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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2011
Visions of the Multiverse is a very readable introduction to some very strange concepts in physics. Its advantage is that it's short and requires no math expertise from the lay reader, even though much of it is really about mathematics. However, it does require you to think about things. Its disadvantage is that it's short and requires no math expertise--in other words, you may arrive at the end somewhat dissatisfied by your lack of understanding of these topics. If that's the case, bless your soul, there are more meaty tomes (also with little or no mathematics) that expand on the ideas contained in this book. (I'll mention some of them below.)

"Multiverse" is short for "multiple universes." Physicists probably spend too much time coming up with cute names for their theoretical constructions and experimental phenomena. For example, Mr. Gell-Mann must have had a lot of free time on his hands to read Finnegan's Wake in order to find that phrase that gave birth to the quarks in high-energy physics found in his "eight-fold way" (another bit of dubious poetic license). One of my professors at U.C. Santa Barbara once explained to us that the name "barn," a unit for area used in nuclear and high-energy physics, came from the expression that "you can't even hit the broad side of a barn." That might be true. So you'll have to be on your toes to keep all these fancy names straight in Mr. Manly's book.

Quantum mechanics and relativity (both the special and general theories) are hard enough, but this little book looks beyond to topics like cosmology, string theory, and a plethora of different brane-storms that are ripped bloody and raw from the wild imaginations of theoretical physicists. Author Manly and others are serious about this stuff, of course; I quote him: "The idea of a multiple universe reality is no longer considered speculative or implausible by many physicists; rather, it is deemed inescapable." Really? I guess I'm a heretic, a non-believer.

I use concepts like superstring theory, branes, and multiverses in my sci-fi. I'll admit that this is directed more to playfully bludgeon the reader with buzzwords that provide a convenient rug to sweep under all kinds of foggy concepts like faster-than-light travel and changeable physical constants. Star Trek probably did it in a simpler fashion by creating the warp drive and its associated mumbo-jumbo and leaving it at that, but today's sci-fi reader is more sophisticated. He may have read some of the popular treatments of these new ideas and rightfully expects me to have done the same (I've done a little more than that, of course).

Author Manly in his first few chapters provides an introduction to what is often called "modern physics" in a style that is often called "physics for poets." Quantum mechanics and relativity are hardly modern, of course, and their applications go far beyond what the author discusses, probably for lack of space and time (sorry--I couldn't resist). Both are vintage 1900 and even Gay Nineties theories, but your smart phone wouldn't exist without solid state physics, an offshoot of quantum mechanics, and your GPS wouldn't work right without its relativistic corrections. Maybe because these theories are so last century, the author gives the idea that all problems with these theories have been solved.

Don't get me wrong. I don't expect him to dwell on foundational problems--I just expect him to acknowledge them. Let's take one example, the Higgs boson (the author has a nice introduction to this illusive beastie, by the way). Does it exist? Let's ask the more practical question. Does the current electroweak theory require it? That theory certainly requires spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs field does that trick, but to leap from that theoretical observation to saying the beastie exists is quite a stretch. Maybe the new accelerator at CERN will finally find it and I will have to eat my words. Until then, I'm a skeptic.

I've always been a cynic. I find much of modern physics in general and the topics that the author treats in this book in particular to be the work of dreamers. Models are invented willy-nilly, many without any chance of being tested, in the lab or even in the astrophysical sense. Even string theory, which possesses a beautiful mathematical intricacy, is dissatisfying with respect to the physics phenomenology. The mathematics of string theory is so complicated that Ed Witten, probably the only physicist who can be mentioned on the same page with Einstein, received the 1990 Fields Medal, the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He is the only physicist to have received it (something never mentioned by Mr. Manly, by the way). But the physics of string theory? We might as well imagine angels on the heads of pins playing little harps.

