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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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. 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...
Published on July 12 2004 by James Tepper

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Elegant Universe for Dummies
I am the world's biggest fan of Brian Greene's first book, Elegant Universe. No other book comes close to explaining physics for general science readers. So I awaited The Fabric of the Cosmos with bated breath. What a disappointment.
At one point in the book, Greene tells of his mother trying to read the first few pages of Elegant Universe. She put it down almost...
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by Keith OConnor


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great accomplishment, July 12 2004
By 
James Tepper ""Are we there yet"" (Boonton Township, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
But, at least for me, the most ennjoyable sections of the book were the ones middle that dealt with relativity, both general and special, how they relate to older and current cosomological models, and unification with quantum mechanics. I thought I sort of understood relativity (again, at an educated layman's level), but I learned a ton from this book (gravity depends not only on mass and energy but also pressure!!). The early foundations of relativity and the relation to Mach were great. The relation of Einstein to modern cosmology, Higg's fields, the big bang, inflaton theory, repulsive gravity, the universe expanding at a rate potentially faster than the speed of light (with no contradiction to relativity!!) - these were all new to me, and explained very well.
One could quibble with the style a little. The constant use of analogies and examples starring the Simpson's or Mulder and Scully might turn some people off. I didn't mind then, but I didn't love them either. The book is very long - perhaps too long, and there is a fair amount of recapitulation. This recapping bothered me in the beginning until I realized (about three quarters fof the way through the book) that there was so much new stuff here that I was going to have to read the book again, pretty soon.
There is a tremendous amount of material here, all of it interesting, very up-to-date,and all of it well presented. If you are at all interested in modern physics, and the nature of the universe, this book is a great read.
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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 "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (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.

Fabric Of The Cosmos is a most engaging investigation of cutting edge ideas in physics and cosmology. It is highly stimulating and far more readable than Elegant Universe. I highly recommend this brilliant work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of physics/String theory still needs work, July 6 2004
By 
I certainly recommend this book to any layperson that enjoys reading accounts of both the history of physics and the state of progress in modern physics. Greene is an excellent writer and he discusses and teaches often difficult concepts in an accessible way. On reflection, my only criticism of the book is really an issue with the subject of string theory, rather than with Greene's descriptions.
For me, the book breaks down into two parts. The first 2/3 is an account of historical developments in physics using an excellent organizing scheme. Greene sets out two key questions. First, are space and time fundamental or do they simply arise as descriptions of relations among other fundamental entities? Second, how do we account for the unidirectional flow of time ("the arrow of time") which we experience? With these questions in mind, Greene reviews classical physics, Einstein's relativity, quantum mechanics, and recent cosmological theories.
The best part of this first section of the book for me was the review of the inflationary hypothesis. After describing the second law of thermodynamics (the only part of traditional science which has an explicit arrow of time), Greene examines theories of the history of our universe for a possible explanation of both the flow of time we experience as well as the geometry of observed space. I understood the attraction of the inflationary scenario much better after reading the book.
The second part of the book is a discussion of progress in string theory/M theory and the attempt to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics in a unified framework.
String theory's major exciting starting point was its promise to explain all of the fundamental particles and forces (including gravity) in a framework of one-dimensional units called strings. To laypeople, it is usually put forth that different vibrations in the strings describe all of the fundamental entities. However, the working out of string theory was accompanied by difficulties. First, there were several versions, not just one. More importantly (in terms of the nature of space and time), in its initial formulations string theory required an absolute backdrop of space-time, thus in a way reverting to a pre-relativity stance. Also, to work, there had to exist many more dimensions of space - a total of ten space-time dimensions. (I should note that, to his credit, Greene does a good job throughout presenting criticisms and possible shortcomings of string theory.)
In recent years, Greene tells us, it was discovered that several different versions of string theory really were one theory after all. This overarching theory (which now featured an eleventh space-time dimension) also introduced new structures beyond one-dimensional strings. These 2, 3 and higher dimensional entities became known as branes, and the theory as M-theory ("M" possibly standing for membrane, but maybe several other things as well). Given that the mathematics in which the theory is described is so far beyond the typical reader, Greene describes the theory effectively and defends it against the common criticism that its details are not provable - he outlines experiments which could make key features testable in the not-too-distant future.
