reader, biologist, and computer expert, is a startlingly complete and rational synthesis of disciplines, and a new, optimistic message about existence.

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Editorial Reviews

George Johnson
[The book] is full of refreshingly oblique, provocative insights. -- NY Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Philosophy, biology, computer science and quantum physics all converge in this ambitious theoretical work by Deutsch, an expert in quantum computation at Oxford University. Interweaving the four disciplines, Deutsch provides a model of reality that is as provocative as it is complex. Building on such diverse topics as the evolution of knowledge, biological Darwinism, time travel, virtual reality and parallel universes, Deutsch describes a reality where parallel universes are "stacked like a pack of playing cards" to comprise a "multiverse," with computers communicating between them, where the mechanics and likelihood of time travel exist and where the universe comes to an end. Though many of Deutsch's conclusions and their core assumptions are controversial, which to his credit, he acknowledges, the work remains an intellectually stimulating read for the science-literate and motivated lay person, in the tradition of Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" and Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach". The author exhibits not only a thorough knowledge of his subject matter but a genuine desire to draw the lay reader into the complexities, paradoxes and possibilities surrounding quantum physics. In a particularly effective manner, each chapter begins by outlining basic scientific history or concepts before delving into the complex, and ends with a glossary and summary, both invaluable tools for the lay reader. In a field where scientific inquiry challenges not only our imagination but basic assumptions about our physical world, this volume provides the essential information needed for future debates, regardless of whether Deutsch's conclusions are ever accepted as scientific doctrine.
Library Journal
Common sense and reality diverge and then come together again in this mind-blowing book. Maintaining that the best explanation for certain quantum phenomena is that there are parallel universes, i.e., multiverses, Oxford physicist Deutsch posits and then attempts to unify four basic strandsquantum physics, epistemology, evolution, and the theory of computation. Just one astonishing consequence is that quantum computers can collaborate between universes. Deutsch's ideas are exotic and challenging, but his text is surprisingly accessible, and he supplies a glossary and summary at the end of every chapter. For motivated readers, this book is a feast for the mind. Strongly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
Kirkus Reviews
One major school of quantum theory posits a multiplicity of universes; but what does that imply about the reality we live in?

A simple experiment, familiar to every student of physics, involves light passing through slits in a barrier; its results, according to Oxford physicist Deutsch, lead inevitably to the idea that there are countless universes parallel to our own, through which some of the light must pass. This "many worlds" interpretation of quantum theory has gained advocates in recent years, and Deutsch argues that it is time for scientists to face the full implications of this idea. (After all, the entire point of science is to help us understand the world we live in—the "fabric of reality" of his title.) To that end, he outlines a new view of the multiverse (the total of all the parallel universes), combining ideas from four "strands" of science: quantum physics, epistemology, the theory of computation, and modern evolutionary theory. He argues that quantum computation, a discipline in which he is a pioneering thinker, has the potential for building computers that draw on their counterparts in parallel universes; this could make artificial intelligence a reality, despite Roger Penrose's objections (which Deutsch deals with in some detail). Likewise, time travel into both the future and the past should be possible, though not in quite the form envisioned by science fiction writers; the trips would almost certainly be one-way, and they would likely take the travelers into different universes from the one they began in. Deutsch takes particular pains to refute Thomas Kuhn's "paradigm" model of science, which essentially denies progress. A final chapter looks at the long-range implications of his views, including the place of esthetic and moral values (areas more scientists now seem willing to confront).

Not easy going by any means, but worth the work for anyone interested in the thought processes of a scientist on the leading edge of his discipline.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140275414
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 540,768
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

David Deutsch, internationally acclaimed for his seminal publications on quantum computation, is a member of the Quantum Computation and Cryptography Research Group at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University.

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Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments
1. The Theory of Everything
2. Shadows
3. Problem-solving
4. Criteria for Reality
5. Virtual Reality
6. Universality and the Limits of Computation
7. A Conversation about Justification
8. The Significance of Life
9. Quantum Computers
10. The Nature of Mathematics
11. Time: The First Quantum Concept
12. Time Travel
13. The Four Strands
14. The Ends of the Universe Bibliography Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Ok however...

    I found this book to be very hard to follow. A much better book can be found in M. R. Franks' The Universe and Multiple Reality.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    A thought-provoking book

    An interesting idea about time travel concerning trips to other dimensions, but I didn't really care for this one. The author's writing style was a turnoff for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2003

    Multiverse, Multiverse....