Another disadvantage is the author's dwelling on religious issues. A faith-based multiverse? Even though you've written for popular consumption, sir, this is a book about science (and mathematics, of course). Religious issues don't belong here--I don't care how mixed up we are in the U.S. with our magnetic crystals, alien abductions, astrology, intelligent design, flat Earth society, and ESP mumbo-jumbo. Another bit of pseudo-scientific charlatanism can be found in the idea of "quantum activism"; from Amit Goswami's website: "...quantum activism is the moral compass of quantum physics and helps us to actually transform ourselves and society." Add this to the list right after alien abductions. Then add Rhonda Byrne's pronouncement: "Quantum physics tells us that the entire Universe emerged from thought!" To use a little of what I know about cell-phone textese: "OMG!"

If you, the reader, can get beyond the snake-oil salesmen (why did the author waste his time with them?), and you want a light-hearted introduction to some very complicated topics (neither Manly nor I could be a success as stand-up comedians), I can recommend this book. It might have a place as a complement to a physics-for-poets class. Even physics students in their first years, especially those trying to decide whether they can have some fun in the discipline, might enjoy reading it. (If you're already a professional physicist, you should already know the first two-thirds of the book in a lot more detail than is treated here, and therefore should move on to the following list.)

For those who want more, let me suggest Brian Greene's three books, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality; Michio Kaku's Parallel Worlds; Lisa Randall's Warped Passages; and that old warhorse, The First Three Minutes, by Steven Weinberg, the author who started it all. If you want to read non-fiction instead of my fiction, I can imagine no better use of your time.

(This review was written for Book Pleasures.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2011
Review by BookPleasure Reviewer Susan Ravagni, Author of I'm Just a Girl

Branes and bubbles and black holes. Oh my!

University of Rochester professor, Dr. Steven Manly, explores the wild world of theoretical physics in Visions of the Multiverse for the interested, non-postdoctoral level reader.

This is not light-reading, however, even though he makes every attempt to engage the reader with quaintly named chapters such as God's Gambling Problem and Doing a Little Gravity. But if you enter his exploration of the world of physics you will certainly get quite an introduction to the numerous theories of multiple universes.

But first, like the good professor he is, Dr. Manly gives us the physics back-story: yes, you guessed right - Einstein. All the relativity theory stuff is provided so that we can take the next (pardon the pun) quantum leap.

So far, so good.

Second we enter the bizarre world of quantum physics. Atoms are really waves and waves, atoms. Strange but true.

Okay, Dr. Manly, I'm still with you.

Next, we look at all the glorious little particles inside atoms. Quickly, one can get overwhelmed: quarks, leptons, bosons, gluons, muons, etc. These things all really exist? Apparently, they do. Dr. Manly charmingly describes how physicists prove these particles by doing "auto crash reconstruction". Basically, this is colliding things into atoms and seeing what falls out. Cool beans. Or neutrinos. Or quarks.

Wow. The microscopic is a lot more complicated (not to mention freaky) than when I learned about it in school. Can we please go macroscopic?

Dr. Manly obliges and finally, we get into the heart of the matter: how the universe came to be, what it's doing now, and what it's going to do in the future. He explains that the Big Bang Theory is pretty much agreed as true and proven (in some mystical and scary way in the Haldron Collider). However... there are some big "howevers."

However #1: The universe appears to be flat when it should be spherical. He alludes to raisin bread rising as the expansion of the post-Bang. The raisins should be expanding out in all directions but that isn't what's happening. So what's up with that?

However #2: We have a CMB problem. In a nutshell, the CMB (cosmic microwave background) is uniform. According to our author, it shouldn't be. Why? Because as the universe expands, it reaches thermal equilibrium. There are sections of the universe that have reached equilibrium that shouldn't have yet.

Okay, so how do we (and by we, I mean the theoretical physicists) fix this problem? At this point if it were up to me, I'd mumble something like, "God did it" and go pour myself a hefty glass of wine.

Enter the Big Bang Inflation theory. Dr. Manly warns that this is a bit "mind-blowing". Really?? What was all that other stuff he already discussed, kindergarten? I quietly gathered up the remnants of my cerebral cortex, applied some duct tape, and got back to reading. If I have this right, he postulates that we are like the Old World Europeans who thought the world was flat because it looked flat to them. It is a matter of perspective. We are this little teeny, weeny speck sitting near the edge of the universe. And so, from our vantage point, the universe just looks flat.

