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Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality | [Max Tegmark]

Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy, and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist.
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Publisher's Summary

Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy, and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist. Fascinating from first to last - this is a book that has already prompted the attention and admiration of some of the most prominent scientists and mathematicians.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.


©2014 Max Tegmark (P)2013 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“Tegmark offers a fascinating exploration of multiverse theories, each one offering new ways to explain ‘quantum weirdness’ and other mysteries that have plagued physicists, culminating in the idea that our physical world is ‘a giant mathematical object’ shaped by geometry and symmetry. Tegmark’s writing is lucid, enthusiastic, and outright entertaining, a thoroughly accessible discussion leavened with anecdotes and the pure joy of a scientist at work.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lively and lucid, the narrative invites general readers into debates over computer models for brain function, over scientific explanations of consciousness, and over prospects for finding advanced life in other galaxies. Though he reflects soberly on the perils of nuclear war and of hostile artificial intelligence, Tegmark concludes with a bracingly upbeat call for scientifically minded activists who recognize a rare opportunity to make our special planet a force for cosmic progress. An exhilarating adventure for bold readers.” —Bryce Cristensen, Booklist (starred review)

“Our Mathematical Universe boldly confronts one of the deepest questions at the fertile interface of physics and philosophy: why is mathematics so spectacularly successful at describing the cosmos? Through lively writing and wonderfully accessible explanations, Max Tegmark—one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists—guides the reader to a possible answer, and reveals how, if it’s right, our understanding of reality itself would be radically altered.” —Brian Greene, physicist, author of The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality

“Daring, Radical. Innovative. A game changer. If Dr. Tegmark is correct, this represents a paradigm shift in the relationship between physics and mathematics, forcing us to rewrite our textbooks. A must read for anyone deeply concerned about our universe.” —Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future 

“Tegmark offers a fresh and fascinating perspective on the fabric of physical reality and life itself. He helps us see ourselves in a cosmic context that highlights the grand opportunities for the future of life in our universe.” —Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near

“Readers of varied backgrounds will enjoy this book. Almost anyone will find something to learn here, much to ponder, and perhaps something to disagree with.” —Prof. Edward Witten, physicist, Fields Medalist & Milner Laureate

“This inspirational book written by a true expert presents an explosive mixture of physics, mathematics and philosophy which may alter your views on reality.” —Prof. Andrei Linde, physicist, Gruber & Milner Laureate for development of inflationary cosmology
 
“Galileo famously said that the universe is written in the language of mathematics. Now Max Tegmark says that the universe IS mathematics. You don’t have to necessarily agree, to enjoy this fascinating journey into the nature of reality.” —Prof. Mario Livio, astrophysicist, author of Brilliant Blunders and Is God a Mathematician?

“Scientists and lay aficionados alike will find Tegmark’s book packed with information and very thought provoking. You may recoil from his thesis, but nearly every page will make you wish you could debate the issues face-to-face with him.” —Prof. Julian Barbour, physicist, author of The End of Time

“In Our Mathematical Universe, renowned cosmologist Max Tegmark takes us on a whirlwind tour of the universe, past, present—and other.  With lucid language and clear examples, Tegmark provides us with the master measure of not only of our cosmos, but of all possible universes.  The universe may be lonely, but it is not alone.” —Prof. Seth Lloyd, Professor of quantum mechanical engineering, MIT, author of Programming the Universe
 
“A lucid, engaging account of the various many-universes theories of fundamental physics that are currently being considered, from the multiverse of quantum theory to Tegmark’s own grand vision.” —Prof. David Deutsch, physicist, Dirac Laureate for pioneering quantum computing

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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-02-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-02-14 Member Since 2015

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Wow!"

    Great ideas and great narration makes this a great audio book. The last quarter of this book has some of the most interesting ideas in physics I have heard. I think these ideas are, by far, the most likely to lead to progress in physics. The first three-quarters is good, but is just a nice rehash similar to a bunch of other speculative physics books covering a brief history of cosmology leading to the theory of inflation and various levels of multiple universes, Boltzmann brains and such, finally culminating in the Measure Problem (one cannot assign consistent probabilities to infinite sets). Then the book gets really interesting! The author proposes that math does not model the universe, but that math IS the universe. The relations defined by a mathematical structure is all that is needed for us to believe all we see and feel is real. Nothing physical is needed. I really thought I was alone in being a strong proponent of this Mathematical Universe idea, so I have quite pleasantly surprised to find this excellent presentation. I was led to my conclusions by a much different path (Bell’s Theorem & Bell Test Experiments) and take these ideas to even greater extremes than Tegmark, but this is the best (the only?) popular presentations of these ideas I have seen.

