- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Viking (February 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067003441X
- ISBN-13: 978-0670034413
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 55 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In a book that's all but impossible to put down, science journalist Seife (Alpha & Omega) explains how the concepts of information theory have begun to unlock many of the mysteries of the universe, from quantum mechanics to black holes and the likely end of the universe. Seife presents a compelling case that information is the one constant that ties all of science, indeed all of the universe, together. His skill with language permits him to do what many have tried and few have accomplished—making complicated concepts of quantum mechanics accessible to the average reader. Seife demonstrates how quantum oddities so alien to classical physics actually are consistent with the same physical laws that govern the world we see. For example, the fact that entangled particles half a universe away can instantaneously communicate with one another (what Einstein called "spooky action" at a distance), apparently violating the law that nothing can exceed the speed of light, can be understood through information theory. Seife takes all of this to a most bizarre, but logical, conclusion reached by many cosmologists: the universe as we know it is but one of an infinite number of universes, all brought into being through information transfer. (Feb. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Bit by bit, cutting-edge physicists are acclimatizing themselves to the notion that the universe is like a computer, its events akin to information processing. Seife treks through the thinking that implies humanity's final demotion from emanation of godhead to binary digits. An excellent popular science author (Alpha and Omega, 2003), Seife opens with the history of thermodynamics and the equation of entropy. This equation is the foundation of information theory, which was formalized in 1948 by Claude Shannon, who also coined the term bit. The author then delves into why the idea of the universe-as-information appeals to theorists, resting his presentation on the weirdness of wave-particle duality. Challenging but rewarding fare for attentive general science readers, who might also be interested in Programming the Universe (2006), by information theorist Seth Lloyd. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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The quantum entanglement at the end seemed a bit out of bounds, perhaps too much of a stretch, but I got a lot out of this. The author's style reminds me of Gleick but more technical, which was fine.
The connection between relativity and quantum physics can be correlated so to the traditional theorems of the codex theory.
Also the chemistry or biology researcher could obtain something of useful from this lecture.
Of course, information is also related to thermodynamics and entropy, so the book contains a discussion of all these topics: thermodynamics, relativity and quantum mechanics. Famous conundrums such as Schroedinger's cat, entanglement, Maxwell's demon, etc. are analyzed from the point of view of information theory.
Here are some snippets of the book:
According to Seife, Einstein dictum "Nothing can travel faster than light" is really about information:" Information speed cannot exceed c". Another interesting fact is that what really causes computers to heat is the erasure of bits.
Seife describes recent achievements and experiments, proof that he is familiar with the latest results. One curious example is the solution of "the knight problem" in 2000 by using a DNA computer! Another one is that the entire human race has less genetic diversity than a few scores of chimps due to some kind of cataclysm about 500,000 years ago. A third one is the 1996 experiment demonstrating the existence of virtual particles (the so called Casimir effect).
In chapter 7, quantum computers are introduced and the possibility of the brain being one is briefly discussed. Unfortunately, it seems that Max Tegmark proved Roger Penrose wrong on this count. You begin to understand the power of quantum computation when the author describes Grover's algorithm to guess a number out of 16. Classically you need four yes/no answers to four questions. Grover manages the same task with two. Quantum computation reduces the complexity of some problems from n to square root of n.
I found also very interesting the reasons why the photoelectric effect cannot be explained by waves. On the other hand, interference cannot be explained by a corpuscular theory of light, so we are stuck with duality.
Towards the end, the author discusses black holes and the holographic principle: the quantity of information contained in a ball is not limited by its volume (surprisingly), but by its area. Since most cosmologists consider now the universe infinite (inflation seems to imply this) we are led, via the holographic bound, to the conclusion that the universe contains infinite copies of our own bubble universe. Seife admits that this is the most bizarre thing among the many ones described in his book.
Most recent customer reviews
i could not be more disappointed in it .Read more