Richard Feynman once quipped that "Time is what happens when nothing else does." But Julian Barbour disagrees: if nothing happened, if nothing changed, then time would stop. For time is nothing but change. It is change that we perceive occurring all around us, not time. Put simply, time does not exist.
In this highly provocative volume, Barbour presents the basic evidence for a timeless universe, and shows why we still experience the world as intensely temporal. It is a book that strikes at the heart of modern physics. It casts doubt on Einstein's greatest contribution, the spacetime continuum, but also points to the solution of one of the great paradoxes of modern science, the chasm between classical and quantum physics. Indeed, Barbour argues that the holy grail of physiciststhe unification of Einstein's general relativity with quantum mechanicsmay well spell the end of time.
Barbour writes with remarkable clarity as he ranges from the ancient philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides, through the giants of science Galileo, Newton, and Einstein, to the work of the contemporary physicists John Wheeler, Roger Penrose, and Steven Hawking. Along the way he treats us to enticing glimpses of some of the mysteries of the universe, and presents intriguing ideas about multiple worlds, time travel, immortality, and, above all, the illusion of motion.
The End of Time is a vibrantly written and revolutionary book. It turns our understanding of reality inside-out.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Product dimensions:||9.25(w) x 6.06(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Julian Barbour is a theoretical physicist who has worked on foundational issues in physics and astronomy for 35 years. His first book, the widely praised The Discovery of Dynamics, has recently been republished in paperback. In 2000 the Association of American Publishers awarded The End of Time its prestigious award for excellence in the Physics & Astronomy section. Julian Barbour, a theoretical physicist, has worked on foundational issues in physics for 35 years. He is the author of the widely praised Absolute or Relative Motion?: Volume I, and is working on the second volume.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Since I was about twelve years old I have had an intuative sense about time. I remember looking at a photograph and realizing that when it was taken, that very moment couldn't have gone away. It would always be there in it's little nitch in space-time. Nothing could be covered over to replace that 'Now' with any other event. My next thought was that the past, present and future had to be happening at the same time. Many years later I started to read the implications of physics. The 'nows' can not be left behind when the next 'now' comes along, because it forever has it nitch in the universe. That 'now' cannot be changed. It is what it is, and it exists where it exists. I believe every possible 'now' exists and that is makes the 'nows' both predetermined and not predetermined, because every possible reality is a reality. I loved the book. I see that some have intuitively sensed this for many, many, years. Why does physics, high mathematics explain the universe? It has to be that we ARE the universe trying to explain itself. Beautiful, beautiful, book.
As a non-scientist, I don't follow developments in physics very closely, but once in a while a popularizer comes along with something really new to say (and I don't mean sensationalist clap-trap), so I buy the book. I bought this one because it promised to rid physics of a couple of unprovable assumptions, chiefly the axiomatic flow of time. I figure it's always good to minimize assumptions, and I anticipated a reading experience just as entertaining as watching a wrecking-ball destroy a foundation without harming the house on top of it!... In my opinion, this book delivers on that amazing promise. Incredible as it seems, both Relativity and quantum mechanics can apparently survive and thrive without temporal underpinnings. In place of that old 'flowing' foundation, author Julian Barbour posits a static configuration space in which all instances of time (all possible relative configurations of all particles in the universe) coexist simultaneously. It's a temporal variation on the 'many worlds' theme, but it makes more sense with fewer assumptions than any other hypothesis. The immediate implications for QM are too subtle for my level of comprehension, but it stands to reason that this could be the making of a major paradigm-shift for everyone, even in our everyday lives, eventually.... Barbour is a consummate science historian, so you'll read about everyone from Bell to Zeno as he cites precedent for his ideas. He almost dazzled me too much, till I don't know which ideas are his own and which ones are old-hat. I guess I'll have to read it again someday soon. It'll be a joy to re-read, I think. No doubt there are plenty of little nuggets that I missed the first time. It's a rich mix.... I do have major problems with Barbour's solipsism. Yes, he's a self-confessed solipsist. He basically ends up saying, 'Life is but a dream and here's my argument to prove it.' Well, if it's a dream, then so too is the argument, and -- POOF! -- self annihilation. However, if you're smart enough to follow his logic that far, you should be smart enough to find your own escape from his surreal fate. Myself, I just see gaping escape-route holes whenever anyone tries to reconcile consciousness with pure determinism. If the universe is ruled by the latter, what need is there for the former? Barbour hasn't closed that Great Mystery by any means, but he has put it in sharper focus around the edges. Much sharper. That alone is a rare and wonderful thing....
I own the book and found it very confusing. I will not pretend to have the slightest clue of what Mr. Barbour is talking about. Though some of it did stick, the general idea I guess. I recommend that you not buy this book unless you're serious about your physics, and if you are you'll be in a wonderful dreamland. And I think he's right!