- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 23, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547511728
- ISBN-13: 978-0547511726
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 168 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe Hardcover – April 23, 2013
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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
"[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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But the claim that "there is no timeless truth" itself is timeless! It is obviously a self-defeating claim. The author probably wants to say there are no timeless *physical laws*. This might be true. But on more than one occasion he seems to deny the principle itself.
The author repeatedly asserts that, if the laws of the universe are like computer programs, then the future is perfectly decided. He writes (location 989): "A deterministic physical theory can be likened to a computer. ... Given the input and the program, the output is completely determined."
For some reason, the author overlooks the results of Turing, Post, Rice, and other logicians, about uncomputability. They show that, for any sufficiently rich computer program, there is no systematic way to decide (by inspecting the program as such) if the output of the program has a certain non-trivial property. This means that a rich computer program may very well produce unexpected (and uncomputable) output. If the author is endeavoring to introduce uncertainty, novelty, and unpredictability into the Newtonian paradigm, this has already been done via the theorems of Gödel and Turing, among others.
The author criticizes the "block universe" view as timeless while time is an undeniable fact that we observe. But, if we follow the author's own approach, the block universe is a view for the universe as a whole. The block-view is unobservable from within the universe. Thus, there should be no contradiction in principle between a timeless block universe and time-dependent events inside the universe. These are two different views from different perspectives that need not be matched.
Overall, the book is provocative and forces the reader to think and rethink in novel manners. Despite some shortcomings highlighted in other reviews, it is an indispensable volume in the science library.
You might like this book if a) you are ignorant of really basic physics and the history of science and 2) like reading spectulation wrapped up in fantasy.
I could go into a lot of detail about why this book is so bad but life is too short to waste the time. I will though add that I feel sorry for Lee - he is spiritually dead.
How there could be any reviews here with more than two stars is baffling. Perhaps these are the same people who bought "A Brief History of Time" then immediately put it on their bookshelf, never reading it, just to look fashionable?
His prose, of course, is the biggest problem. He gives us page after page of italicized phrases that try to summarize his ideas in a few words. Open to almost any random page and you can find some of these: doing physics in a box, configuration of the system, equivalence principle, cosmological fallacy, cosmological natural selection, principle of maximal freedom, disordering locality, Poincare recurrence time, meta-laws dilemma, and on and on. None of which offers any clarity to the progression of his ideas.
Part of his problem is that, this time out, Dr. Smolin is trying to make a more difficult argument than he was in The Trouble with Physics. In that book, he was playing to his strengths. He was trying to convince us that string theory is fundamentally problematic because it offers no useful testable predictions. This is a naturally powerful argument. Here, he is trying to convince us that physicists must put time back as a fundamental concept in physics. This is more difficult because, first of all, he has to explain to the average reader why time isn't a fundamental part of physics now, as most people would likely assume it is. This requires him to explain difficult concepts--like the difference between time as an emergent property vs. a fundamental property--and he's not really good at this.
To be fair, he does have good moments when he wants to get down in the trenches. His metaphor for entropy using a comparison between a brick building and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is brilliant. But then he fails to explain effectively why the entropy time arrow for the universe is not sufficient. (Brian Greene, for example, has a great explanation of the entropy time arrow in his book The Fabric of the Cosmos.)
Ultimately, it is difficult for the average reader to make much out of Dr. Smolin's arguments. Even readers with a basic background in physics will struggle in places. Most average readers will have difficulty seeing why the issue of time's place in physical theory is such an important one and why we should care. Raising our voices about wasting money on string theory research is something we can all do. The public will have less success convincing Ph.D.'s to change their thinking on this purely conceptual topic. And Dr. Smoin really hasn't taught us what the issue is.