Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself Hardcover – May 10, 2016
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Included on Brain Picking's "The Greatest Science Books of 2016" List
Included on NPR Science Friday's "The Best Science Books of 2016" List
"Weaving the threads of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and philosophy into a seamless narrative tapestry, Sean Carroll enthralls us with what we’ve figured out in the universe and humbles us with what we don’t yet understand. Yet in the end, it’s the meaning of it all that feeds your soul of curiosity."—Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
“With profound intelligence and lucid, unpretentious language, Sean Carroll beautifully articulates the worldview suggested by contemporary naturalism. Thorny issues like free will, the direction of time, and the source of morality are clarified with elegance and insight. The Big Picture shows how the scientific worldview enriches our understanding of the universe and ourselves. A reliable account of our knowledge of the universe, it is also a serene meditation on our need for meaning. This is a book that should be read by everybody.”—Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
"Vivid . . . impressive. . . . Splendidly informative."—The New York Times Book Review
“Never hectoring, always tolerant, the author presents a seductively attractive picture of a universe whose ultimate laws lie within our grasp. . . . [Carroll] gives us a highly enjoyable and lucid tour through a wide range of topics. . . . Even if you don’t agree with what he says, you are unlikely to be enraged by such an urbane and engaging lecturer; more likely, you will be enthralled.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A nuanced inquiry into ‘how our desire to matter fits in with the nature of reality at its deepest levels,’ in which Carroll offers an assuring dose of what he calls ‘existential therapy’ reconciling the various and often seemingly contradictory dimensions of our experience.”—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“[The Big Picture is] a tour de force that offers a comprehensive snapshot of the human situation in our infinitely strange universe, and it does this with highly accessible language and engaging storytelling.”—Salon
“Sean Carroll’s holistic vision accommodates the sciences and the humanities and has a high probability of provoking readers into clarifying their own views about the complex relations among science, religion, and morality.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“The Big Picture impresses. Carroll is a lively and sympathetic author who writes as well about biology and philosophy as he does about his own field of physics.”—Financial Times
“Carroll is the perfect guide on this wondrous journey of discovery. A brilliantly lucid exposition of profound philosophical and scientific issues in a language accessible to lay readers.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Carroll presents a means through which people can better understand themselves, their universe, and their conceptions of a meaningful life."—Publishers Weekly
“Guides us through several centuries’ worth of scientific discoveries to show how they have shaped our understanding and indeed how the laws of nature are linked to the most fundamental human questions of life, death, and our place in the cosmos.”—Library Journal (prepub alert)
"Intensely insightful."—Scientific American
"With its delightful blend of evocative love paens and four-dimensional integrals, The Big Picture offers a uniquely physical vision of life's meaning. This is poetry." --Physics Today
“[Carroll] sets out to show how various phenomena, including thought, choice, consciousness, and value, hang together with the scientific account of reality that has been developed in physics in the past 100 years. He attempts to do all this without relying on specialized jargon from philosophy and physics and succeeds spectacularly in achieving both aims.”—Science
“True to the grand scope of its title. . . . Anyone who enjoys asking big questions will find a lot to consider.”—Booklist
“Language philosophy, quantum mechanics, general relativity—they’re all in The Big Picture. Sean Carroll is a fantastically erudite and entertaining writer.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Pulitzer Prize–
winner The Sixth Extinction
“From the big bang to the meaning of human existence, The Big Picture is exactly that—a magisterial, yet deeply fascinating, grand tour through the issues that really matter. Blending science and philosophy, Sean Carroll gives us a humane perspective on the universe and our place in it. As gripping as it is important, The Big Picture can change the way you think about the world.”—Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
“In this timely exploration of the universe and its mysteries—both physical and metaphysical—Sean Carroll illuminates the world around us with clarity, beauty and, ultimately, with much needed wisdom.”—Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook
“Sean Carroll is a leading theoretical cosmologist with the added ability to write about his subject with unusual clarity, flare, and wit.” —Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe and Einstein’s Dreams
