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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb
As the title of my review suggests, this is simply superb. Mr. Vilenkin SIMPLIFIES... and of the thirty or so books I've read on cosmology, this is at or near the top.

The author covers much ground and does it efficiently. He lays the groundwork for his theories and takes us through the logic he employed in arriving at his 'quantum-tunneling out of nothing'...
Published on July 25, 2006 by Geoff Martin

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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A theoretical search for parallel universes
This book is not for the faint hearted; it requires basic knowledge of physics and cosmology. Parallel universes, also known as multiverse are a set of universes that comprise all of physical and quantum reality. Our universe is a very small island in a vast ocean of numerous universes separated by false vacuum; in essence these are a set of disconnected space-time...
Published on August 14, 2007 by Rama Rao


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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb, July 25, 2006
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As the title of my review suggests, this is simply superb. Mr. Vilenkin SIMPLIFIES... and of the thirty or so books I've read on cosmology, this is at or near the top.

The author covers much ground and does it efficiently. He lays the groundwork for his theories and takes us through the logic he employed in arriving at his 'quantum-tunneling out of nothing' theory to explain the origin of our 'local island universe'.

Mr. Vilenkin ably covers vacuums, inflation, scalar fields, the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the multiverse and even Euclidian time. If you don't understand all these concepts... DON'T WORRY. You will understand them after reading this delightful book.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful introduction to current "how it all began" physics, July 21, 2006
I read lots of accessible physics and cosmology books, and this is one of the best. There is essentially no math to master, but the concepts will make your head hurt (at least philosophically) while you absorb it all. This book has done the best job I've seen yet at explaining inflation in simple terms and how it might have taken only a few grams of matter/energy to create everything. (for a more detailed look at inflation, see one of Alan Guth's books on the subject, since he invented it).

I would recommend this book to adults who want to explore current cosmological thinking; I would strongly recommend this to advanced high school students (along with "Beyond Einstein" by Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer Thompson) as an adjunct to their physical science and AP Physics studies. It is readily understood and can awaking a lifelong quest to answer the question, "How did we get here?"

The "Why are we here?" question I'll leave to philosophers and theologians.

Ed
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ringside seat at the circus of the bizarre that is modern Cosmology., September 1, 2008
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This review is from: Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (Paperback)
Alex Vilenkin is a real physicist and he's been at the cutting edge of cosmology research so it's no surprise that he has a solid grip on the theoretical underpinnings and major issues and problems facing modern cosmology. What's unexpected is that he is such a fluid and comprehensible author. Dr. Vilenkin writes beautifully - with humor, vision, impeccable organization - and great mercy for the layman. He spares us the math, but gives us a real mental picture of the issues at play. This is a great review and explanation of the modern scientific picture of the creation of the universe.

And what a picture it is. Exotic states of vacuum engendering faster than light expansion; infinities contained in bubbles inside finite spaces; multiverses with endless variations in the laws of physics, most inhospitable to life. We see the history of the subject from Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton up through Einstein and into the modern period. We get a great view of how Guth's expansion theory resolves a host of problems and suggests, tantalizing, the nature of the stuff that gives birth to our universe (higher energy false vacuums). Much of the resulting weirdness comes about as consequences contingent on expansion. There's a great explication of the cosmological constant and how the recent observational proof of it shatters particle physics independence from the anthropic principle (the notion that our presence here as observers is evidence that must be used to help gauge odds in a scenario of multiverses in which only some outcomes are hospitable to life such as ourselves. I find myself thrilled by these ideas and enthralled that Vilenkin gives me the impression that I'm really following along.

I'd give it an unqualified rave except that I have a major problem with his central thesis that a consequence of our island universe's infinite size is an infinity of parallel worlds and an infinity of identical earths with identical "you"s doing the same things. It's poetic, and certainly shocking and gets the point across that infinity is a really weird concept with very strange consequences. However, his assumption that the quantum fudge factor necessary to his proof of truly duplicate universes can give rise to a truly duplicate earth with duplicate people betrays an empiricist fallacy of particle physics' reductionism: the same particles will not build the same individual life forms because emergent complexity makes liberal use of chaotic recursive phenomena. It's the genotype/phenotype divergence. Even if the all the particles end up in the same places (by pure chance alone like monkeys typing Shakespeare, since there's an infinity of universes, some will bound to have all the particles in the same places) the way these particles code for complex emergent phenomena like life, brains and social structures makes use of chaos' sensitive dependence on initial conditions to yield divergence on the quantum fudge factors alone - in direct contradiction to Dr. Vilenkin's central conclusion.

