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The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 6, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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From Scientific American
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Top Customer Reviews
Primack has dared to explore territory where few scientists venture. (Abrams is an attorney, writer and poet, so we scientists expect her to be a bit strange - and probably wrong.) Primack and Abrams have written a book that weaves a tale of science, myth, and ethics. Mixing soft subjects with the hard sciences goes against religious doctrine - scientific religious doctrine, that is. And, as with most religions, this dogmatic approach is usually invisible to its adherents. Even though the authors are careful to distinguish the hard science from the softer areas, this is a dangerous mixture to introduce into a scientific culture.
For example, at the Physics Department Colloquium I attended, this problem was manifested during the Q&A period following the talk. People asked only about neutrinos, cosmic expansion, how we can see objects 40 billion light years away when the Universe is only 15 billion years old, etc.Read more ›
Parts One and Two are quite good. I believe most readers will gain a great deal of knowledge both about various cultures' myths about the universe, and modern scientific theories of the universe. I particularly liked the discussion in Part Two about how what is scientifically true depends upon the scale one is considering, and how this helps explain why many modern theories of physics are quite counter-intuitive: human intuition is made to deal with the human scale, and not the scales of quarks or galactic super-clusters.
Part Three is strained. Primack and Abrams want to somehow argue that modern theories of cosmology somehow give greater meaning and direction to human lives. I don't think they make a good case for this argument. They argue that modern cosmology shows that we are "central" to the universe, which is supposed to give us more of a sense of meaning. However, they use "central" in such a vague way that this isn't very convincing. We are told that we are "central" because we are made of rare elements and because we live in a rare bubble of space-time. So, being unusual is here defined as being "central".Read more ›
In addition, this book benefits from having been written for a humanities course given at Santa Cruz. This may be the best introduction to modern cosmology in that it takes the time to clarify fundamental points about dark energy and matter and aspects of inflation that are often bungled in better known and more sophisticated texts. It is clear that the authors have spent a lot of time answering questions from confused students. The care is appreciated; I wish more of these texts were so well edited. An excellent place to start. It comes with a strong recommendation from Paul Davies whose recent Cosmic Jackpot is also excellent.
The authors central insight is how we as humans need to use metaphor to understand concepts and events that are not on our scale. He has a very good overview of what we know of cosmic and quantum theory and how they are related. It is very up-to-date on our current understanding of such things as inflationary universe and string theory. It's comparable to most other current books out there on the topic. It IS very philosophical but not religious. It uses religious metaphor so it is easy to think its some mush book trying to meld current religion with science. It makes quite clear that the religious metaphor is metaphor that we are applying to something we don't understand. It gives insight into why we use metaphor in the way we do and how to properly understand it. (we misattribute things that happen on our scale to a larger scale. Such as attributing thought, which happens on the scale of our neural connections with something larger such as weather patterns.) But also goes on to provide deeper insight as to how our metaphors are true. It shows how our wonderful and unimaginably huge the creative process is in the inflationary universe but also how we are wrong to attribute "father in the sky" attributes to it. This is not a mushy spiritual book but I think quite the opposite. Its not trying to scientifically prove god and such but just the opposite trying to showing how we are wrong to apply our scale concepts to the universe and that what is true is much bigger than we imagine.
I will update this as soon as i finish the book.
PS. I have finished the book and stand by what i stated above.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Publishers Weekly doesn't usually write nasty reviews, they made an exception for this book: "If greeting card poet Susan Polis Schultz wrote about physics and the universe,... Read morePublished 29 days ago by doug korty
Up front, the authors deserve much praise for having the courage to suggest something different. The book attempts a new person-centered view of the universe (call it “philosophy”... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Bavaruspex
This was a great read. The first 80-100 pages are long-winded making it a bit challenge to immerse yourself in the book... but stick with it. Read morePublished on August 17, 2014 by Carol Camp