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Customer Review

66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of Life, the Universe and Everything, January 1, 2014
This review is from: Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality (Hardcover)
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Despite its name, "Our Mathematical Universe" is not a math book. It is an exploration of the nature of our physical reality according to the author's own Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH). However, the MUH has been noted by math fans. For instance, it is the last subject covered in The Math Book by Clifford Pickover.

At the end of the first chapter, Tegmark suggests that if you are a physicist you can skip ahead. I do not recommend this. Tegmark tells his story in a lively manner punctuated by illustrations and personal anecdotes. It is all a good read.

Along the way, we learn that the author has conducted a survey of physicists, repeated over time, about the quantum wave function. Early on, sentiment favors the Copenhagen interpretation. Later, Many Worlds is favored. I fall into that latter group. Tegmark proposes a life-or-death quantum machine-gun test of Many Worlds. I do not think that his test is necessary. The improbable victory of the Mets in game six of the 1986 World Series is sufficient proof for me.

Tegmark says that it is not enough to say that mathematics describes physical reality, but that our physical reality is mathematics. Our conservation laws are expressions of symmetries of the mathematical object that is our (multi)universe. Also, time is just another coordinate in space-time. Its passage is an illusion. I have read that Tegmark sends e-mails to his future selves.

Like many physicists, I believe that the Second Law is perhaps our most important concept. I think that Tegmark should have said more about how the MUH treats entropy.

Finally, Tegmark presents a way to test the MUH. If the universe is not a mathematical object, then physics will reach a dead end in which we can no longer describe reality by mathematics. If the MUH is correct, then we will continue to find mathematical descriptions.

Tegmark is an excellent storyteller. This work is well worth reading and thinking about.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 8, 2014 11:00:44 AM PST
T. H. Ray says:
Thanks for heads up on entropy. I'm sure I will enjoy the book anyway, though come to think of it, if mathematics is infinitely progressive as MUH predicts, perhaps equilibrium is as much an illusion as time.

The 86 Mets over the 69 Mets? Could that be only because any time a NY team beats the Red Sox, it's a holiday? :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 8, 2014 5:39:40 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 8, 2014 5:44:59 PM PST
An infinite number of parallel universes should make it possible for there to be every possible outcome, even for macroscopic events. Infinity is a big number.

How could anyone imagine three base hits with two outs, a wild pitch, and Mookie Wilson's slow grounder that would go through the legs of a major league first baseman? You can see the sequence at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3UXgwqlDAo

In the move "Game 6," the hero sees Buckner field the grounder and step on first base to send the game into another inning. Is he living in a more probable one of the Many Worlds?

We happen to live in a universe in which an improbable series of events has benefited the Mets. I view the Mets' victory as a quantum fluctuation and a proof for Many Worlds. :-)

Posted on Feb 28, 2014 3:45:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 28, 2014 3:59:10 PM PST
SteveT says:
The Universe exhibits observable order. ( the hows whys and degrees of order etc are not pertinent to the question at hand). The point is the universe exhibits order, what kind of order is irrelevant to the current question. It is also pertinent that there are very few ways of a system being ordered compared to a infinity of ways of it being disordered, entropy.

Mathematics, devised by sentient intelligences,uses axioms and rules to elaborate models/systems. mathematics has a infinite toolset to construct these models so it can in theory, as Bertrand Russell has mathematically (sic) shown, MODEL ANY AND EVERY ORDERLY SYSTEM.

So it is no surprise that it can model reality. If reality was ordered in a different way mathematics would still be able to model it. ALL orderly systems conform to mathmatically modelling - in fact that could be a definition of "order". You cannot thus visualise a orderly system/universe which does not conform to mathematical modeling.

So The effectiveness of maths in modelling reality is not a random accident, nor does it imply in any way that what is being described mathematically must be itself be mathematical, nor does it imply anything suggestive of any more deeper "correlation" or hidden truths about the Universe and Maths etc. It is simply a example of the great explanatory power of maths. It is what Maths , a human construct, does.

I have a accurate map of Hackney, when I go to Hackney I am not amazed the topography of Hackney agrees with the map, nor do I think Hackney has a mapematical nature, nor do I think is is mere luck Hackney is mappable, nor do I think that if the topography of Hackney was different it would be unmappable, nor do I think there is any hidden correlation between map making and the topography of Hackney, nor do I think Hackney is in itself a map

Mr T's "theory" of MUH is not any kind of science it is just a example of circular speculative thinking exactly akin to medieval speculations as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

As far as I am aware Dr Johnson, in a similar context, would be unable to kick an equation.

Incidentally there are many real chaotic systems that you could argue Maths cannot model effectively if at all e.g., in describing turbulent flows or the laminar to turbulent transition from first principles and the chaotic nature of fluid dynamics in general, consciousness, the appreciation of a sunset etc. Thus according to Mr T's own test MUH is already disproved as there are aspects of reality maths cannot describe.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 23, 2014 1:07:32 AM PDT
W.Mann says:
Right on! MrT has written his own "reductio ad absurdum"!
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