So - I'm totally down with "Many Worlds in One" as the best explication I've encountered on the history and evolution of the ideas and theories of particle physics as it relates to cosmology. But I'm completely at odds with Vilenkin's central wowser that there's an infinity of each of us in a weird cosmic hall of mirrors because it's an inescapable consequence of infinity. I think that's just too simplistic and reductionist a reading of how particles combine to manifest the complex emergent phenomena all the way up from molecules to life forms and higher levels of reality. The way Vilenkin blithely ignores emergent complexity reflects physicists bias that particles are an ultimate reality completely encapsulating all higher order reality in and of themselves. It's a pretty picture; but it just isn't that easy. Maybe my insistence that the infinities involved in chaos and emergence trump the infinity of universes reflects my own cowardice and bias - but I couldn't help being disappointed that Vilenkin didn't seem to have recognized that issue with that facet of his really cool theory. Ultimately, my issue here is really just a quibble since that aspect is just one in a long series of amazing ideas that get presented here. On the whole, this book is the most stimulating thing you can expose yourself to from a philosophical, spiritual, and intellectual perspective. I might dock it a point because I don't like the pop aspect of the central thesis, but I'd highly recommend it to anyone at all for all the rest of it.

A special note on the Kindle edition: footnotes are rendered with direct links, but end notes are not (forcing you to jump locations manually - annoyingly - if you want to read the end notes). The index is totally lost because of the relative locations - there are no listed page numbers, no live links, no location numbers - nothing - on the index. So if you want to use the index - buy the printed book because the Kindle version has no functioning index. The Kindle edition also has a some spelling errors from the scan, but the pictures are OK and it all works fine otherwise.

Follow-up 1/28/09:
Time to eat some crow. I had a nice long conversation about Mr. Vilenkin's theory via e-mail with Mr. Vilenkin himself and he very patiently worked the idea through with me and I am forced to admit that if there are an infinite number of O-regions, then there must be duplicate Earths. All that quantum weirdness, chaos and self organizing complexity just ups the number of possible histories each particle can take. But in a universe of finite age and finite size the number of those particle histories is certainly vast but unavoidably finite, just like Mr. Vilenkin says in the book. All the ranting I just did in my review about 'physicist's arrogance about particles constituting an ultimate reality' really was just intellectual cowardice - just like I hinted it might be.

Our conversation isn't quite finished yet. I'm still clinginging to a shred of hope - that the central mechanism that gives our island universe an infinite number of O-regions might not give us an infinite number of particles to populate those regions at any particular moment in time - but only trends towards infinity over infinite time. This particular objection has nothing in common with the failed avenue of attack I make in my original review. I'll wait to hear more about that.

The real upshot here is that this book is incredibly stimulating, mind bending, and mind expanding. If you really read this, you'll never be the same. Highly recommended.

Final update - I have nowhere to hide with Dr. Vilenkin; I lack the background to either full understand or debate his points about the equation of infinite time on an island universe viewed from the outside equating into infinite volume (and infinite matter present simultaneously). I'm going to have do a lot more studying. Meanwhile - definitely read this book. There's nothing else out there like it.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars readable and detailed, January 9, 2007
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I found this book to be extremely readable and surprisingly well translated into language and ideas that could be understood by those with little or no background in cosmology. The writing style is very entertaining.

But I caution curious readers that even though this book is so approachable it still covers a great deal of modern cosmology so it is by no means a light read. As was mentioned in another review one aspect of the writing style is confusing. Since so little of cosmology is experimentally proven there often exist conflicting views. Vilenkin does a good job of covering most of them, but for an unexperienced reader it can be confusing which theory he wants you to believe.