    It may just be awkward editing or just these ideas are heady stuff, but by the end of the book Tegmark seems a bit schizophrenic. He seems to reject continuums and infinities and randomness as unreal (which is what I think), but then he continues to refer to, and use, these as if they were real. Also a good new model in fundamental physics should address multiple issues in physics, but Tegmark does not use his ideas of the Mathematical Universe to clarify the understanding of quantum mechanics (particularly Bell’s Theorem) and the problem linking General Relativity and Quantum mechanics. I think Tegmark underestimated the depth of the Measure Problem. The underlying problem is in any reality, it is simply not possible to take a random sample from an infinite set. Thus any assignment of probability to such constructs is nonsense. Tegmark seems to still be hoping for a resolution of the Measure Problem.

    The author has a really pleasant way of covering the history of cosmology, making the story like a mystery novel, using detective work to explain one mystery after another. Yet what makes this book really worth reading is the last quarter where the ideas about the Mathematical Universe are explored. I suspect that in a few hundred years the conception of the Mathematical Universe will be considered the great turning point leading to a final, simple and beautiful, Theory of Everything.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Duncan Select a State, BC, Canada 01-09-14
    Duncan Select a State, BC, Canada 01-09-14 Member Since 2015
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    "An interesting and thought provoking hypothesis."

    Max Tegmark does a great job of explaining complex physics and mathematical concepts in simple language. Anyone who finds this kind of subject matter interesting will appreciate his hypothesis. Rob Shapiro narrated the book superbly.

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 02-25-14
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 02-25-14 Member Since 2014

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Main points are off the mark"

    The author really explains science very well. In the first half of the book when he's providing background and context he excels. He steps the listener through how we progressed through history from a village perspective to a multiverse. The author states elegantly, the reality of the multiverse is not a theory in of itself since it comes out of the best theory we have to describe our universe, Inflation Theory. If you accept that inflation describes the universe at a fundamental level, but don't like multiverses you need to first come up with a theory that can explain everything inflation does but take out the part where inflation creates other universes not an easy thing to do. Also, the book works well when he's explaining everything you every wanted to know about the Cosmic Microwave Background but were afraid to ask. It really does give good answers about flat space and dark energy and why it's so important to understand the CMB.

    But, the author really didn't write the book to tell us those things. He wrote it for two main reasons. He wants to tell you why the Many World Hypothesis (Hugh Everett III) is the best explanation for the mysterious of physics and then goes on to tell you how our universe is mathematics.

    I love math at least as much as the next geek and wish the universe was math, but I gave up those kind of thoughts a long time ago. As Confucius said (no, really he did!), he looked for truth in mathematics and studied it for five years before he realized truth laid elsewhere.

    I'm not against using the Many World Hypothesis to explain the measurement problem but the approach the author used just was not convincing. I would strongly recommend the David Deutsch book, "The Beginning of Infinity" it covers the same kind of science but is much more coherent. I'll give a shout out to Tegmark, he quotes people like Deutsch and many others I have read and gives them kudos even though he doesn't agree with him throughout the book.

    Another book, I would recommend instead is a science fiction book called "Thrice Upon a Time", by James P Hogan, he covers the Many World Hypothesis in a more consistent way than this book does. (Yes, it's fiction but uses science and speculation to explain).

    Overall, the reason the author really wrote the book is the reasons I can't fully recommend this book.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Sare Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada 01-31-14
    Robert Sare Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada 01-31-14 Member Since 2015
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    "Mind Expanding"
    Any additional comments?

    Whether or not you believe the author's conclusions (he's not sure if he does so himself), you will be led on a road of exploration into the nature of the universe which will astonish you. The book is surprisingly easy to follow and immensely rewarding.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy College Station, TX, United States 01-21-14
    Timothy College Station, TX, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Took a long time to get to the point"

    I found this book disappointing, mainly because the author does not even begin to address his supposedly ground-breaking, controversial new theory until about 3/4 through the book. Everything before that is review. If you've studied physics and cosmology, or read a lot of Hawking, Greene, Mlodinow, etc., you will be bored through this part (which, I repeat, is most of the book). If this is the first book you've read on the subject, you might not mind this.

