Top positive review
22 of 23 people found this helpful
A great accomplishment
on July 12, 2004
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.