"Until now you might have gotten away believing modern physics is about things either too small or too far away to care much about. But no more. Sean Carroll’s new book reveals how physicists’ quest to better understand the fundamental laws of nature has led to astonishing insights into life, the universe, and everything. Above all, a courageous book, and an overdue one."—Sabine Hossenfelder, Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies
"Instead of feeling humbled and insignificant when gazing upward on a clear starry night, Carroll takes us by the hand and shows us how fantastic the inanimate physical universe is and how special each animate human can be. It is lucid, spirited, and penetrating."—Michael S. Gazzaniga, author of Who's in Charge? and Tales from Both Sides of the Brain
“Sean Carroll’s lucid The Big Picture reveals how the universe works and our place in it. Carroll, a philosophically sophisticated physicist, discusses consciousness without gimmicks, and deftly shows how current physics is so solid that it rules out ESP forever.” --Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
About the Author
SEAN CARROLL is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He received his PhD in 1993 from Harvard University. Recently, Carroll has worked on the foundations of quantum mechanics, the arrow of time, and the emergence of complexity. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the Royal Society of London. His most recent award, in 2014, was from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Carroll has appeared on The Colbert Report (twice), PBS’s NOVA, and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and he frequently serves as a science consultant for film and television. He has been interviewed by various NPR shows, Scientific American, Wired, and The New York Times. He has given a TED talk on the multiverse that has more than one million views, and he has participated in a number of well-attended public debates concerning material in his new book, including one in New York City in 2014 with Eben Alexander.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
While there is a lot of good scientific information in the book, it is mixed with quite a lot of New Agey stuff, nods to spirituality and touchy-feely nonsense about "feelings" and "caring", and often the author talks down to us, saying things like "All of these isms can feel a bit overwhelming". Worse, the book often includes passages in which the author seems to be trying to convince a Christian fundamentalist. He puts forward childish fundamentalist arguments as if they're meaningful - for example, in the prologue he talks about how, despite the fact that everything in the universe is just a collection of atoms with no ultimate guiding force, we nevertheless matter - we can have a purpose. Well, I don't think that's exactly a revelation - at least not to any reasonable person, and I really don't think that religious fundamentalists are being honest when they make the accusation that "If God doesn't exist, life is meaningless". So I'm not sure why Carroll feels he has to address with respect the most blatant sophistries and straw man arguments that reactionary religious folks throw at atheists and scientists, but he does, and he does it over and over again. After a while, it just gets tiring. And let's not fool ourselves - this book is never going to be a best-seller in evangelical Christian bookstores. Not gonna happen. Yet it sometimes seems as if this is what the author is hoping for.
I suspect his unwillingness to offend Christians is also why he's so careful to avoid mentioning the "G" word. For a long time in the book, he seems to dance around God, as if mentioning the word will force him to confront the issue and alienate anyone who believes in a divine creator. When he does mention it directly, in a chapter called "Abducting God", he seems at first to be defending God, as if it's an idea worth defending. He eventually comes to the conclusion that God is not real - but it seems he does so grudgingly, as if he's consoling his audience, and he hedges his bets right at the end of the chapter, saying "there are biases on both sides". All through the book, it seems he's constantly trying to walk a tightrope between faith and atheism, between science and mysticism, not wanting to alienate anyone. In doing so, he seems wishy-washy and his points are never made with any force. He's trying too hard to please everyone, and in my opinion, all he's doing is making everyone's experience of his book a frustrating one. He NEVER takes a stand - on ANYTHING. Books should not be written in this way.
Even more tellingly, Carroll is very careful to avoid the "A" word. He is a "naturalist" and certainly not anything like an atheist. Okay, he does finally admit it on page 431, but for the most part, atheism is far too scary for this author (and, I assume, for his target audience). He doesn't believe in gods, but his preferred word for that is "naturalism", not atheism. Again, we don't want to alienate anyone. This book has to remain a "safe space".