Overall the book is a great read to qualitatively cover modern cosmology and if it is confusing at first it is well worth a re-read or closer inspection for those who want to understand the finer details.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and puzzling worldview of the universe, January 9, 2007
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I am not a physicist, my background is chemistry, but I have been very much involved during the last ten years in reading a lot on cosmology and, of course, on particle physics. I have found that this is the first book, for laymen of course, that deals more thoroughly on the teory of the multiverse. Some chapters I had to read more than once, like, for example, those dealing with vacuum energy and false-vacuum, which are important for understanding the consequences of inflation in according to Vilenkin's view. In my opinion they were not sufficiently elaborated and could have been better connected within the book. Also some of the figures are a little bit confusing like those representing the inflating false-vacuum or the island universe spacetime. I think they could have been better planned. However, I have found the book fascinating and I believe it is a must for all laymen interested in cosmology. Thanks Vilenkin, I hope to read more from you.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking first-hand insights, July 23, 2006
There are not many popular science books that open up an entirely new world-view, one that is both fascinating and irritating. Although there are lots of good books about cosmology, quantum physics, and the (possible) beginning and end of the universe, this one is unique: It doesn't simply repeat the well-known facts and fictions, but explains the dramatic developments in theoretical cosmology during the last two decades, which are not covered elsewhere (or only briefly and often in a misleading way), including some of their eminent philosophical implications.

Alex Vilenkin, one of the leading and most creative researchers of our time, delivers first-hand insights from his own work and that of his friends and colleagues (altogether a veritable Who Is Who in cosmology: Alan Guth, Stephen Hawking, Andrei Linde, Alexei Starobinsky, Paul Steinhardt, Steven Weinberg and many more).

Vilenkins book covers topics like the scenario of cosmic inflation (an exponential expansion of space), the origin of matter and the seeds for galaxy formation at the end of inflation, our observable universe as a tiny part of a bigger universe which is only one of a myriad of other island universes within a still inflating "false vacuum", the possibility of different laws and constants of nature ruling those other universes, the disturbing implication of REAL "parallel universes" with all possible alternate histories and also infinite numbers of fully identical "copies" of each of us, the strange issue of the cosmological constant and its "anthropic" (i.e. life-friendly) value, the anthropic principle as observational selection, the principle of mediocrity as a new tool for cosmological predictions, the possibility of an origin of the whole cosmos "out of nothing" and without a cause due to quantum tunneling, and the danger of a "vacuum decay" in the far future which would destroy our observable universe completely.

This splendid book is well understandable for laymen and also highly recommendable for more advanced readers. It is concise, very informative but not overloaded, challenging and thought-provoking, it is up-to-date, witty, has nice anecdotes, excellent illustrations and cartoons. I enjoyed reading every single page.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating physics with a philosophical flavour, August 15, 2006
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L. Schoots (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This book is a very good introduction on the latest theories of modern cosmology. In a non-technical style the reader is introduced to the Big Bang Theory and its successor, the Multiverse Hypothesis. No background knowledge is needed, but to be able to fully apprehend these theories just enough of quantum mechanics, general relativity and particle physics is explained. The Multiverse Hypothesis is rooted in string theory, so this theory and the relating supersymmetry models are explained as well. But like I said, just enough, this material is not overwhelming the reader, but its main purpose is to support a full understanding of the evolving story.

Alex Vilenkin is one of the world's top cosmologists, and has attributed many ideas to the development of the theoretical foundations of this field. This book shows that he is very capable in explaining them to a broader audience too. It is well structured, the short chapters give it a pleasant rhythm, and the personal anecdotes show the reader a nice behind-the-scenes view of modern research. It will leave you with a sense of wonder...
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular!!, July 15, 2006
I found this book to be extremely interesting and engaging. Vilenkins book beautifully (and as simply as is possible for such an intellectually rich and complex subject) describes an unimaginably vast multiverse that is teeming with infinite self contained universes.

If you think the universe began with the Big Bang, think again. According to eternal inflation, which was first discovered by the author, the Big Bang is really only the start of our "local" universe. But on a far grander scale, Big Bang events are constantly creating new universes. If this sounds like science fiction, one should remember that Inflation (discovered by Alan Guth at MIT) is an extremely successful scientific theory of the origin of the universe. Once the process of Inflation sets in, it simply never stops. This is eternal inflation.

In a multiverse that lives forever, Vilenkin carefully and convincingly describes how anything that is possible will happen again and again. The philosophical ramifications are as far reaching as to imply that we all have identical clones somewhere very very far away...

Without giving away too much more of the fascinating topics discussed, I strongly recommend this stimulating and enlightening book.

