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The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where Do the Laws of Physics Come From? Hardcover – July 5, 2006
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"I learned an enormous amount from this splendid book."
-Richard Dawkins, author of the New York Times best-seller The God Delusion
"Marshalling converging arguments from physics, astronomy, biology, and philosophy, Stenger has delivered a masterful blow in defense of reason. God: The Failed Hypothesis is a potent, readable, and well-timed assault upon religious delusion. It should be widely read."
-Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
"Extremely tough and impressive...a great book...a huge addition to the arsenal of argument."
-Christopher Hitchens, author of the New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great
Top Customer Reviews
January 24, 2007
Where do the laws of physics come from? The Power of P.O.V.I.
In this admirable new book, physics professor Victor Stenger once again exhibits his notable ability to convey complex ideas of physics with simplicity and elegance, while not sacrificing mathematical rigor and detail. Moreover, the book offers a "big-picture" perspective that will appeal to both physicists and non-physicists. However, although not required, a basic familiarity with physics and a mathematical background will greatly enhance readers' appreciation and comprehension of the book, particularly concerning the helpful mathematical supplements provided at the end.
Here Stenger takes on "ultimate" questions, such as, Where do the laws of physics come from? and Why is there something rather than nothing?- answers to which are commonly believed to be found exclusively within the province of theological and philosophical discourse and to be inherently beyond the reach of empirical and theoretical science. Stenger argues that the extraordinary empirical success of our current models of physics, though still incomplete and provisional, gives us good grounds to assume that they are on the right track: the cosmos is indeed comprehensible, and our current physical models provide a description of nature that is likely to faithfully reflect aspects of a reality that exists independently of our thoughts and particular physical models.
Stenger argues that, contrary to some popular views, the so-called "laws of physics", such as the great conservations laws, are not restrictions on the behavior of matter imposed by an external agent or by a world of abstract Platonic mathematical forms.Read more ›
Other merits of the book include a clear writing style, bibliographic suggestions for further reading, helpful diagrams and some historical perspective by including years of death for various key physicists.
I won't repeat too much of the content of other reviewers of this book, but rather just touch on a couple areas that I found particularly interesting:
I enjoyed how the professor stresses the simplicity of nature. For example, he shows in this book how almost all of physics comes from generalized gauge invariance, which he calls "point-of-view invariance." By the end of the book, we're shown how the "laws" of physics are not really laws at all. In the professor's well-expressed view, our traditional physical laws, in fact, are not somehow built into the fabric of the universe or handed down from above, but rather emerge from natural symmetries of a void.
On a related note, I also enjoyed how he went into some detail regarding how this simple view of nature (what he calls "Atoms and the Void") is at odds against the (secular) Platonic worldview. I believe he does a fair job explaining both views and why a simpler view of nature is preferable.
Anyways, it's hard to say enough about this book. Pick up a copy and enjoy!
The main part of the book explains physics without equations at a level accesible to most people. The appendices are more mathematical, but they will be appreciated by engineers, scientists, and others with a more technical education. It's not a text book and it's not the place to learn these theories, but it would be a great Christmas present for any upper division or graduate physics student.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought this book would explain where the laws of physics come from, as the author claims. Instead,the book is mostly history of physics, summaries of the laws, equations of the... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Aardvark8
Contrary to some of the criticisms posted like, "if your looking for an answer to the question of where the laws of physics come from, you won't find it here" well, that's... Read morePublished 17 months ago by R. Carter
For so long I was enamoured by writers such as Paul Davies and Martin Rees who were almost theological in their approach to the conclusions they drew from what they knew of the... Read morePublished on April 25, 2010 by Mr. Brett Hall
Now here's a fellow who quickly gets you thinking he will tell it like it is. The book cover asks, "Where do the laws of physics come from? Read morePublished on July 8, 2009 by Ronald J. Stehlin
I enjoy popular science books and was looking forward to this one, but the PW review got it right: "Stenger's descriptions of the models of physics and his discussion of cosmology... Read morePublished on March 2, 2008 by K. Erwin
I am a non-scientist who reads a lot of science. Dr. Stenger's book was brilliantly constructed and argued, digesting a century or two of progress in physics into a few core... Read morePublished on November 20, 2007 by T. Burket
This is quite a nifty, compendium like summary of currently accepted laws pertaining to cosmology/particle physics (I refer here to author's clear and mellifluous writing). Read morePublished on April 2, 2007 by Regnal the Caretaker
Professor Victor J. Stenger provides a fine survey of the status and science of physics in THE COMPREHENSIBLE COSMOS: WHERE DO THE LAWS OF PHYSICS COME FROM? Read morePublished on March 4, 2007 by Midwest Book Review
Two parts. The first two thirds of the book is in general terms, and very interesting. The remaining third is mathematical appendices, accounts of the maths behind the first... Read morePublished on February 5, 2007 by R. A. Bull