The book ends with a section called "Caring" and predictably, this is where the book completely falls apart, lapsing into trite chapters on ethics, morality, emotions, fulfillment, life after death and goodness. There is even a chapter that lists "Ten Considerations" which are supposed to replace the Ten Commandments. Ugh! And the book ends with a chapter called "Existential Therapy" - double-ugh!
And readers of this review might think that I'm just against all forms of spirituality. I'm not. I appreciate myths and stories, I feel as uplifted by a beautiful sunset or the full Moon as anyone. I just don't respond at all well when people try to pretend that these things come from some kind of supernatural force, and when an author - especially a scientist - bends over backwards to accommodate a supernatural mindset, it just annoys and frustrates me.
The author is a theoretical physicist - I think perhaps he should stick to what he knows: do the science, but leave the spiritualism and the theology alone. I think we need to get away from all that superstitious nonsense anyway. Science shows us a god-free and mysticism-free universe that is far more compelling, beautiful and meaningful than anything proposed by any of the world's religions or anything that new age mysticism puts forward. So let's stop trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.
I will say the biggest point that Carroll gets wrong is on top-down causation, which has been pointed out several times by George Ellis, who is an expert in the field. Note to Sean: "Discussing snow flakes will not do for understanding humans!" He frequently dismisses top-down causation in favour of a purely naturalist/materialist view, but, he has not taken the time to really understand how top-down causation and importantly, quantization actually works! It is a well-known theorem due to Groenewold and von Hove that an arbitrary classical system can simply not be *fully* quantized. Surely one needs more than the Hilbert space of quantum mechanics to get back to classical mechanics. The meaning of the "no go" theorems is mostly that the structures of classical and quantum mechanics are not isomorphic. Thus, QM applications based entirely on
classical mechanics are necessarily approximations. It is therefore quite foolish of Sean to continue to advocate a worldview in which *everything* is based on quantum mechanics, since this is not mathematically correct in any which way.
For those that are interested in understanding how top-down causation *really* works, see: (I am linking the preprints here where possible since they are free and do not require a subscription to read)
5. Annals of Physics, Volume 327, Issue 7, p. 1890-1932
Further, George Ellis has given a series of lectures and interviews at Oxford recently on fine-tuning, causation, and evolutionary biology, they can be seen here: Google: relativitydigest: a-series-of-lectures-on-fine-tuning-in-biology
Apologies for the Google: " ", Amazon reviews apparently does not allow the direct posting of links in the review.
Finally, for the people that are giving this review 1 star who are claiming that top-down causation is some type of mystic or religious theme, note that top-down causation aims to understand the relation between local physics and large-scale structure physics, the difference between "small-C" cosmology and "big-C" cosmology. Dennis W. Sciama who was a world-renowned physicist and an avowed atheist was one of the foremost proponents of top-down causation and spent a significant time studying it, see: arXiv:gr-qc/0102017
Dr. Ikjyot Singh Kohli
The scientific part contains almost everything from classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, biology, evolution, life and the universe. None of these topics are explained in any detail, some of the technical terms are not even defined.
Clearly, readers who are not familiar with the topics cannot gain anything from reading this book. Those who are familiar with these topics will find nothing new in this book, and therefore reading this part will be extremely boring.
There is one topic, however, which is misleading to both lay readers and experts in physics. As in the author’s previous book “From Eternity to Here,” great and exciting, but nonsensical ideas about entropy, the Second Law, the past hypothesis, and the Arrow of Time are repeated endlessly, from “Here to Eternity.”
I am well aware of the fact that most readers of this book may not agree with me. To all of these people, including the author, I recommend to read the two books of Hawking: “A Brief History of Time,” and “A Briefer History of Time.” Comparing the contents of these two books will reveal to the reader the reason behind my conclusion that all the author’s discussions about the entropy, free energy, arrow of times, etc. are plain meaningless. If reading these two books do not convince the reader, I strongly recommend to the reader, as well as to the author of this book, to read Chapters 5 and 6 of the book “The Briefest History of Time.”