The last portion of the book covers the myriad concepts of possible multiple universes: the Fecund Multiverse, the Oscillating Big Bang Multiverse, the Ekpyrotic Multiverse, etc. We get all the weirdness we'd ever want (well, all the weirdness that I'd ever want, you might want to get weirder) with branes and bubbles and whatnot.

The duct tape holding my brain together was straining by the end. As I finished the last page I looked suspiciously at the book; turning it this way and that. Funny, it looks pretty solid. But maybe it just seems solid because both the book, the chair I'm sitting in, and my own body are waves. Maybe there is a parallel me reading this book in a parallel universe and she, like, totally gets it.

Somehow I don't think I'm going to look at matter or the great expanse "up there" the same way ever again.

Dr. Manly, I bet your students love you. You've managed to teach this self-proclaimed science geek a thing or two
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Visions of the Multiverse
Is Our Universe One of Many?
By: Dr. Steven Manly New Page Books 2011

Reviewed by: Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

The author reviews a plethora of possibilities about the multiverse concept.
Examples are :
o Beyond Horizon Multiverse
o Fecund Multiverse
o Oscillating Big Bang Multiverse
o Ekpyratic Multiverse
o Cyclic Patch Multiverse
o Bubble Multiverse
o The Many Worlds Multiverse

Some sophisticated concepts in Physics are discussed at length.
For instance, the notion of quantum fluctuations in a
vacuum is presented. The J-psy discovery heralded the
November Revolution where the particle
physics community accepted the notion that quarks are real .

Galaxies further than us are moving away in direct proportion to
their distance. From Hubble's law, scientists may concur
that the universe expands with the passing of time and
temperature drops. An accelerating expansion of the universe
kills the oscillating big bang multiverse theory.
Does the lack of structure in the universe
obviate the big bang theory?

The author explains that black holes are formed in centers of
galaxies and in the last steps of the life cycle of
massive stars. There may be considerable implications for the
concept of a black hole and time travel. The research challenge
is to commercialize these ideas. i.e.

"In other words, one second to your friend falling into a black hole
is several minutes to you and, in essence, your friend is aging
more slowly than you and is traveling into the future faster than
you are. If he/she could manage to put on the brakes just before
crossing over the Event Horizon and escape
to rejoin you, you would note that his/her clock reads a
much earlier time than your clock.

To your friend, only 2000 hours may have elapsed, however,
YOUR clock would read perhaps 10000 hours or several weeks
have elapsed depending upon how close to the Event Horizon
your friend could get before escaping. The tidal gravitational
forces are enormous near small black holes the mass
of the sun, so your friend would be shredded into spaghetti
within a few hundred miles of the Horizon.

For supermassive black holes of several billion solar masses,
however, the tidal forces near the Horizon are very small
and survivable. This means you could accidently find yourself
passing across this one-way barrier, and only realize your
mistake when you tried to escape and found it impossible. " 1)

In addition, there are some very interesting explanations
of multiverse concepts. The "Beyond-the-Horizon Multiverse"
involves distant parts of the cosmos causally disconnected
from us by an expanding universe with physical laws similar
to ours but different initial conditions. The introduction of
different initial conditions conjures up a
differential equation analysis to help explain the concept

The Fecund Multiverse suggests that quantum gravity
effects inside black holes might lead to the birth of
another universe isolated by the black hole from the
originating universe.

The conditions for black hole formation tend to be favorable
for star formation and even the existence of life forms.
If true, the Fecund Multiverse would have implications
for our space program.

The book still leaves some enormous research questions on
the table. For instance, what lies at the end of our universe
or at the overlapping boundaries between adjacent universes?
In addition, what is the fate of our universe?

The current scientific thinking is that the ultimate fate of the
universe depends on its shape, how much dark energy contained
within, and how the dark energy density responds to the
expansion of the universe.

The book has an extensive explanatory section of scientific notes
and a bibliography. The bibliography reads like a Who's Who in Physics.
There are citations from Richard Feynman, L. Lederman, Steven Weinberg
and many others. The book is priced reasonably.

