- Paperback: 390 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (August 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014027541X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140275414
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications First Edition Edition
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"Our best theories are not only truer than common sense, they make more sense than common sense," writes physicist David Deutsch. In The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch traces what he considers the four main strands of scientific explanation: quantum theory, evolution, computation, and the theory of knowledge. "The four of them taken together form a coherent explanatory structure that is so far-reaching, and has come to encompass so much of our understanding of the world, that in my view it may already properly be called the first Theory of Everything." Deutsch covers some difficult material with unusual clarity. Each chapter ends with a summary and definitions of important terms, which makes the work an invaluable sourcebook. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Common sense and reality diverge and then come together again in this mind-blowing book. Maintaining that the best explanation for certain quantum phenomena is that there are parallel universes, i.e., multiverses, Oxford physicist Deutsch posits and then attempts to unify four basic strands?quantum physics, epistemology, evolution, and the theory of computation. Just one astonishing consequence is that quantum computers can collaborate between universes. Deutsch's ideas are exotic and challenging, but his text is surprisingly accessible, and he supplies a glossary and summary at the end of every chapter. For motivated readers, this book is a feast for the mind. Strongly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.?Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I do recommend this book to anyone interested in reading a summary of the pursuit of a "theory of everything" and a defense of the science of parallel universes. Deutsch's theory of everything depends on four theories: quantum (as espoused by Everett), epistemology (Popper), evolution (Dawkins), and computation (Turing). Even if one does not ultimately agree with Deutsch's ideas, his book offers some interesting thought experiments (the chapter on "time travel" is especially fun) and a concise overview of several scientific trends. In addition, his book provides a decent defense of why the theory of the multiverse should be considered a reasonable explanation for the interference results obtained the infamous two-slit experiment.
That said, I do think Deutsch's book contains many shortcomings. First, although the multiverse may be a valid explanation for interference phenomenon, Deutsch fails to convince that it is THE explanation. In one short paragraph, he dismisses David Bohm's theory of wave-particle duality. "Working out what Bohm's invisible wave will do requires the same computations as working out what trillions of shadow photons will do." One could easily reverse this sentence as a criticism of Everett and Deutsch: that the trillions of unseen photons requires the same computations as working out what Bohm's single invisible wave will do. Deutsch does not explain (in this book, anyway) why trillions of photons are simpler than one wave, and he does his readers a disservice by pretending that Bohm's work does not deserve a full refutation.
Second, and similarly, Deutsch dismisses with an even shorter paragraph the charge that his "theory of everything" is anthropocentric. (He pretty much admits it is, but tries--unconvincingly, to this reader--to turn it into an argument in his favor.) Third, his discussion of evolution (one of the four "equal" strands of his theory of everything) is a mere 25 pages and, unlike the rest of the book, is at times incomprehensible and seems completely indebted to Dawkins. (Not that there is anything wrong with Dawkins's work; rather, Deutsch just seems in over his head during this part of the book.) Fourth, he rejects Kuhn's belief in the rigidity of scientific paradigms (for example, the inability of thinkers in Galileo's time to accept the full implications of the Copernican system because they were so used to thinking of the world in Ptolemaic and Judeo-Christian terms), but then he describes a modern scientific establishment that refuses to accept the multiverse implications of quantum theory because they are rooted to the concept of a single universe. (Just because modern scientific discourse is more civil does not mean that Kuhn's argument is incorrect. Deutsch's opponents are still mocking him behind his back, in book reviews, and anonymously on this Web site. Or, even more effectively, they are ignoring him altogether.) And, finally, his discussion of Tipler's omega-point theory is hurried and unfortunately nebulous: at one point, Deutsch seems to be saying that knowledge in the universe will become omniscient and omnipresent--which is practically the same as saying that the universe will become itself.
Nevertheless, regardless of what you think of its implications, Deutsch's views deserve serious consideration and, as necessary, rebuttal--not mockery and scorn. In the same way that we read Lucretius even though we know him to be wrong (or, for that matter, Einstein because we believe he is mostly right), we should read Deutsch's work because he challenges the way we look at our world.
The author's view on quantum theory is based his idea about parallel universes. While fascination, the reader should be aware that there are alternative theories for explaining quantum phenomena. An important concept in quantum theory and quantum computation is "decoherence", and it is explained (ch 9) in terms of different (parallel) universes. In ch 9 about quantum computers, it might have been only fair to mention that there are such other current views on decoherence; but this is a minor complaint.
Presentation: I love that each chapter concludes with a section on terminology and a summary.
As a subject theoretical computer science started with Alan Turing and John von Neumann in the 1940ties: Classical computation follows the model of Turing,-- strings of bits, i.e., 0s and 1s; and a mathematical model which is now called the Turing machine.
Instead of bits, why not two-level quantum systems, e.g., models built from electrons or photons? Such an analogues model for computation based on two-level quantum systems, and a quantum version of Turing's machine was suggested in the 1980ties by R.P. Feynman. The form it now has owes much to the author himself, David Deutsch. But it wasn't until Peter Shor's qubit-factoring algorithm in the late 1990ties (not covered in the book) that the subject really took off, and really caught the attention of the mainstream science community, and of the general public: The 'unbreakable' codes might be breakable after all !
That there is a polynomial factoring algorithm, as Shor showed, shook up the encryption community, for obvious reasons, and created headlines in the news. Ideas in the quantum realm, and not part of classical thinking, include superposition of (quantum) states, the EPR paradox (1935), and (quantum) coherence. Although these concepts are at the foundation of quantum theory, they make a drastic change in our whole theoretical framework of computation: Now one passes from the familiar classical notion of bit-registers to that of qubit-registers, and the laws of quantum mechanics take over. Mathematical physicists and computer scientists must revisit the old masters: Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, Pauli, and Dirac. In passing from logic gates to quantum gates (unitary matrices), the concept of switching-networks from traditional computer science now changes drastically. The changes introduce brand new scientific challenges, and new truly exciting opportunities. I believe that this book does justice to this, and that it is still a fascinating and thought provoking invitation to some of the most intriguing trends in modern physics.