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The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos Paperback – November 1, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: Take any of physics' major theories of the fundamental nature of the universe, extrapolate its math to the logical extreme, and you get some version of a (so far unobservable) parallel universe. And who better to navigate these hypothetical versions of the "multiverse" than Brian Greene? Normally an unflinching apologist for string theory, the bestselling author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos here treats all viable alternate realities to a laudably fair shake. For a book exploring the most far-reaching implications of bleeding-edge mathematics, The Hidden Reality is surprisingly light on math, written as it is "for a broad audience … its only prerequisite the will to persevere." Such perseverance pays off with a motley cast of potential universes featuring doppelgängers, strings, branes, quantum probabilities, holographs, and simulated worlds. The result is that rare accomplishment in science writing for a popular audience: a volume that explains the science and its consequences while stimulating the imagination of even the uninitiated.
Oliver Sacks on The Hidden Reality
Oliver Sacks was born in London and educated in London, Oxford, California, and New York. He is professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, and Columbia's first University Artist. He is the author of many books, including Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Musicophilia. His newest book, The Mind's Eye, was published in October, 2010.
Brian Greene is not only a profound cosmological thinker--a pioneer of string theory--but a writer of exceptional clarity and charm. His books--The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos among them--take one ever deeper into a universe stranger and more wonderful than anyone could have conceived a generation ago. The Hidden Reality takes us deeper still, and it has a special personal quality and warmth that is evident from the opening of the book, when Greene recollects how, as a boy, he was fascinated by the multiple reflections in parallel mirrors. He has never lost this childlike wonder at the world of physics, but he brings it now to examining theories of multiple universes, of the continual birth of universes, starting long before our own. . . and destined to continue, perhaps, to the end of time.
In the 1930s, as a boy myself, I read The Mysterious Universe by James Jeans. Jeans was, like Greene, a brilliant theoretical astronomer and equally mesmerizing writer. I thought Jeans's book was the most exciting, revelatory book I had ever read, and now, seventy years later, I feel the same excitement reading Brian Greene's new book, where every chapter opens level after level of previously unimaginable, mind-expanding realities.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "There was a time when ÿuniverse' meant ÿall there is,' " writes Greene, but soon we may have to redefine that word, along with our own meager understanding of the cosmos. A theoretical physicist and celebrated author, Greene offers intrepid readers another in-depth yet marvelously accessible look inside the perplexing world of modern theoretical physics and cosmology. Greene's book The Elegant Universe explained late 20th-century efforts to find a unified theory of everything, culminating with string theory. But string theory opened up a new can of worms, hinting at the possible existence of multiple universes and other strange entities. The possibility of other universes existing alongside our own like holes in "a gigantic block of Swiss cheese" seems more likely every day. Beginning with relativity theory, the Big Bang, and our expanding universe, Greene introduces first the mind-blowing multiplicity of forms those parallel universes might take, from patchwork quilts or stretchy "branes" to landscapes and holograms riddled with black holes. With his inspired analogies starring everyone from South Park's Eric Cartman to Ms. Pac-Man and a can of Pringles, Greene presents a lucid, intriguing, and triumphantly understandable state-of-the-art look at the universe. Illus. (Feb.)
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Top Customer Reviews
Yes The Hidden Reality is more accessible than his previous books. This book seems easier to read and is readily understandable. In his earlier books, I often read a paragraph several times in order to fully comprehend what Greene was attempting to communicate. That is something science and math majors are used to doing when reading textbooks but difficult for those not as scientifically adept. Greene's first two books dealt with Quantum Mechanics, String Theory and Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity: vast math-intensive topics that he was able to distill masterfully. The Hidden Reality inhabits a more abstract world, a conceptually challenging world. I quickly found Greene's more casual approach extremely helpful, even comforting, when I felt slightly adrift. The topics he discusses begin with the geometry of the universe: whether it is spherical (or positively curved), flat (with zero curvature) like a tabletop, or negatively curved like a Pringle.