The author makes every attempt to gear the presentation
to the general public. I think that it is extremely
difficult to craft a book on the advanced subject matter
of this book without some prior scientific background. Yet,
the presentation would make an excellent starting point for
student scientific papers at every grade level in academe.
Purchase this book for a thoroughly enjoyable read and
perhaps a re-read.

1) How can you use black holes for time travel?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2011
Before reading Brian Greene's book on Parallel Universes (a midway manuscript between this book and the "Many Worlds" book), than Manly's book is the primer I would start with prior to reading the above mentioned books that are more in-depth and technical, or that presuppose the reader has a graudate understanding of quantum mechanics. That is to say, in keeping with Manly's biography, this book is beautifully presented as a primer of sorts for beginning readers on the issues surrounding multiverse, world-ensembles, etc. I would recommend Brian Greene's book as the second step, (Hugh Everrett's biography for the genesis of this notion), and possibly reading "Many Worlds" last.

The writer, Steve Manley, teaches physics to a younger crowds and has created an easily accessible manuscript that explains, in terms that enable one to imagine (or picture) something such as the likes of the somewhat defeasible Ekpyrotic Cyclical scenario, and what it would look like, including the properties and behavior sufficient for a High School senior to imagine. We can conceive (versus imagining) of numerous models and issues, such as compatification of 10 universes, braneworlds, dimensions, but it becomes difficult to imagine or picture in your head. Manly is fantastic in unpacking weighty concepts and making them edible for all those who wish to imbibe more difficult materials. It is also refreshing to see a physics professor write somewhat honestly on matters that are not merely something one would hold to simple because it is a recalcitrant fact from their worldview--i.e., he is impartial. That is, if the "model" sounds and looks absurd and merely an intellectual exercise, Manly will provide the outstanding rebutting defeater that say such models are trash and will probably be discarded.

Buy this book if you a beginner reader in physics and quantum mechanics. It is more than worth you money, and it reminds me of the simplicity of Leon Lederman's recent 'Quantum Physics for Poets.' Buy this book as there are many basic teaches on the Standard Model, string theory, SUSY, etc.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 11, 2011
I like Dr. Manly's style. It's obvious he enjoys writing. I enjoyed reading what he wrote.

This book takes a non-academic approach to explaining various theories of some of the toughest of academic topics, such as particle physics and cosmology. Dr. Manly communicates the essence of these theories clearly, despite not using the math that normally forms the basis for discussion.

The idea of multiple universes doesn't appeal to me, and I agree with the view Dr. Manly had before he wrote this book. However, that particular twist makes a compelling reason to read the book. The bulk of it covers the supporting topics, which we might consider mainstream physics and cosmology. I've read many books on these topics, partly because it took many books before I could have a reasonably full grasp of these topics.

For someone who is new to these areas of science, this book would be an excellent introduction. It isn't particularly deep, but it does have enough depth to be educational. Its breadth is necessary, I think, to prepare the reader for the multiverse concepts Dr. Manly explores.

It didn't surprise me when I read the About the Author part and learned he teaches introductory physics at the University of Rochester. This book is geared toward that demographic. Without being "dumbed down," the book is introductory in scope, content, and tone. He also has a direct writing style, as opposed to the passive voice commonly used in works targeted toward higher academics.

As a reader, I never felt insulted or condescended to. I could feel Dr. Manly's enthusiasm for the subject as I read, too. This is one of those works of nonfiction that you can read strictly for enjoyment, if you want to.

This book consists of nine chapters and two appendices spanning 240 pages. It also has an index, extensive notes, and an extensive bibliography.

Chapter one explains the story of Copernicus and his revolutionary effect on how the western world viewed the universe. Chapter two gives an overview of how our current view of space-time came to be. Chapter three delves into the sometimes confusing subject of particles and waves, a topic that seemed straightforward until de Broglie put his two cents in. Dr. Manly manages to discuss all of this without leaving the reader confused.

