- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (June 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393081214
- ISBN-13: 978-0393081213
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,227,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos 1st Edition
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About the Author
John D. Barrow is professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the best-selling author of many books on science and mathematics, including Mathletics: 100 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know about the World of Sports and 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know: Math Explains Your World.
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So the book is theoretical in many respects, but don't let that limit your thinking as to what all this means. It has profound implications for life and the future, so books like this are well worth the time to read and think about.
Barrow's The Constants of Nature is very good, but Universes is much better.
Barrow starts with a survey of the cosmology viewpoints from Aristotle up to Schwarzschild circa 1915: some fanciful theories and some presaging modern theories in a naive sort of way. 1916 is the year Einstein introduced the theory of general relativity. Barrow's systematic yet understandable reviews of the various proposed solutions to the Einstein field equations, and the different universes implied, is a major strength of the book. The book is true to it name in giving clear explanations of alternatives: open, closed, flat, curved, expanding, collapsing and cycling universes that are solutions to the field equations. Due credit is given to the originators of the various models: de Sitter's universe, Friedmann's universe, Lemaitre's universe etc. The models are summarized in the chart put together by Ed (Ted) Harrison (page 73). I'd actually taken a cosmology course from Harrison in '66 or '67 at UMass -- he was an excellent lecturer. (I think there is some confusion in citing Ed and Ted as brothers - one at UMass and one at Arizona - but they are the same person.)
After Einstein, Barrow gets into steady-state and the big bang models preceding Guth's Inflation. He treats the big bang geometric issues Guth's inflation solved (smoothness, flatness, horizon etc.), and includes a little particle physics and gives the best layman level explanation of how inflation solves the magnetic monopole problem (a big bang prediction that does not work without inflation). Barrow gives excellent coverage of the post inflation developments in cosmology and comes very up to date. He has an excellent treatment of eternal inflation models, and what they might mean with regard to the doppelganger question. He has an excellent treatment of "probable" and "possible" universes and how they relate to anthropic arguments -- best layman explanation I've seen.
He handles many of the issues Steinhardt & Penrose raise about probabilities and entropy both indirectly and with at least one direct counter argument to Penrose and his unlikely-entropy-initial-condition view point. He covers a number of additional very current proposed models. In one of the more interesting topics (Which Universes are Singular?), there appears to be an unfortunate typo of gravity becomes "attractive" instead of "repulsive" for a universe that bounces rather than collapsing to a singularity (pg 186).
Along the way most of Barrow's presentations are neutral -- saying what they are without either repudiating or endorsing them. But by the end he shows a preference for one of the field equation solutions and indicates he thinks the evidence for inflation has gotten stronger, not weaker, with the most current data, and that the Plank Satellite (2009 launch) will be in an accuracy range that may tie up (or unravel) some loose ends. Those looking for a counterpoint to inflation might try Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time, which is excellent in its own right, but a bit more challenging for the lay reader. Other books will cover specific topics, like inflation (see Guth's Inflationary Universe), dark matter, dark energy, or string theory in more detail (Brian Greene), but as a general survey of cosmology, The Book of Universes is at the sweet spot for many readers -- it was for me.
The universes, and multiverse, which Barrow explores are diverse, often related, and inspired by many philosophical (or not) perspectives. His explanation of anthropic universes is, as is to expected from a leading theorist in that area, excellent and his Euclidian example of the possible non-rigidity of the laws and constants of physics is one of the best going. I feared that the home-made universes and fake universes might be going beyond the science, but these pages were particularly rewarding and benefitted from Barrow's mathematical perspective - they were both entertaining and thought provoking.
Overall, this book is in many ways a focussed history of science. To his credit, Barrow does not avoid technical and mathematical explanations completely, but the reader is sometimes left to accept a complex premise or theory in good faith. I have found a few insignificant typos and while this does not detract, as a novice to many of the fields Barrow discusses, one can only hope there are no typos in the important stuff.
Barrow provides a fascinating historical review of of cosmological thinking, right up to the present day. His prose is engaging and witty, and takes the trouble to explain some items that are (alas, all to often) often glossed-over or ignored in many other books of this type.
I highly recommend this book as both thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating -- no matter how many other cosmology books you may have already read.
Most recent customer reviews
describes the different mathematicians's models of the Universe which
follow from their solutions of the...Read more
I admire John Barrow. He always comes up with the new central concept that he uses as a foundation for...The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the UniverseA Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than NothingRead more