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From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time Hardcover – January 7, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Carroll...takes his readers on a fascinating and refreshing trek through every known back alley and cul de sac of quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology and theoretical physics. The best way to grasp the rich mysteries of our universe is by constantly rereading the best and clearest explanations. Mr. Carroll's From Eternity to Here is certainly one of them."
-Wall Street Journal
"For anyone who ever wondered about the nature of time and how it influences our universe, this book is a must read. It is beautifully written, lucid, and deep."
-Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, author of Black Holes and Time Warps
"Sean Carroll's From Eternity to Here provides a wonderfully accessible account of some of the most profound mysteries of modern physics. While you may not agree with all his conclusions, you will find the discussion fascinating, and taken to much deeper levels than is normal in a work of popular science."
-Sir Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, author of The Road to Reality and The EMperor's New Mind
- Publisher : Dutton Adult; First Edition (January 7, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0525951334
- ISBN-13 : 978-0525951339
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 2.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.34 x 1.42 x 9.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #337,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Content-wise, he does a phenomenal job of summarizing and relating the history of theories of time and their real-world application. It gets dense towards the end, and very mathematical. As someone who is not very mathematically minded, it was tough and I had to reread some chapters. Carroll's passion, candor, and eccentric prose kept me through it. He really holds your hand though the more difficult concepts and the book culminates with some truly fascinating modern theories on time, the universe, and (seemingly) everything in between. This really helped me with writing my novel on time, and I'm very thankful to Carroll for laying out the science for me to make my book that much more believable.
My only note of criticism is to take it reeeaallly slow with some of the more advanced subjects. Students of physics will likely be fine, but there's some dense reading in store for science enthusiasts without degrees. I had a friend and colleague purchase the audiobook. He liked the reader, but it's a science book being read out loud. His suggestion was to have your finger close to the Rewind button ;)
A note to Sean: Keep up the excellent work. If you're reading this, I would happily purchase other books for you and support your academic endeavors. Great stuff and thank you for all your effort.
In this approaching, one of the very first shocking ideas of the book is that that the author proposes us in page 13: "Thinking of the entire history of the universe all at once... is the first step toward thinking of time as 'kind of like space.'" In doing that, Carroll take us out of the comfort zone of thinking about time like something separated from space, with time being the water of the river and space the river basin. From here the idea begins to emerge just in front of us.
So what is the base of this proposition that put time in the middle ground between what we believed it was and what we are seeing right now? The base is entropy, that that in the book is presented under the tittle "Nature's most reliable law." This is just page 33 and you have to read 350 more. My advice: just do it, keep reading the book up to the very end.
My experience was fruitful and so will be yours if (an this is a big if) you really want to know the answer to the prologue's question. The structure is based on four parts, which to me are 1) the time as we experienced it, 2) the Einstein's universe, 3) the entropy and the time arrow (the knot of the book), and 4) what happen with (or what means) this whole arrange of stuff (timespace and Co.).
As I said at the beginning of my note: time is like the wind but in this book it is much more than a metaphor, is an experience of physics translated by a physicist in order to be understood by a lay person or to be grasped at least as an arrow that flies in just one direction but full of semantics and meanings.
I'm not a expert and that's why I do not dare to contrast this position with that promote by other physicists and mathematicians I have read, so what I'm going to do is to tell you that after dozens of books in my back (time, space and so on and on) this is one of the best. As long as you read it you understand it. What happen next is another story. Carroll writes like a writer, a very good one. He is inspired and he strives hard to be understood. Don't miss this piece of science which is hard (it's not an easy piece, really) but you cannot let it pass like an arrow that flies through the air, far from you.
The great thing about Carroll's approach is that he does not dumb it down. The downside is that it can get hairy at times, at least for non-physicists.
Still highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
Although Sean Carroll throws in quips and touches of levity here and there, he is no Bill Bryson writing `A Short History of Almost Everything'. `From Eternity to Here' is a book you have to work at - but I found the effort worthwhile.
The author links the idea of time closely to that of entropy, the quality of orderliness in matter and in particular the Second Law of Thermodynamics: "The entropy of a closed system never decreases". Crude examples to illustrate the basic concept are the omelette (high entropy) that cannot be put back in the egg (low entropy), or the cream and coffee (low entropy) which when stirred together (high entropy) cannot be separated.
Extending this concept to the universe, it is believed to have started as a tiny something (low entropy) and has evolved to today's observable universe of stars and galaxies (higher entropy). This one-way process is seen as a analogue to time: it goes one way. We know about the past but we do not know about the future: it goes one way.
However this description of entropy I found counter-intuitive. Surely in the past the universe was high entropy with a primeval soup of basic particles and energy? While today is it not low entropy with stars, solar systems, galaxies and a sense of colossal order? It was not until page 166 that this paradox was explained.
"The culprit in this case is gravity. We're going to have a lot to say about how gravity wreaks havoc with our everyday notions of entropy..."
Aha! Now we begin to make progress. Dr Caroll's constant refrain is the question as to why the universe is relatively low entropy. He thinks a `natural' state would be space with an even spread of particles and energy with high entropy. Instead we have an organised universe as we have seen which is low entropy.
Dr Carroll takes the reader down some very strange meanderings to seek answers. To be fair he is attempting to explain complex issues by resorting to simple analogies and examples. Yet I found many of them so trite that I would have accepted the original complex argument on its face value without the having the sweat of relating analogy to argument.
Having given the Second Law a good run out, Carroll then turns to quantum field theory, quantum mechanics and much later on to quantum gravity. In the meantime we meet Stephen Hawking, the world's greatest expert on black holes. His discovery that black holes emit radiation transformed the understanding of how the universe could evolve. As black holes, of which there are believed to millions, including very large examples in the centre of each galaxy, suck in matter they become larger and suck in more. One theory is that eventually (trillions of years) all matter will have been absorbed into black holes. But as black holes are emitting radiation, then after even greater lengths of time, they will steadily dissipate into energy.
The end of the universe will simply be a vast energy field empty of all matter.
But there could be an epilogue. Because of how energy and matter behaves at the quantum level, random fluctuation might create every million or ten million years a node or bubble of false vacuum. It could split off from the main field and then:
"Now we have a baby universe...all set to undergo inflation and expand to a huge size. If the properties are just right...the energy will eventually be converted into ordinary matter and radiation, and we'll have a universe that evolves according to the inflation-plus-Big Bang story".
So finally we get to the concept of the multiverse, something so beyond possible demonstration or discovery that it will forever be a mystery. Yet it would resolve the issue of a low entropy origin - it was spawned from a high entropy field. And that's how time started.
Read the book and be absorbed.
1) The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen.
2) Quantum: A guide for the perplexed.
There are no significant mathematical hurdles to navigate (unlike field theory) but if you fatigue with the thought experiments and logic, Sean Carroll has a lovely dry sense of humour that rescues the situation.
It isn't a read anywhere book. Although available in my Public Library, it needs a quiet reading room. It induces narcolepsy. Enjoy!
A great read, and hard to put down. Some of the concepts are a little mind-bending, and take a lot of thought to get your head round (what else would you expect from a book that tackles such a subject?) but it's fascinating to follow the journey the author takes you on.
If you are interested in this book, you should already be beyond the stage of needing to see reviews about it - its a must read!!