The rest of the book goes a little deeper into particle physics but mostly builds on the multiverse theme as the title promises. Just in case you didn't catch all of the main points, Appendix A presents them in abbreviated form. For those who want a structured view of multiverse theories, Appendix B looks at Tegmark's taxonomy. It has four levels, so it's a quick read.

Add this book to your reading list, if you don't have a copy yet. It could make for some interesting dinner conversations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2011
When I received a promo for VISIONS OF THE MULTIVERSE by Dr. Steven Manly I thought the book was a pop exploration of the subject--in other words, a sort of Physics primer for Physics dummies like me. Well, a physics primer it may be, but it's definitely not for dummies, particularly dummies like me who still find it difficult to grasp the essentials of Einstein's Theory of Relativity. I mean it's like I get left back at the train station while light is curving & space time is going backward & forward. Well, OK, Manly uses the analogy of a baseball player on a float traveling down a parade route--and I'm the poor sap bystander still scratching his head as the parade passes him by. I still don't fully "get it" but at least I understand it a little better now.

MULTIVERSE is like a crash course in Quantum Mechanics, the Holy Grail of our secular age (at least in some locations.) It's stuff you hear every day, it's all around us, explaining in multiple theories the origin of the universe & where it might be going. Nobody wants to seem ignorant of secular sacred texts--but I betcha there are a lot of other dummies like me who get off on SciFi, but don't really understand the real scientific principles involved. If you industriously persevere, however, this book will indeed enlighten least to the extent that you "get it.".

The author offers insights that are interesting & require no simplification, like this observation on page 16: "If scientific advances often come at the sacrifice of the human perspective, it is not surprising that science and religion are at odds with one another...The problems arise when people confuse science and religion or insist that they are absolutely mutually exclusive..."

Now that I understand. I don't believe in a traditional "God," but I find the village atheist attitude of sneering at people who do believe indefensible. Likewise, I find the bigoted attitude of religious Fundamentalism intellectually revolting.

Manly continues: "Confusion arises easily because both science and religion attempt to provide us with a framework with which to understand and cope with the world in which we live. The methodologies of science and religion are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, however."

Manly's short excursions into the purely philosophical are both timely & interesting, but he does not jeopordize the basic scientific exposition of the book as a whole.

The first half, if not 2/3 of MULTIVERSE lays the theoretical groundwork needed in order to set the stage for the actual introduction of the various multiverse theories--for me the "really good stuff." However, another thing I did get from the book was the necessity to grasp the--dare I say--"fundamentals" behind those theories. This is why the focus required from the novice really pays of in the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2012
I bought this book for my husband who is an amateur science afficionado - physics, cosmology, etc. - and he thoroughly loves it. The concepts are compelling and understandable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
This book is about various multiverse theories, but also contains a considerable amount of background material that ranges across various disciplinies in modern physics. In fact, I think most of the book is "prepartory" rather than directly addressing multiverse models. And some of these models are a bit of a stretch (new age rubbish which is included, I think, to contrast with "actual" physics, although honestly very few if any of these multiverse ideas can be tested, so there's some question whether this is actually "science"). I'd recommend familizarizing youself with the excellently structured appendices prior to reading the book. To understand the opposite stance, read the recent books by Smolin and/or Woit, which generally disagree with multiverse ideas derived from string theory.
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1 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
Just another book proposing philosophy as science. Multiverse is infinitely worse than the universe.
Its was proposed specifically because as one physicist said...the universe should not exist unless there's a God

So how does the atheist solve this? By thinking up an infinite world maker? News infinite world maker is infinitely more complex than the universe they are trying to explain. It makes worlds with gods in them, unkillable people, beings that are so smart and advanced they not only understand the infinite world maker machine but they live forever so they can easily find a way into our universe.
A mechanism exists, with agent causality, that pops everything that can Be into existence and this solves the problem of why we exist? Everything that Can Be--not just us. Any non partisan people reading this please read that sentence again--contemplate that for no more 3 seconds--and tell me you will continue to trust the author as unbiased.

You see this is the problem with the book-- Bias. As long as you kick the can one step down the street so you dont have face the real question..It shows this is psychological. Its desperation. People only make such blatant mistakes in reason and logic when they need for their worldview to right
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