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The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality [Paperback]

Brian Greene
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 8 2005 Vintage
From Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading physicists and author the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Elegant Universe, comes a grand tour of the universe that makes us look at reality in a completely different way.

Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past? Greene has set himself a daunting task: to explain non-intuitive, mathematical concepts like String Theory, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and Inflationary Cosmology with analogies drawn from common experience. From Newton’s unchanging realm in which space and time are absolute, to Einstein’s fluid conception of spacetime, to quantum mechanics’ entangled arena where vastly distant objects can instantaneously coordinate their behavior, Greene takes us all, regardless of our scientific backgrounds, on an irresistible and revelatory journey to the new layers of reality that modern physics has discovered lying just beneath the surface of our everyday world.

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From Publishers Weekly

String theory is a recent development in physics that, by positing that all which exists is composed of infinitesimally small vibrating loops of energy, seeks to unify Einstein's theories and those of quantum mechanics into a so-called "theory of everything." In 1999, Greene, one of the world's leading physicists, published The Elegant Universe (Norton), a popular presentation of string theory that became a major bestseller and, last fall, a highly rated PBS/Nova series. The strength of the book resided in Greene's unparalleled (among contemporary science writers) ability to translate higher mathematics (the language of physics) and its findings into everyday language and images, through adept use of metaphor and analogy, and crisp, witty prose. The same virtues adhere to this new book, which offers a lively view of human understanding of space and time, an understanding of which string theory is an as-yet unproven advance. To do this, Greene takes a roughly chronological approach, beginning with Newton, moving through Einstein and quantum physics, and on to string theory and its hypotheses (that there are 11 dimensions, ten of space and one of time; that there may be an abundance of parallel universes; that time travel may be possible, and so on) and imminent experiments that may test some of its tenets. None of this is easy reading, mostly because the concepts are tough to grasp and Greene never seems to compromise on accuracy. Eighty-five line drawings ease the task, however, as does Greene's felicitous narration; most importantly, though, Greene not only makes concepts clear but explains why they matter. He opens the book with a discussion of Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus, setting a humanistic tone that he sustains throughout. This is popular science writing of the highest order, with copious endnotes that, unlike the text, include some math.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Forbidding formulas no longer stand between general readers and the latest breakthroughs in astrophysics: the imaginative gifts of one of the pioneers making those breakthroughs have now translated mathematical science into accessible analogies drawn from everyday life and popular culture. Using images as simple as that of Homer Simpson riding a skateboard and an ordinary earthworm crawling along a tightrope, Greene draws readers deep into revolutionary new conceptions of space and time. These conceptions transform the everyday world of 3-dimensional sense perception into the illusory surface of an 11-dimensional reality. Hidden from human view, tightly coiled loops of multidimensional string link radiant stars to mysterious black matter in a galactic space-time tapestry of sublime symmetry. Though Greene deepens his inquiries with occasional ventures into scholarly complexities (thoughtfully warning timid readers, who can skip the abstruse sections), disarmingly simple principles finally penetrate the very frontiers of cosmological research, where the random chaos of quantum mechanics begins to fit within the lucid harmonies of relativity and where the strangely one-directional arrow of time starts to yield the secrets of its flight. Nonspecialists will relish this exhilarating foray into the alien terrain that is our own universe. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great accomplishment July 12 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is amazing. Apparently a number of folks agree with me given the 4.5 star average it has gotten from the preceding 60 reviews. There were some pans, however. In contradistinction to what some of the naysayers (and some of the kuods too) have written , this is most certainly *not* a rehash of the "Elegant Universe", which I also read and liked a lot. This is something totally different. This is not about string theory or quantum mechanics or relativity or the nature of time - but it does contain discussion of all of those. This book is about nothing less than cosmology, the structure of the universe, just exactly as the title indicates.
I have read a number of lay (read - not for physicists but not for your average college drop-out either) physics books over the years, mostly having to do with quantum mechainics and the nature of physical reality or relavity. Prior to "Fabric", I think my favorite was John Gribbin's "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat". I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the essentials of quantum mechanics for a layman, and learned relatively little that was really new from most of the others. But I found a lot of new material in"Fabric". The way the quantum measurement problem was dealt with or resolted was great - new to me. The discussion of entanglement, and why everything is in fact *not* connected to everything else was also new to me, and well done. There is a ton of new physics from the late 1990s that is reviewed here. This book contains everything a newcomer to quantum mechanics needs, but also has tons to offer folks who have read on this subject before. And that alone is is quite an accomplishment,. more than worth the price of admission.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and accessible July 16 2006
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This thought-provoking book has a wider perspective than Greene's Elegant Universe, in which he expounded on String Theory. Fabric Of The Cosmos discusses the latest findings in theoretical physics in a style accessible to the ordinary reader.

