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Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe Audible – Unabridged

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 12 hours and 23 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: November 9, 2010
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004BDIZ0E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Keith H. Bray on December 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Considering that there is scant little published material on LQC (aside from the deplorable book published by Books, LLC which is a collection of Wikipedia articles), I was highly excited by the author, quality and the size of the 'Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe.' However, you do not judge a book by its cover--a lesson that is difficult for a self-professed bibliophile--and I have to somewhat agree with the above reviewer in that I was somewhat left waiting for the punch line. That is to say, I understand that many popular level books have to start out by stating the same foundational issues many physics books seem pressured to lay out the same foundation only this book lays it out in such a way as to presume that one would have some working knowledge of classical and non-classical physics. This book accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish; namely, teaches you everything you wanted to know about LQC regardless of some outdated scientific notions (that are irrelevant anyway). Moreover, it is organized enough so that the "patient" reader can get through this book without too much pain.

You will not find any chapter containing long descriptions of Einstein's light clock or the twin paradox. And, this is actually one of the good things one can state about the writing style and approach. Many of the chapters--at least at the beginning--are not torturously long. That is why I would give this book a 3+ star rating. Contrary to the reviewer above, the book is worth more than 1-star and I would not dismiss the author too quickly as there is a measure of subjectivity when reading. Some chapters are three pages in length and very readable. That is to say, you do not lose touch with where the author is going--at least during the first half of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This review was published in slightly shorter form in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and I retained rights to republish it elsewhere.

Move over, Stephen Hawking. Make way for Penn State physics professor Martin Bojowald!

Bojowald's new book, Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe, describes what may turn out to be a definitive breakthrough toward solving the greatest problem in modern physics. Though no one expects the professorial Bojowald to outsell the charismatic Stephen Hawking, Once Before Time is a more worthy successor to Hawking's 1980s mega-seller, A Brief History of Time, than is Hawking's own new book, The Grand Design.

Bojowald's story begins in 2000 when he was a 27-year-old postdoctoral researcher in cosmology at Penn State. Understanding the behavior of the universe as a whole requires a solid grasp of two remarkably successful but apparently incompatible theories: general relativity and quantum mechanics.

General relativity runs counter to our intuitive distinctions between space and time and between mass and energy. It describes gravity as the result of the warping of spacetime due to the distribution of mass-energy within it.

Quantum mechanics describes the subatomic realm, again in counter-intuitive ways. Waves and particles become two faces of the same phenomenon, described mathematically as a wave function.

The two theories, as currently constituted, are incompatible in a significant way.
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Format: Hardcover
The author is one of the physicists working on loop quantum gravity which was pioneered by Lee Smolin and is an alternative to string theory (and twistors from Penrose) as a candidate 'theory of everything'. Without getting very specific about why, he states that loop quantum gravity (LQG) has enabled him to conclude that before the big bang there was a collapse from a previous, homogenous universe, due to the fact that a singularity of infinite density (as suggested by einstein's g. rel.) is impossible, that fundamental units of loops that make up space and time would prevent compression and cause an expansion. This is his basic point, but the book tends to plod in elaborating on that idea. As with most general interest physics books along this vein he summarizes recent theories including general relativity and gravity, and quantum physics and the standard model, as well as string theory, which he is quite sympathetic to throughout the book (despite its being fundamentally at odds with LQG). Towards the end the book really drags as he goes into the mythology of cyclic universes throughout human history-- not clear how this is relevant at this late stage in the thesis.
I was a bit disappointed in the lack of real hard scientific information, with most of the book appearing like an advertisement for his line of work (LQG). Some of his quote are very very oddly chosen as well (most chapters begin with a literary quote of questionable artistic merit).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a semi-popular discussion of loop quantum gravity and its applications to black holes and cosmology. Although avoiding the formulas and equations which so discomfort some folk, it requires a reasonable familiarity with modern physics.

The book opens with introductions to gravity and quantum theory, giving a particularly interesting account of general relativity, using the GPS as an example. These themes combine in the central chapter describing loop quantum gravity, a candidate 'theory of everything'. Essentially it is a quantum version of Ashtekar's formulation of general relativity based on space alone rather than space-time. ( Its widely followed rival, string theory, is more of a fresh start, based on complicated geometries of many dimensions. ) The fundamental unit is the loop as a quantum of space, determined by its quantised area and orientation; with space being a discrete 'wave function' of a vast grid of intersecting loops. Its successive states may be numbered in order, to play the role of time, and they evolve according to difference equations rather than the familiar differential equations. However a fully covariant list of equations has yet to be found.

A big advantage of loop quantum gravity is that infinities of compression are prevented as intense energy waves, unable to be accommodated by the grid, turn into a repulsive force. This leads to very different accounts of black holes and the big bang from those of general relativity with its singularities. In cosmology, extrapolating back to to the beginning of our universe, Bojowald himself was able to formulate and solve simplified equations to show that space would pass through a single empty cell to an inside-out 'mirror' space, where each loop has a reversed orientation.
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