- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034580595X
- ISBN-13: 978-0345805959
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 149 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew Reprint Edition
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Guest Review of “The Accidental Universe,” by Alan Lightman
By Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the author of eight more books, including Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness and Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.
He holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT , and is the founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society. He has also helped to organize dialogues between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists to promote deeper understanding of different ways of knowing and probing the nature of mind, emotions, and reality.
A Walden for our digital, cosmological, and quantum age from a modern-day Thoreau. Not since Fred Hoyle in another era (and universe) has anyone dared to cover such a sweeping domain, and no one so elegantly, so parsimoniously, and so personally. From the triumph of the Higgs boson to the underlying discomfort of multiverses, from the question of God to the erosion of embodied presence via digital self-distraction, Lightman explores with wistful irony, lyricism, and insight his relationship as a theoretical physicist, a cosmologist, a novelist, a humanist, and a human being to the ever-changing and mysterious interior and exterior universes we all inhabit, knowingly or not. Any one of these essays invites deep reflection. Together, they disturb, inform, inspire, and delight.
Theoretical physicist and novelist Lightman (Mr. g, 2012) presents seven elegantly provocative “universe” essays that elucidate complex scientific thought in the context of everyday experiences and concerns. In the title piece, he traces the great cosmological shakeup that has top physicists theorizing that our universe is but one of many “with wildly varying properties.” Lightman brings rigor and candor to his analysis of the coexistence of religion and science. He takes on our misperceptions about time and grapples with the “deep question” of why symmetry abounds in nature, from snowflakes to the Higgs boson. After blowing our minds with descriptions of “galaxies and stars so distant their images have taken billions of years to reach our eyes,” he wonders if we accept this realm as part of our understanding of nature. And in “The Disembodied Universe,” he considers the implications of our enchantment with the virtual cosmos at our fingertips. Ranging from ancient intuitions and calculations to today’s high-tech inquiries, Lightman celebrates our grand quest for knowledge and takes measure of the challenges our discoveries deliver. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
It is with passages like this that Alan Lightman won me over. Not only in his direct, clear prose, but with his deep respect for both faith and science. I suppose it's more than respect--his argument is that reason and awe coexist in us....that we contain (and even court) the dual impulses of chaos and order, "the predictable and the unpredictable, the rational and the irrational, regularity and irregularity."
And never did his explanation of science, math or the workings of the universe confound. Rather, he framed string theory, dark matter, atomic science in human terms. The accidental universe need not be scary or intimidating. Rather, Lightman suggests, "Could there be a preciousness and value to existence stemming from the very fact of its temporary duration?"
As these linked essays show, the universe can be conceived as alternately or respectively accidental, temporary, spiritual, symmetrical, gargantuan, lawful, or disembodied. He applies his life's moments gently to enrich his lessons. I like reading books for popular audiences about cosmology, so I found Alan Lightman's style (in an advanced copy for review) engaging and accessible. He brings in his daughter's wedding on the Maine coast, his beloved pair of wingtip shoes, the amazing hexagonal symmetry of a honeycomb, or the disturbing harbinger of a world where our young appear to be wired, shut off from conversation, and online all the time. However, as his last chapter predicts, even those who try to flee the virtual realm as it takes over our physical and spiritual worlds may find themselves shut off from yet another universe now evolving.
Provocatively, Lightman compares how insignificant we are, stuck in a minor galaxy on a middling planet in a marginal status, yet we have figured out so much about the universe that surrounds us, if not the next stage, which we may never be able to discern to our satisfaction, that of multiverses. He tells us that our little worlds on a similarly infinitesimal level may elude our grasp. He imagines us as captains of a ship, up on a bridge, unable to discern fully from our perch what tumult lies below deck.
This sort of deft analogy, modest and never drawing too much attention to itself, characterizes Lightman's approach. Unlike some of his colleagues who write such essays, he keeps the math to a minimum while accentuating the verbal and visual images that he hones to remind us of the sheer amount we know now about our origins, back to the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. But, as we cannot penetrate that first moment of the Big Bang, that too stands to teach us of our own small stature, and how much the universe, big or small in these essays, continues to keep from our eager investigation. All the same, people such as Lightman inspire us to keep asking why.
Most recent customer reviews
That is the central focus of this book.Read more