The book devotes considerable time to the critical question of whether the universe is finite or infinite in size, something which has profound scientific and philosophical implications. It is a statistical certainty that in an infinite universe, regions of local space like ours will be endlessly repeated. In other words, assuming an infinite spatial universe with an expanding big-bang beginning, there are only a finite number of possible matter and energy configurations because the amount of energy and matter is finite. But there is an infinite amount of space within which those configurations will play out. Greene uses the example of a friend named Imelda whose passion for clothing has her purchasing 1000 pairs of shoes and 500 dresses. If Imelda is blessed with an infinitely long lifespan then, despite her vast wardrobe, if she changes outfits daily, within 1400 years she will have exhausted all possible new combinations. Imelda will be forced to repeat her sartorial choices. Philosophically, of course, all of that repetition of stars, planets and life's building blocks suggests that there are an infinite number of doppelgangers of each and every one of us. These infinite duplicates of ourselves would inhabit similar worlds that are forever hidden from mutual observation because the speed of light is finite. As Einstein showed in his Special Theory of Relativity, light-speed (300,000 km/sec) is the fastest rate by which information can be communicated. The bottom line: in an infinite universe the overwhelming bulk of reality remains hidden from its inhabitants by vast distances or by parallel dimensions harboring realities of every possible configuration.
In a finite spherical universe, on the other hand, the light from distant objects should ultimately traverse it several times, leading to multiple images of galaxies, for example. This hasn't been observed as yet, suggesting that the universe is either finite but huge or actually infinite in size. Though the size and shape of the universe remain undetermined, scientists when cornered tend to believe its size is infinite. Recent data also suggests that the universe is flat like a tabletop in shape.
Greene discusses all of the current hot topics in cosmology: brane-worlds, the multiverse, the holographic universe, unseen parallel worlds in dimensions separated by millimeters, our universe as a super-advanced computer program, the essentially hidden nature of reality. These are topics that have been discussed in other books but seldom with the passion for communication and clarity of thought that Greene exhibits in this one. The topics here are abstract concepts that exist at the very boundaries of human thought but Greene somehow manages to bring them down to earth. Even if you don't understand everything, the scientific vistas that Greene offers in this superb book are breathtaking in their intellectual beauty. You will find your personal horizons exponentially expanded. The Hidden Reality is replete with excellent illustrations that illuminate the material and are fun to look at. If this kind of science intrigues you then you will love this book. Brian Greene has written another masterpiece in a difficult genre.
The subtitle says the Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. All nine of the parallel universes are based on speculative physics. Some much more speculative than others.That these theories are speculative he admits throughout the book for which he deserves credit. However, in reading this book I got the feeling that this book was the long version of a grant proposal submitted to be funded. This comes about in the numerous places in which he says much has been done but give us more time to work on these ideas. Part of the reason is that some of the parallel universes he describe depend upon string/M-theory which is a controversial topic in physics. This is because in the 30-40 years of its existence, string/M-theories have yet to make any unique predictions that have been observed experimentally in support of these theories. The theory so far is not even falsifiable. Lee Smolin addresses these concerns in his book "Trouble with Physics" as does Peter Woit in his book "Not Even Wrong". The same criticism is also true for the multiverses that come from inflationary. cosmology. However, there are a large number of sharp physicists working in these areas so it is unclear what the future holds. Parallel universe's from Hugh Everett's thesis work on the interpretation of quantum mechanics, now known as the many worlds interpretation is another area of current research in physics and philosophy. This work is based on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. Greene suggests an experiment in the notes to test this theory, but it is unclear if this has been clearly thought out and if this experiment is even possible.
The discussion on computer simulated universes is interesting. It describes a universe similar to that in the movie "The Thirteenth Floor". While not a parallel universe in ways that physics suggests a simulated universe would make the ultimate computer game. A virtual reality that could absorb the programmers life into the simulation. Almost the ultimate drug. Live life to its fullest would have an additional impetus if you live in a simulated universe so that the creator of the simulation would not get bored with you and stop the simulation. However, since you can't prove that you are living in a simulated universe, do you need to live a life to satisfy the simulator? Interesting.
The final chapter entitled "The Limits of Inquiry Multiverses and the Future" is well written and makes an interesting conclusion to the book.
Still it is interesting to see the direction being taken by some of the great names in Cosmology and Quantum Physics. While there is little chance that any of this material will be proven through experimentation in our lifetime, the consideration of such concepts fires the imagination and stimulates the creative mind to consider realms well outside the box of everyday thought.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It actually fit what the buddha teaching . The multiverse is beginningless and endlessRead more