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The Matter Myth: Dramatic Discoveries that Challenge Our Understanding of Physical Reality Paperback – October 23, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0743290913 ISBN-10: 0743290917 Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (October 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290913
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Recent breakthroughs in physics are causing a revolution in how scientists view the universe, according to Davies ( The Cosmic Blueprint ) and Gribbin ( In Search of the Big Bang ). The authors survey the discoveries that have caused this shift from the traditional mechanistic worldview (which sees the universe as "a gigantic purposeless machine") to a less rigidly determined one that includes chaos, black holes, antimatter and even the possibility of multiple universes. They explore how it would feel to be swallowed by a black hole (one would be stretched and squeezed before being crushed into nonexistence) and why going through a wormhole, a kind of space tunnel, would allow one to travel backward in time. The authors explain why cosmic strings (which may stretch across the universe and outweigh galaxies) could fit into a single atom and how space can be curved. This accessible work also examines fundamental questions such as how the universe's "big bang" origin probably sealed its fate (it will end in a reverse process known as the "big crunch") and whether time is real or simply an illusion.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Wormholes, cosmic strings, quarks, relativity, quantum mechanics--Davis and Gribbin explain all the basic elements of the universe in a comprehensive summary of modern physics written on the layperson's level. Beginning with Isaac Newton's conception of the universe as a great cosmic clock, they follow the growth of materialistic determinism, where all events were assumed to result from absolutely determinable interactions of inert particles. This idea of matter turned out to be a myth, shattered early in this century by the uncertainties of relativity and quantum physics. The authors unseat materialism from its exalted position and along the way discuss chaos, the origin of the universe, multidimensional spacetime, evolution, the Gaia hypothesis, and extraterrestrial life. Very readable, with mathematics kept to a minimum. An essential volume for anyone wanting to understand today's physics. Recommended for all libraries.
-Doug Kranch, Ambassador Coll. Lib., Big Sandy, Tex.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Paul Davies is an internationally acclaimed physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist at Arizona State University, where he runs the pioneering Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He also chairs the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Post-Detection Taskgroup, so that if SETI succeeds in finding intelligent life, he will be among the first to know. The asteroid 1992OG was officially renamed Pauldavies in his honor. In addition to his many scientific awards, Davies is the recipient of the 1995 Templeton Prize--the world's largest annual prize--for his work on science and religion. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Mind of God, About Time, How to Build a Time Machine, and The Goldilocks Enigma. He lives in Tempe, Arizona.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
It is written in a clear and very understandable vocabulary.
Luc REYNAERT
Although The Matter Myth is listed as a religious apologia, in fact there is very little about religion or god in the book.
Atheen M. Wilson
It is easy to understand and very stimulating if you need a good 'thinking' read.
B movie butt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on March 30, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a math-physics type person really. More of a math-physics wanna-be! Because I have more of a verbal/visual than a math mind, I avail myself of every opportunity to read books on quantum and relativity physics that are written for that type of reader. Two of my on-line friends, Steve and Roger, both recommended Paul Davis' books, and I found Matter Myth an extraordinary example of the genre.
Davis and his coauthor, John Gribbin, begin their book with a discussion of Newtonian physics and the 17th Century concept of a "clockwork universe." In this approach to the physical world, every event in the universe might conceivably be predicted given a thorough knowledge of initial conditions. The success with which Newtonian physics described the behavior of the macroscopic world gave rise to a philosophy of materialism that gripped the thinking of succeeding centuries. Davis and Gribbin see the rise of relativity and quantum physics, with the concepts of chaos, uncertainty and virtual particles, as an antidote for the stultifying effects of grim determinism. The attempts to make the two theories compliment one another and the efforts to unify the four primary forces in nature (strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravity) in an all encompassing theory are viewed as setting the stage for a universe where free will in fact has some place.
The book also discusses the string theory and small particle physics, both of which help cosmologists gain some insight into the beginning of the universe, its likely history, and its ultimate end. It also discusses some of the theories regarding parallel universes and anti-universes.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Anton Smit on May 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I agree with the majority of reviewers that this is an excellent book, making some very difficult concepts understandable to the layman. The book was published in 1992, and I bought the October 2007 edition. It is a pity that so much data in the book are outdated: Dark matter is hardly mentioned, and there is no reference to dark energy; the age of the universe is given as 'about 15 billion years', and I quote from page 174: 'The expansion rate (of the universe) is inexorably slowing.' Unfortunately, outdated concepts like these undermine the credibility of the book on the whole. I hope the authors review the book soon.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Sue Larson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 22, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Davies and Gribbin succeed in clarifying some of the most intriguing questions known to mankind, such as "How did spacetime come into existence?", "How can matter appear out of nowhere?", "Does the future already exist?", and "How does spacetime curve?" They delve into fascinating reasons why your `now' and my `now' are not necessarily the same thing, and many other exciting implications for our everyday lives from quantum physics. What I love most about THE MATTER MYTH is the way it helps free our thinking from the mechanical, machine-mindedness which has for so long dominated western thinking... as its authors eloquently assert that materialism is dead. The post-mechanistic paradigm is here.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
My sense of wonder was engaged from the outset with this book. I did my BSc in physics some years back. I never guessed that the boring old men teaching us about modern physics had managed to take away so much of the scintillating and engaging philosophical ramifications of what we were learning.
The writing style is engaging and very clear. I highly recomend this book for students of physics seeking to get more than the nuts and bolts of their discipline.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on March 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Issues regarding nonlinear phenomena and systems, as well as quantum physics, string theory, and philosophy of science are examined.
Physicists Davies and Gribbin, two of sciences most prolific writers, discuss the reasons for the impending death of the materialist paradigm which took an almost absolute grip on the philosophy of science immediately after the publication of Newton's Principia. In fact they state that (whether or not it is widely recognized) the reductionists' "mechanistic" paradigm is now dead. "It is fitting that physics -- the science that gave rise to materialism -- should also signal the demise of materialism. ...the new physics has blown apart the central tenets of materialist doctrine in a sequence of stunning developments. ...in the abstract wonderland of the new physics it seems that only mathematics can help us to make sense of nature."
The problem is not that mechanistic Newtonian science is "wrong" but rather that it addresses only a limited representation of actual truth. The book also contains excellent descriptions of things like white dwarfs, neutron stars, and the difficulties in developing a quantum theory of gravity. Theories of wormholes, strings, and GUTs are well presented. The final chapter indulges in speculation about "exotic (non-carbon based, non-DNA based) biologies" -- which the authors concede should not be taken seriously -- and about the difficulties with ideas of "spontaneous generation" and "extra-terrestrial intelligence". The authors proceed to set aside their own cautions and speculate on these ideas, making the final chapter an exercise in science fiction. Otherwise a very good book.
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