    David Deutsche's Fabric of Reality grabs you by the collar and yanks you into his multi-thesis book. His explanatory voice is of the utmost ease and understandability. By the time you're finished even with the second chapter you'll have a profoundly different view on everything. This is one of the essential books that should be in every household right next to the dictionary. Also, see Deutsche's essay on quantum mechanics in Discover Magazine's September 2001 issue.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    What is reality

    Very Interesting perspective linking quantum physics, laws of computation, evolution and life by weaving these threads into a unique and intriging fabric and view of what constitutes reality. I will be pondering the impkications of this for quite some time.

    Thanks Becky....this is one of the items I got with my christmas gift!

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  • Posted April 29, 2012

    Physics and Philosophy

    I enjoy Deutsch's writing very much. The book, Fabric of Reality, somehow got the cover of a Nora Roberts novel. Go figger.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2011


    The book sets out the author's view of the "many worlds" interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. The topics discussed are in many respects difficult to convey but I believe Mr. Deutsch's exposition was successful in showing the reader many of the implications of Quantum theory for physics and cosmology. Definitely worth it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2005

    quantum computers

    The book was published in 1997, and a lot has happened since then. Yet the foundations retain their permanence, and David Deutsch¿s captivating writing is as fresh as ever. Despite the availability of newer books, for the layman/woman, now almost 10 years later, I would still rank this book at the top. There is a lot in the book and yet, the ideas are presented in a clear and engaging way. The author is a pioneer, a giant in modern physics he was and is a driving force in new discoveries in the subject. Yet he has his personal way of explaining physical reality. His view is not shared by all scientists, one should admit. However, there is agreement about the scientific conclusions. The first chapter in the book stresses *explanation*, our understanding of the reason for things. There are other views of science, e.g., instrumentalism: predicting the outcome of experiments. The author¿s view on quantum theory is based his idea about parallel universes. While fascination, the reader should be aware that there are alternative theories for explaining quantum phenomena. An important concept in quantum theory and quantum computation is ¿decoherence¿, and it is explained (ch 9) in terms of different (parallel) universes. In ch 9 about quantum computers, it might have been only fair to mention that there are such other current views on decoherence but this is a minor complaint. Presentation: I love that each chapter concludes with a section on terminology and a summary. As a subject theoretical computer science started with Alan Turing and John von Neumann in the 1940ties: Classical computation follows the model of Turing,-- strings of bits, i.e., 0s and 1s and a mathematical model which is now called the Turing machine. Instead of bits, why not two-level quantum systems, e.g., models built from electrons or photons? Such an analogues model for computation based on two-level quantum systems, and a quantum version of Turing¿s machine was suggested in the 1980ties by R.P. Feynman. The form it now has owes much to the author himself, David Deutsch. But it wasn't until Peter Shor's qubit-factoring algorithm in the late 1990ties (not covered in the book) that the subject really took off, and really caught the attention of the mainstream science community, and of the general public: The 'unbreakable' codes might be breakable after all ! That there is a polynomial factoring algorithm, as Shor showed, shook up the encryption community, for obvious reasons, and created headlines in the news. Ideas in the quantum realm, and not part of classical thinking, include superposition of (quantum) states, the EPR paradox (1935), and (quantum) coherence. Although these concepts are at the foundation of quantum theory, they make a drastic change in our whole theoretical framework of computation: Now one passes from the familiar classical notion of bit-registers to that of qubit-registers, and the laws of quantum mechanics take over. Mathematical physicists and computer scientists must revisit the old masters: Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, Pauli, and Dirac. In passing from logic gates to quantum gates (unitary matrices), the concept of switching-networks from traditional computer science now changes drastically. The changes introduce brand new scientific challenges, and new truly exciting opportunities. I believe that this book does justice to this, and that it is still a fascinating and thought provoking invitation to some of the most intriguing trends in modern physics. Review by Palle Jorgensen, July 2005.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2001

    The New Perspective...

    David Deutsch creates the framework for a brand new epistemology. It starts a little slow, but once it kicks in, it will suck you in and keep you moving. The Fabric of Reality has already influenced writers like Michael Crighton (Timeline) and Paco Ahlgren (Discipline). This is the new model...

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