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Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe Paperback – April 8, 2014
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*Starred Review* Was Einstein wrong? At least in his understanding of time, Smolin argues, the great theorist of relativity was dead wrong. What is worse, by firmly enshrining his error in scientific orthodoxy, Einstein trapped his successors in insoluble dilemmas as they try to devise timeless laws explaining the origins and structure of the cosmos. How, Smolin asks, can such laws account for the highly improbable set of conditions that triggered the big bang jump-starting the universe? How, Smolin further wants to know, can scientists ever empirically test their timeless cosmic hypotheses? With rare conceptual daring, Smolin beckons toward a new perspective for doing cosmological theory, a perspective allowing Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason to open surprising possibilities. This horizon not only readmits time as a reality; it enshrines time as the reality, the indispensable point of flux allowing everything else, including the laws of matter and energy, to evolve and change. Embracing time as real, Smolin asserts, will allow cosmologists to convert laws once regarded as timeless into the contingent data they need to develop testable new theories of galactic evolution. More immediately, Smolin anticipates that this paradigm shift will help climatologists understand global warming and economists to ameliorate financial turbulence. A thrilling intellectual ride! --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"[Smolin’s] book, a mix of science, philosophy and science fiction, is at once entertaining, thought-provoking, fabulously ambitious and fabulously speculative." —The New York Times"Provocative, original, and unsettling." —The New York Review of Books"Brilliant…Smolin gives what is, for me, the best analysis of the nature of time from a physics viewpoint in a popular science book I have ever seen." —Popular Science"Smolin provides a much-needed dose of clarity about time, with implications that go far beyond physics to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. An essential book for physicists and non-physicists alike, Time Reborn offers a path to better theory and potentially to a better society." —Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget and The Fate of Power and the Future of Dignity"Applying his deep mastery of cosmology, quantum mechanics, general relativity and all the diverse attempts at quantum gravity, in Time Reborn Lee Smolin weaves a convincing and entirely new view of reality. He shows us how contemporary physics eliminates time and argues persuasively that any adequate cosmology rests on making time and ‘now’ fundamental." —Stuart Kauffman, University of Vermont, author of At Home in the Universe"Smolin is an excellent writer, a creative thinker and is ecumenical in the way he covers so many different branches of thought. Even as I mentally argued with this book, I kept on ploughing through to see how Smolin dealt with the objections. I would love to sit down with him over a drink and debate the ins and outs of his theory. And that is how this book should be read: as an account that makes you ask questions." —Nature"An entertaining, head-spinning and, yes, timely blend of philosophy, science, and speculation to put the Now back into physics." —The Telegraph "An energetic case for a paradigm shift that could produce mind-boggling changes in the way we experience our world." —Publishers Weekly"A thoughtful, complex re-evaluation of the role of time in the universe…A flood of ideas from an imaginative thinker." —Kirkus
"With rare conceptual daring, Smolin beckons toward a new perspective for doing cosmological theory…A thrilling intellectual ride!"—Booklist (starred review)
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Written by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin, Time Reborn takes the reader on a journey from what is currently and generally accepted in the field (Time Is Not Real) to what Smolin proposes (Time Is Real). If you're like me, you'll need to re-wrap your head around the whole Time Is Not Real business before even trying to move on to Smolin's Time Is (Really) Real argument.
Smolin builds the current case that Time Is Not Real by explaining that it has to do with timeless natural laws, theories of relativity, mathematical equations and what they do and do not represent, and thinking from the tiniest level of known matter (quantum mechanics) to the largest level of known matter (the block universe, which is a fancy way of saying that "every moment in time is equally real and so the whole of space and time must be laid out in one unchanging spacetime block" [Pearce, 2012]). (If you're not used to it, thinking like this can stretch your mind to its limits; kind of like thinking about how matter is truly nearly all empty space, at the atomic level.) Smolin then proposes that Time Is Real, explaining that only real time can provide explanations for what he explains as evolving laws of physics.
This is an interesting ride, but along the way I realized that Smolin was cherry-picking his theories. For example, on page 236 he gives short shrift to variable speed of light theories, obviously, because they don't fit what he believes. Smolin believes the speed of light is a constant because he *must have it* be a constant to fit his thinking; not the other way around. If he were open-minded to the data, he would know that, in fact, the speed of light is variable. (It can go at what is nowadays measured at 186,000 m/s. It can be slowed; it can be stopped; and it can be re-started. Scientists have done this multiple times. (Just google "speed of light is stopped.") And, if the speed of light can be slowed....then logically it could also be....sped up. Which is the crux of the variable speed of light theory. Some scientists have done an enormous amount of work to determine if the speed of light was faster in the past, and what this might mean for how we think about the universe, time, and ourselves. If you're interested, google "speed of light was faster in the past" and you'll find some fascinating material. I've looked at the data. It is compelling.) So, Smolin's cherry-picking made me wonder what else he was limiting himself to believing based on his prejudices and pre-conceived notions (his constructed worldview) and then what he did to sieve his information through that to us, his readers.
Still, I liked the book. If you're a serious layman like me, don't be intimidated by the subject matter, the dizzying amount of theories discussed and explained, or the often-used professional language of the professional theoretical physicist author. Read on; plow through. Understand that it simply has to be this way. Smolin tries carefully to explain in detail why Time Is Not Real and then why Time Is Real. I admire him and his book for that and for the added understanding it's given me of the mysterious universe we inhabit.
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