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167 of 211 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another Well Written Book That Goes Nowhere, April 20, 2010
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This review is from: From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time (Hardcover)
After reading Mr. Carroll's book, I am reminded of a conversation that supposedly occurred between an old Indian and a white man in the late 1800s. The white man was trying to impress upon the Indian how much more advanced white civilization was when compared to his. He drew a small circle in the sand and said, "This is what the Indian knows." He then drew a larger circle around the first one and said, "And this is what the white man knows." The old Indian thought about this for a moment and then proceeded to trace a much larger circle around this second circle and said, "And this is what the white man does not know." This is how I feel about the current state of theoretical physics and cosmology. There are more questions than answers. At the end of this book I came away with a feeling of profound futility. I lost count of how many times Carroll said something like, "More research needs to be done." or "We don't know the answer yet." or "It's a complete mystery." Every book of this type that I've read in the last ten years ends at the same place -- we're stuck and none of the current theories we have adequately explain any of the fundamental questions about the nature or origin of the universe. String theory? It could be correct, but there is no way to prove it one way or another. Is the universe comprised of 11 dimensions? Possibly. The jury is still out. Does time exist? Yes, but it may also be an illusion. Parallel universes? Very likely. But, we may never know for sure. Is time travel possible? In theory yes, but the universe doesn't seem to like it, so it may never be technologically feasible. How about quantum entanglement, is this a real effect or does it signify some deeper, hidden property of the universe, or is it more like Bohm's guide wave interpretation? Everybody seems to have a different view. Sometimes things seem to come down to personal likes or dislikes. Did the universe have a beginning or has it always existed? Was there a Big Bang or was there a phase state shift? Bump and grind branes anyone?

I think I've reached the point where I'll just stop reading this sort of book for the next ten years. Carroll and others of his ilk are clearly very bright people with a grasp of advanced mathematics that puts me to shame (college calculus was as far as I got), yet despite their intellectual accomplishments they have nothing new to say on these subjects at the moment. Apart from selling books and making a buck, I really wonder why we need more books like this. Until some new breakthroughs come along I'll bide my time and just hope I live long enough to know what dark matter and dark energy are.
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Tracked by 6 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 25, 2010 5:36:27 PM PDT
We keep buying books because we hope the next one will have the answers. The best book in this category is Fabric of the Cosmos. The author actually teaches concepts rather them throwing them out lightly and almost flipantly as Carroll does. If you haven't read it, I think you will find it more satisfying.

Posted on May 12, 2010 8:06:16 AM PDT
Deena Sao says:
Thanks for the review. I think I'll try the book though because I like figuring stuff out myself. lol.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2010 12:36:18 PM PDT
Justin says:
Another "thumbs up" for for Fabric of the Cosmos. Excellent read.

Posted on Jul 8, 2010 6:55:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 8, 2010 6:56:24 PM PDT
Um? Welcome to science.

If you want to read more answers than questions, read science that's well established. There's a lot of it. Statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, general relativity, classical mechanics, etc. And that's just in physics.

If, on the other hand, you want to read about bleeding-edge science, then you have to be prepared for people saying "more research is needed" and "we're not sure yet" and people disagreeing. That's pretty much the definition of bleeding-edge science.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 19, 2010 5:23:06 AM PDT
Jonathan says:
I think the reviewer was saying that the "we're not sure yet"'s weren't balanced by enough substance to make it a worthwhile read. I agree completely and also agree that "Fabric of the Cosmos" is far more substantive and entertaining.

I'd add that the author of this book has a very narrow sort of brilliance--he's not good at synthesizing information, and his writing style is that of a teenage girl's blog.

Posted on Aug 27, 2010 12:34:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 27, 2010 12:36:43 PM PDT
I agree with Mr Bluzco.

Posted on Sep 1, 2010 1:13:48 PM PDT
I have the same feeling, it's very frustrating....

Posted on Oct 4, 2010 2:54:13 PM PDT
Amen, Brother. I love the discussions of all this quantum stuff, but all roads thus far do lead to nowhere. Is that because nowhere is where the answers are to be found? Remember: there's no such thing as empty space. Let's both take a break!

Posted on Oct 4, 2010 2:54:14 PM PDT
Amen, Brother. I love the discussions of all this quantum stuff, but all roads thus far do lead to nowhere. Is that because nowhere is where the answers are to be found? Remember: there's no such thing as empty space. Let's both take a break!

Posted on Oct 27, 2010 8:20:42 AM PDT
Marshall says:
Are your comments an indictment of this book or of cosmology books in general?

I like reading this sort of book because I do learn new things--despite the fact that cosmologists do not know all the answers. I think cosmology books should tell us what we have recently learned and catalog what we need to work on in the future.

I see two reasons for rating things on Amazon. One is to help others decide whether or not to purchase things. The other is to let Amazon know what sorts of things you like so it can make meaningful recommendations for you. In your situation with respect to this book, these may be conflicting motives. It seems you have chosen the second reason for rating the book as you did. Because this does not help me, I have marked your review as not helpful. Nothing personal. Your comments were interesting and informative--they just didn't help me decide whether I should buy the book.

Maybe it would be useful if Amazon had a dual rating system--one to rate an item in relation to similar items and another to rate your interest in the item.
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