Greene finishes by trying to recover the concepts of space and time (as we know them) by postulating that they emerge from a more complex foundational reality described by M-theory. I should also note that in the book he discusses a number of interesting topics that are somewhat off the track of his core narrative, such as time-travel and wormholes, and the holographic principle. As always, the descriptions are interesting and reader-friendly.
Despite the fact that I doubt string theory can be described any better than Greene does it, the second part of the book is less compelling than the first. Part of the reason is simply the benefit of hindsight which enables the author to organize and present an effective narrative of the physics of the past, in contrast to describing the messier developments of a work-in-progress. However, in reflecting on Greene's account, I think there's more to it than that. I'm struck by the fact that many of the historical examples of progress in physics featured brilliant conceptual advances which built a framework for the resulting theory, while this is less clearly the case for M-theory. The paradigm case is general relativity, where Einstein had the insight that gravitation is equivalent to acceleration, and then he found a pre-existing mathematical framework in which to formulate the specifics of the theory. In contrast, my impression is that the small army of mathematically gifted M-theory modelers steer a course somewhat un-tethered to guiding concepts, and then attempt later to go back and fix things up. For example, Greene describes current attempts to draw connections to cosmological theories like inflation and to address conceptual shortcomings like space-time background-dependency.
It may be that a new key conceptual insight will be needed to guide the advance of modern physics.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly instructive writing about space and time, May 7 2004
By 
Tatsuo Tabata "tttabata" (Sakai, Osaka Japan) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Before buying a newly published book, I almost always read reviews on it. However, I bought this book as soon as it was published without following the usual procedure, because the previous book by the same author, "The Elegant Universe," proved Brian Greene's high ability of clear writing on cutting-edge physics. This new book even exceeded my expectation.
Greene, who made a number of important discoveries in superstring theory, explains about the present understanding of space and time starting from historical ideas from Newton's days and reaching the possible experimental confirmation of extra dimensions predicted by theoretical models as well as future allusions. The book is written for laypersons without using equations in the main text, but includes about 40 pages of notes for the expert reader. Thus scientists and engineers can also enjoy it very much.
The author makes good use of analogies, among which I liked the one about Bell's inequality best. Expert readers may find explanations in earlier chapters a little too lengthy, but this book has the following instructive feature: Greene's explanation often made me have a small question, but on reading ahead, I found that the author had expected the same question and had given the answer to it in the text or in a note! I believe that many of the young readers of this book would be interested in becoming a physicist or a cosmologist to study the deep mysteries of space and time.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent, Feb. 18 2004
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. (None of this was in The Elegant Universe. I know this for a fact, having read The Elegant Universe with my class every year for three straight years.)
In summary, this is a true marvel of science explication. I am now adding it to readings for my class. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book, May 31 2004
By 
David G. Umbaugh "DaveU" (hudson, ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I don't typically write reviews...just too lazy, I guess. But this book demands an exception. It is simply the best modern physics book I have read in many years. Expect to read it slowly; there is so much to savor! Greene is a master teacher...I rarely have encountered such clarity in any teaching venue. The man is a gift to anyone that is even a bit stimulated by the fantastic explorations that have occurred in the past century. What the mind of man can accomplish!
(I personally believe Greene and his compatriots are bordering on the proof of God's existence. Consider his discussion of the very low entropy in the unvierse in the moments after the big bang. I'd never encountered such a concept before, and it just one of many such thrilling considerations.) Stop what you're doing and contemplate life in the most expansive way for a while!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and well written, March 10 2007
By 
Calcorian (St. Anthony, NL CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (Paperback)
Bruan Greene does a wonderful job in providing background information in modern physics to the average science buff. His descriptions and concise and his analogies are quite useful. My only concern is that, when presenting his ideas on string theory, there is very little mention of the fact that hardly anything has been proven in this area. Its largest competition, quantum gravity, is abrely mentioned, and seems to be an after thought. I do not blame Mr. Greene for his feeling, considering all he has invested in string theory, but the book leaves you with the idea that string theory is the only real theory to explain the entire universe, and this is definately false.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great accomplishment, July 12 2004
By 
James Tepper ""Are we there yet"" (Boonton Township, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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 resolved 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.