00
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book About An Odd Idea, January 13, 2008
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sbissell3 (Denver, CO USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (Paperback)
The other day when I had nothing to do I was browsing YouTube and caught a bit with Bill O'Reilly, whom I detest, and the actor (sic) Kirk Cameron, who needs to get a life, discussing religion/evolution/creationism. It wasn't all that interesting except O'Reilly; in his normal self-aggrandizing manner said he had `disproven' The Big Bang Theory. He then related a truly sophomoric idea that The Big Bang Theory was wrong because `It had to have a cause' or something like that. I did a bit of Googling and found that a few other people had noted O'Reilly's obvious lack of understanding even the basics of what The Big Bang Theory is all about. O'Reilly's comment is of a class of arguments about cosmic origins that go back to William Paley's `Natural Theology' in the early 1800s: Complexity implies design which implies a Designer. This simplistic view is best rebutted by an equally infantile question, "Does God have a Mommy?" if God/Designer exists in time and space, where did `he' come from (I'm uncertain why God/Designer always seems to be of the male gender)?

I am a scientist, but not a physicist, and for the past couple of years I have been trying to teach myself the Standard Model of particle physics and how it relates to the modern interpretations of Cosmology. I lack the math to understand the really technical aspects of the attempts to merge gravity into the Standard Model and so I've mostly been reading popular works. "Many Worlds In One: The Search for Other Universes" has gone to the top of my list. While I still don't completely buy String Theory, which is at least part of Dr. Velinkin's approach, this book summarizes current thinking about the various interpretations and implications of the Inflationary Model (aka `Big Bang') in an easily understood but not simplistic manner.

Velinkin wisely doesn't get himself involved in the `debate' with people like O'Reilly (See? I did have a point in mentioning Big Bill), but he does show that even theologians recognized the circular issue of `What Comes First?' The book is short and, while it takes some effort, only as technical as necessary to cover the topic. Velinkin also discusses at length the so-called `Anthropic Principle' in both the weak (almost trivial) and the strong (almost Creationist) versions and shows that, surprisingly, it can be used to make interesting predictions about the Universe.

In the end Velinkin concludes that our Universe is one of many, but it is the only one we can observe; this is the connection to the Anthropic Principle. Creationists and the Intelligent (sic) Design folks have jumped on that as `proof' of God/Designer, but Velinkin also shows why that is a naïve misunderstanding of basic physics.

I remain unconvinced about String Theory and the `Many Worlds' interpretation of current cosmological work. However this book has helped me understand what the cosmologists are actually saying. Bill O'Reilly's failure to understand (or even listen) is due to his personal incredulity, his sloth, and I suspect his low intelligence. This book may or may not convince you about multiple Universes out there, but it will educate you about the theories. I highly recommend it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars String and inflation theories made "simple" for the beginner., May 1, 2007
By 
Atheen "Atheen" (Mpls, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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The author's name was familiar from other reading I've done, so I purchased the book to see what he had to say. Essentially the book is a nice breakdown of modern physics. It covers quantum and relativity physics and cosmology in the first ½ to ¾ of the book. Anyone who has already read extensively on these subjects will be familiar with the material. Those who are at the start of a new interest will find that the author gives a very adequate and easily comprehended discussion of the material.

For me, as probably for most who have read on the subject, the best part was the last few chapters. Here Vilenkin gives a very cogent discussion of the history of string and inflation theories. His presentation of the blind allies into which some of the research has led and the changes these have brought to our understanding is of great interest. While I have read about these theories before, I found his discussion much more logically arranged, in part because he adds the failed limbs of research to the discussion. One not only gains a familiarity with the history of modern physics but with the thinking process that goes into creating it.

Professor Vilenkin also gives a very clear picture of where the idea of many "universes" arises. The diagrams illustrating the concept made it much clearer to me and should also help other readers, whether you believe in them or not.

The notion that those "exact" coefficients that gave rise to the universe we live in are not necessarily in effect except locally a very interesting one. Almost everyone starts out assuming that they must be in effect everywhere throughout the universe. His discussion of the much maligned anthropic principle was also a good one. Often it seems so very circular. His discussion of why this is and how it may still be manipulated to produce testable hypotheses was very helpful.

A very nice book.
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Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes
Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes by A. Vilenkin (Paperback - July 10, 2007)
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