    I will also say that Mr. Tegmark dips into some pretty far-out ideas from time to time, and I felt like he was trying to defend as science, some ideas that were plainly not science. Of course, he says they are science, so maybe I'm just wrong about that.

    When he does finally get to talking about "Our Mathematical Universe" (there's a chapter in the book where he clearly announces something like "now I'm going to start talking about my new theory...". Again, that's about halfway through the second part of the audiobook), it's pretty interesting for a while. But it seemed like it quickly became hard to hold my attention to the reading. This may have been my own fault, but it seemed like he was just getting too far into fringe science for me, and kind of rambling. It's not that I reject his theory. Actually, he may be on to something (his "new theory" was covered briefly in one of Brian Greene's books, by the way, so it's not that new -- or maybe Greene got it from him?)

    Anyway, I did find Mr. Tegmark's many anecdotes about his life as a student, a scientist and a father interesting and it was cool how he integrated his own experiences with the science he was presenting. I did feel that I learned some things from this book, so I can't give it that bad of a review.

    In general, I would just warn the reader: if you're not new to physics and cosmology, be ready to wade through a LOT of review before getting to anything new.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Red Bluff, CA, United States 05-02-14
    Stephen Red Bluff, CA, United States 05-02-14 Member Since 2005

    You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

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    "Parallel Universes or Not that is the Question?"

    Either this book gives evidence to parallel Universes or proves that no matter how absurd an idea is you can make it sound reasonable if you are skilled enough. Anyway the book is interesting. Its ideas excite interest. The narrator does a great job with the material. I recommend.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-15-14
    Ray West Deptford, NJ, United States 03-15-14 Member Since 2013

    Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.

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    "Making Reality Real"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Definitely if they have an interest in both physics and philosophy and how they intersect.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I especially liked the chapter concerning: Internal Reality, External Reality and Consensus Reality. I also liked the way the author summarized his main concepts at the end of each chapter.


    Any additional comments?

    This book isn't for everyone, but is ideal for someone who wants to seriously explore some of the ultimate questions. Although it is technical in content, with some effort it can be understood by a non-science type such as myself. Although I don't usually do so, this book may get a second listen from me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. Greenlee Blacksburg, VA USA 05-05-15
    F. Greenlee Blacksburg, VA USA 05-05-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Fascinating, but contains a serious flaw"
    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed this book, and found many of the concepts presented to be very interesting and intriguing. But I do feel like there was a fundamental argument at the core of the book that defies basic tenants of quantum physics.

    At a critical point in the book the question is asked (I paraphrase), "Would the universe exist and remain basically unchanged if there were no humans or other observers present?" Dr. Tegmark answers this conundrum-soaked question with a reassuring "Yes" and never looks back. Indeed, as it is presented, this answer is fundamental to the book's thesis. Yet this flies in the face of the observer/probability wave collapse phenomenon at the core of modern quantum physics. Experiment after experiment seems to be verifying this odd behavior at the quantum level.

    I for one am not sure the observer/probability wave collapse concept will hold up over time, but it seems like very poor timing and taste to base a theory of everything on an assumption that currently appears to be false! It ended up feelingly like a "hard" sci-fi story in which a suspension of disbelief is required in order to make the plot work. I store such books on the fantasy shelf of my personal library.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin 04-04-15
    Martin 04-04-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great book and perfect narration"

    Great book and perfect narration. You have to focus when listening to this book, but when you do its hard to stop listening. The narration performance is the best ive ever heard.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frederic Simon HOD HASHARON, Israel 03-21-15
    Frederic Simon HOD HASHARON, Israel 03-21-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A boatload of amazing ideas!"

    The book started slow for me, and got me worried I will not learn anything. Another great scientist dumbing down what I already know.
    But, then he described his experience with Feynman books and lectures. He is passionate and love Physics, and he is the craziest that I ever read.
    No idea are dismissed out of hand, and I needed to remind myself that he is an actual great scientist when he started to exposed some of his crazy ideas.
    And finally I realized, that everything he says is well thought, deep research and discussions corroborate his ideas.
    And he always dare analyzing the opposite view than the one from mainstream science. To my amazement, he got some convincing arguments!