The book contains a short summary of string theory. In brief, this theory proposes that particles like quarks, electrons et al. are not dots but minute filaments of vibrating energy that produce various particle properties. Superstring Theory reconciles general relativity with quantum mechanics in a single theory, making it a strong candidate for Einstein's elusive Unified Theory.

The author explores the two most prominent concerns of modern physics: The historical development from Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Hawking, and the very latest theories that arose from this development.

Chapter 12 is basically a summary of The Elegant Universe, whilst the following two chapters explore the possibilities of experimentally testing the string theory.

A very important component of he book is the irreconcilable gap between the theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics. General relativity only hold valid for large objects, whilst quantum mechanics explains the subatomic composition of matter/energy. Since the two are incompatible, Greene maintains that a theory of quantum gravity must be developed, one that holds true for both small and large objects.

In the chapters Time And The Quantum and Entangling Space, the author looks at quantum mechanics and the strange phenomena of entanglement. He rejects Niels Bohr's dualistic interpretation of the world of facts and the world of probabilities, postulating a hidden reality composed of 9 spatial dimensions and 1 of time.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Feb. 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
I just sat down to write a glowing review of Brian Greene's new book, and was frankly shocked to see the few, but inaccurate, reviews among the many positive ones.
I am a high school science teacher and, among other books, have been using Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe in class for a few years, so I know it extremely well (the students love it--the book has even inspired a couple of our students to study physics in college). I just devoured The Fabric of the Cosmos, so I now know it well too. It is a fresh, original, highly creative presentation of a tremendous amount of material, most of which is not covered in The Elegant Universe. To say otherwise is wrong. The retired physics professor who sent in a review a few days ago said it really well: in this book, Brian Green tackles the "big" and most puzzling discoveries that were not part of his first book.
For example, I've been searching for years for an understandable and complete explanation of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolski effect (if you don't know what this is, you are in for a treat when you read the book). The Fabric of the Cosmos finally gives one. I've read many attempts in previous books (and articles too), but no explanation I've ever read comes anywhere near the clarity and fullness of the one given in The Fabric of the Cosmos. After years of people trying to explain this effect in layman's terms, this book finally succeeds.
The chapters that talk about whether time flows and why it has a direction, whether space and time should be thought of as physical substances, and experiments on quantum time, are equally lucid and entertaining, as are the chapters on recent advances in cosmology, Superstring theory, teleportation, and even the charming discussion of speculations on time travel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fabric of the Cosmos
Brian Greene has created a great presentation for the non physics students whereby the theories are easy to understand.
For me, no math formulas, a great bonus. Read more
Published 6 months ago by R Weigand
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to introduce one to the realm of theoretical physics.
After reading this book, and also many other popular physics titles, you will be ready to explore the world of more advanced physics texts, that would be incomprehensible... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Trigonal
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
One word is enough to sum it up: Amazing! I first got hooked watching Fabric of the Cosmos on TV, so decided to get the book. Definitely am not dissappointed.
Published 11 months ago by NorthStar
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
An insightful, interesting and surprisingly easy read. That does not mean that it is not challenging. I will reread this one several times.
Published 13 months ago by E. Stepko
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabric of the Cosmos
Liked the DVD. Very informative and well presented.Watched it twice for better understanding.Acquired other DVD's on the same subject.The book is a little heavy.
Published 16 months ago by HVDT
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
Brian Greene has the ability to write books about physics that non-physicists can understand. He takes you into the world of quantum physics, looking at the structure of the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by ScienceLives
5.0 out of 5 stars A cosmological encyclopedia
Let's just get this out of the way first: this book is awesome. Seriously. Do not let any of the naysayers dissuade you from picking this book up if you have even the slightest... Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2011 by Matthew Sanderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Really wide-ranging.
I really loved this book. Covered a lot of territory found in similar explorations, but always with a fresh slant, and lots of surprises. Very,very well organized. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2009 by Renald Shoofler
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and well written
Bruan Greene does a wonderful job in providing background information in modern physics to the average science buff. Read more
Published on March 10 2007 by Calcorian
5.0 out of 5 stars A great accomplishment
This book is amazing. Apparently a number of folks agree with me given the 4.5 star average it has gotten from the preceding 60 reviews. There were some pans, however. Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by James Tepper
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