But, at least for me, the most ennjoyable sections of the book were the ones middle that dealt with relativity, both general and special, how they relate to older and current cosomological models, and unification with quantum mechanics. I thought I sort of understood relativity (again, at an educated layman's level), but I learned a ton from this book (gravity depends not only on mass and energy but also pressure!!). The early foundations of relativity and the relation to Mach were great. The relation of Einstein to modern cosmology, Higg's fields, the big bang, inflaton theory, repulsive gravity, the universe expanding at a rate potentially faster than the speed of light (with no contradiction to relativity!!) - these were all new to me, and explained very well.
One could quibble with the style a little. The constant use of analogies and examples starring the Simpson's or Mulder and Scully might turn some people off. I didn't mind then, but I didn't love them either. The book is very long - perhaps too long, and there is a fair amount of recapitulation. This recapping bothered me in the beginning until I realized (about three quarters fof the way through the book) that there was so much new stuff here that I was going to have to read the book again, pretty soon.
There is a tremendous amount of material here, all of it interesting, very up-to-date,and all of it well presented. If you are at all interested in modern physics, and the nature of the universe, this book is a great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Universe of Great Physics Books Keeps Expanding!, June 22 2004
By 
John Downing (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I have been buying and reading "layman" books on modern physics for the past couple of years. I've read and enjoyed "Black Holes and Baby Universes" by Stephen Hawkings, "Three Roads to Quantum Gravity", by Lee Smolin, Feynman's "QED" and John Gribbin's "Schrodinger's Kittens". My background includes a degree in engineering, but in my opinion a knowledge of math and "textbook" physics is not necessary to read and enjoy all of these titles.
As for "The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality", it is by far the best and most readable of the modern physics books I have encountered to date. Greene is truly in a class of his own when it comes to explaining the "almost" unexplainable.
I was amazed at how Greene was able to stay one step ahead of the reader on every page and have answers ready as soon as a question popped into my head. Greene has that rarest of gifts in a writer; an intimate knowledge of the subject matter, coupled with an intiutive understanding of questions that trouble the reader.
In conclusion, if you are going to buy only one book on modern physics, choose this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spacetime Physics For Everyone, May 14 2004
By 
Michael Gunther (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Brian Greene is a phenomenon; a leading string theorist at Columbia U., he's somehow found enough time, in a full schedule of research and teaching, to write two best-sellers and honcho a major PBS special about this formerly recondite, but now very well-known indeed, field of contemporary physics. What's his secret?
First of all, he's writing about things that every intelligent and inquiring person wants to know more about: Time's Arrow - why is time such a one-way trip? Big Bang cosmology - how did the Universe get started? Grand Unification - what is the ultimate physical description of Nature?
Secondly, he writes about these things in such a way that non-physicists can understand them. No equations, just a patient, careful, and clear explanation of some of the most fascinating, important, and new ideas in contemporary particle physics and cosmology.
Greene talks up, not down, to his readers. There are a lot of books about popular physics on the market today, and many of them are quite good. What makes this book special is how Greene manages to get inside the reader's head, by explaining things in a way that makes sense, and by anticipating and answering so many of the questions that a reader might have about these ideas. I really wish that I had Prof. Greene as a teacher when I studied this stuff in school!
One hint about reading this book - do pay attention to the notes, because they are an essential part of the book. Think of the book as the "lecture," and the notes as the "question and answer."
I'm happy to add my praise to the chorus for this very good book. You can judge my sincerity from the fact that I originally borrowed it from the local public library, but after reading it all the way through, I then went out and bought a copy for myself!
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