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Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang Fifth or Later Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0385509640
ISBN-10: 0385509642
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As has happened many times in the history of science, just when we finally are able to cozy up to an idea like the big bang that initially was hard to like, let alone understand, another even more mind-bending one comes along. Steinhardt and Turok, cosmologists at Princeton and Cambridge, respectively, present their case that string theory gives a more complete account of our origins; in this account, the big bang came about through the collision of two membrane-thick strings called "branes." Our universe sits on one brane, which floats parallel to the other, unseen one. Every few trillion years, the two branes approach each other; when they collide, a flash of radiation annihilates everything in both, kick-starting the creation process all over again. According to the authors, this solves certain problems with the standard big bang theory, such as inflation, dark matter and dark energy. General readers will be able to follow the authors' clearly laid out, equation-free arguments. Their new theory has little chance of being confirmed experimentally in the foreseeable future, but many who eventually embraced the big bang will doubtless find the notion of cyclic universes and parallel worlds attractive. Illus. (June 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In the big bang, most physicists hear the violent beginning of everything. For theoretical physicists Steinhardt and Turok, however, that bang is but an echo, resounding within a bold new cyclical theory of the cosmos. To be sure, this revolutionary theory (dubbed ekpyrosis) shares much with the standard inflationary version of the big bang. The authors themselves have done much to ratify that generally accepted account of the universe's origins. But their new ekpyrotic paradigm tells a radically unorthodox story about what caused the bang, what happened in the first second after it occurred, and what consequences it will yet produce in the far-distant future. Invoking a sophisticated version of string theory, the authors argue that our universe began not in quantum nothingness but rather in the collision of "braneworlds" sliding together as remnants of an exhausted earlier universe. Moreover, while the regnant theory of the big bang predicts the eventual extinction of the universe, the dynamics of ekpyrosis promise a new beginning, a new cosmos--a trillion years from now. Professional discussion of the authors' daring proposal has scarcely begun. But thanks to this wonderfully lucid book, armchair physicists will understand much of the exciting debate now taking shape at the very frontiers of science. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; Fifth or Later Edition edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385509642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385509640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jaume Puigbo Vila on June 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not too many people know that there is a theory which is a rival to the inflationary Big Bang and it is, for the time being, completely compatible also with the WAMP satellite findings. This theory is the Cyclic Universe cooked up by Steinhardt and Turok and derived from M theory.

Although the idea of a cyclic universe is already present in some of the ancient philosophies, this approach differs from previous ones in that it conjectures the existence of two disjoint parts of the universe, two so called "branes" which move to and fro each other along a fourth dimension. This new model avoids the problems Tolman's entropy problem with the classical models which leads to longer cycles.

One way to distinguish experimentally inflation and the cyclic universe is to detect primordial gravitational waves, directly (very difficult) or indirectly (effects of gravitational waves on the polarization of the cosmic background radiation pattern). The inflationary scenario predicts more waves. Some new satellites, already planned or in the drawing boards, may give us an answer to this question in the next ten to twenty years.

Although inflation is at present the standard cosmological paradigm, it has some weak points: creation of the universe about 13,7 billion years out of nothing, the strange inflation field, very strong and very short-lived, etc. The cyclic universe, by postulating an ethernal universe solves the problem of creation and only needs dark energy (no inglation field). In a few trillion years dark energy empties the universe and then the two branes collide and create a new cycle.
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Format: Hardcover
Is Reality, including the visible universe, something which is roughly steady-state, obeying the same physical laws with about the same fundamental constants? Or is it simply expanding, with an initial time around 14 billion years ago? Or is it somehow cyclical? Or is it a "multiverse" in some other manner?

This excellent popular book addresses these sorts of questions. And it is written by a couple of superb theoreticians who have some interesting ideas on the subject. In addition, it takes into account the latest results of WMAP, released just last year.

Steinhardt and Turok start with a funny quote from the silly spoof "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," in which Douglas Adams quipped that there was a theory that if we ever figured out what the universe were for, it would immediately "disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre." And that another theory states that this has already happened. And the model of Reality that Steinhardt and Turok propose may be a little closer to this than one might have imagined.

As the authors explain, a century ago, there was no strong evidence against a steady-state universe. And even the Hubble expansion, discovered around eighty years ago, could still have been consistent with such a model. But that expansion also suggested an alternative idea, namely expansion from a very dense and hot initial state. Although the authors do not get into this, the amounts of helium and isotopes of other light elements were shown to be remarkably consistent with the nucleosynthesis expected from that hot and dense initial state.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine this as a morning eye opener: "If the extra dimensions start out on a high plateau, they can provide the inflationary energy to drive a powerful burst of inflationary expansion as the roll down to a low-energy state. As they do so, their motion is strongly influenced by quantum jitter." It gets better just a few paragraphs down: "There is nothing unique about the laws of physics, and almost any laws are possible. The universe appears smooth and uniform because astronomers can see only a tiny patch of it: its true wild, random structure on ultralarge scales is unobservable. All of the physical properties of the observable universe are essentially an accident whose history can never be unraveled. Instead of Einstein's dream, the universe is Einstein's worst nightmare."

After you read this book, looking at the night sky will never be the same. Our universe, all those billions of stars, isn't the whole universe according to the author's theory, but only a tiny fraction of a cyclic universe that lasts for a trillion years and starts over again.

One fine day, sometime in the future, there will be a flash and all the particles that make up us and everything will rejoin the cosmos and the cycle begins again.

The inventors of the cyclical universe theory do well at explaining in terms the layperson can, for the most part, grasp, but it is still pretty heady stuff. Helpfully, they provide a glossary that explains terms like "adiabaticity" You can both amaze and baffle your friends as you try to work that one into casual conversation.

Overall, this is a fascinating book, even if difficult to understand. Fun for those with an interest in science, but the general reader would probably not find it attractive.

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