A rising star in theoretical physics offers his awesome vision of our universe and beyond, all beginning with a simple question: Why does time move forward?
Time moves forward, not backward—everyone knows you can’t unscramble an egg. In the hands of one of today’s hottest young physicists, that simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the universe, and other universes, too. In From Eternity to Here, Sean Carroll argues that the arrow of time, pointing resolutely from the past to the future, owes its existence to conditions before the Big Bang itself—a period modern cosmology of which Einstein never dreamed. Increasingly, though, physicists are going out into realms that make the theory of relativity seem like child’s play. Carroll’s scenario is not only elegant, it’s laid out in the same easy-to- understand language that has made his group blog, Cosmic Variance, the most popular physics blog on the Net.
From Eternity to Here uses ideas at the cutting edge of theoretical physics to explore how properties of spacetime before the Big Bang can explain the flow of time we experience in our everyday lives. Carroll suggests that we live in a baby universe, part of a large family of universes in which many of our siblings experience an arrow of time running in the opposite direction. It’s an ambitious, fascinating picture of the universe on an ultra-large scale, one that will captivate fans of popular physics blockbusters like Elegant Universe and A Brief History of Time.
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No one is better equipped to take readers on a rollercoaster ride through time, space, and the origins of the universe than Caltech theoretical physicist Carroll, cofounder of Cosmic Variance, one of the top science blog sites. "We're not thinking small here," Carroll announces with glee before launching into his topic. Time is a medium we move through and a way to sequence events. But the "Arrow of Time' is also the only feature of the universe with one irreversible direction: time goes forward. This fact plays an important role in the second law of thermodynamics: the entropy (disorderliness) of an isolated system either remains constant or increases with time. This has implications for our understanding of the "Big Bang" origins of the universe. We may not be able to travel back in time, but we can find ways to peer back across it and see clues to how the universe evolved, thanks to such discoveries as quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Carroll writes with verve and infectious enthusiasm, reminding readers that "science is a journey in which getting there is, without question, much of the fun." Illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Solid overview of entropy
A gifted 6th grader could understand this book. To me, its primary value is not in the author's presentation of his pet view for a multiverse (the book's conclusion), but his elucidation of entropy, relativity, and quantum mechanics (which most of the book is devoted to). By providing this we're able to think critically about some of the most fascinating concepts in cosmology today, e.g. quantum gravity, the arrow of time, and multiple universes.
Hard but rewarding
This book is chock full of interesting and mind-expanding ideas. To most non-physicists, these concepts won't come naturally. I found I had to read and re-read portions to get the full meaning. So, one can't expect to read the book like a novel--it does take time and effort. All I can say, the effort is worth it. Unlike in most science books, the author does not treat the reader like a hopeless case unable to assimilate difficult ideas--he doesn't gloss over details, but shows you all the nuts and bolts. One of the best physics books I have read.
Better done elsewhen
It seems that a way to supplement your income as a physicist, if not extend your fame or credentials, is to write a book about a contemporary topic - in this case TIME. Pepper it with your own useful metaphoric images of mind-bending mathematics, while giving the occasional nod to the familiar metaphors constructed by the BIG names in science, and if you are clever like Carroll, you can further flavor the epic with pop culture references.
Unfortunately, in this case, Carroll added too much spice and not enough substance to his somewhat enjoyable tome. First, he treats TIME as an EPIC and figures it should take a lot of time to read about time for time to be serious enough to be read.
Second, the pop culture references, if done in a PowerPoint, would be what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” Superfluous, but pretty margin scrawls that detract, rather than enhance the pertinent information.
I admit I advanced my understanding of the nature of time, space-time, and space a little more, but the slog through forest almost obscured these trees.