    In any case, a must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 17 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Kompani
    Hertford, UK
    3/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Test Your Little Grey Cells"
    What made the experience of listening to Our Mathematical Universe the most enjoyable?

    The first half of the book gives you a history of cosmology and its associated mathematics. The second half is Max Tegmark's theory of the Big Bang and what came after.


    What did you like best about this story?

    A very clear explanation of the theorys of the cosmos and the problems of interpreting what is observed and calculated.


    What does Rob Shapiro bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Rob Shapiro, the voice actor, gives a very well paced and clear performance of the text.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Max Tegmark can be profound, humourus and very honest.


    Any additional comments?

    A great book that furthers the understanding of the origin and future of our cosmos.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • G
    United Kingdom
    3/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An entertaining explanation of fascinating ideas."
    Any additional comments?

    I've been troubled by super positioning, boson fields and the time space continuum for quite a while now. Max Tegmark describes all of this eloquently and explains his thoughts on matters that I had not yet considered. During the read I experienced very brief moments of absolute clarity. So much so that I was able to expand some of the hypothesis into unchartered dimensions with my own original concepts. Of course I have forgotten all of them now, but the thought that I might be a Boltzmann brain remains disturbing. Top marks for Rob Shapiro the narrator as well. I will certainly revisit all 15 hours of this book again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. S. A. Hussain
    5/18/15
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    Story
    "Mind bending and thought provoking."

    Watch out for the summary of inflation theory and pay close attention to the last chapter. Highly recommended audio book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • X. Luo
    UK
    4/25/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant and inspirational"

    I can't listen enough. I have listened three times now and will start from beginning again. One of the best books I bought

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • MagicMike
    2/6/15
    Overall
    "Enlightening, entertaining and easy to understand"

    I have read and listened to many books on cosmology and quantum physics this is the one that hooked me the most. Not only does he explain current understanding of the universe but also the existential implications for human kind and our perceptions of this reality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Alberto Rizzoli
    2/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't be afraid of the word "Mathematical""

    Tegmark has the ability of delivering some of the most complex topics in modern science by looking at them through his perspective as a young student. He carries you through hunches, doubts, and discoveries giving you a glimpse of the reasoning of a physicist like him,
    The final chapters on existential risk and the future of humanity are some of the best structured I've ever heard.
    However I can't help but imagine a swede talking rather than the actual narrator given the sentence structure used.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • jeffrey
    United Kingdom
    10/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Starts off interesting, but then I got lost"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    No. Though the book started off with interesting discussion about the origin of astrology and the physics of the beginning of the universe, about half way through, the discussion got well beyond my ability to folllow it. I am an engineer, and have listened to many books on math and on the universe, but I simply could not follow what the author was trying to say. It just sounded like a bunch of sci-fi hooey.


    What three words best describe Rob Shapiro’s performance?

    he was very good.


    Do you think Our Mathematical Universe needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    The author needs to remember that there are only a handful of people in this world who could possibly understand concepts as complex as these, and they certainly would not be listening to an audio book. It needed to be simplified for us mortals


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Philip
    7/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent presentation"
    What made the experience of listening to Our Mathematical Universe the most enjoyable?

    The excitement of the discovery process in cosmology and the very clear way the ideas presented and the pdf file with the diagrams was very helpfull


    What other book might you compare Our Mathematical Universe to, and why?

    Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaju ,deals with similar ideas


    What about Rob Shapiro’s performance did you like?

    Very clear


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Strong emotional reaction to this book: wonder at the universe


    Any additional comments?

    You should get the book in printed form as well as you need to linger over some of the ideas

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Jan W. H. Schnupp
    Oxford, England
    7/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enjoyable trip through spacetime - no maths needed"

    I'm about 2/3rds through and am enjoying this book greatly. It provides a clear and accessible account of modern cosmology. Finally I understand why some people are very excited by measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation. The title may make you wonder whether this book will be hard work, but I didn't think so. You certainly don't have to do equations. Even though the subject matter (multiverses, general relativity & similar) may seem heavy going, the writing style of the book is quite chatty and enthusiastic, so it doesn't feel like work. And the narrator has a lovely smooth voice and reads with nice emphasis.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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