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.
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©2014 Max Tegmark (P)2013 Random House Audio
“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
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
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.
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.
l'enfer c'est les autres
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.
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.
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.
I am not a physicist, just educated in another side of science (I am a psychiatrist) and very interested in understanding the nature of reality. I was very impressed by the passion of the writer and that was satisfying. Most of the material covered went above my head (e.g. the entire concept of "level 4 multiverse"). However I enjoyed the little that I actually understood here and there. I think I would have liked it more if I were a physicist.
Mostly the passion for pursuit of reality.
Yes! read more books!
If Sean Carroll, Vlatko Vedral, and Richard Feynman morphed into one person and wrote a book, I think it might look something like this book. I loved every page. Without question, this was one of my favorite books about the universe.
Lately I have been interested in information theory. Reading multiple books on the same subject, there is always the danger of becoming bored. After reading other books on the subject, I read this book and Island of Knowledge by Gleiser at the same time. Both of these books were excellent. Both books had a good deal of overlap but were markedly different in important ways. Rather than being repetitive, they served more to reinforce important ideas. The time I spent getting familiar with these books (often reading chapters over and over again) was deeply, deeply enjoyable.
Tegmark's sprinkling of biographical information along side his tutorials on basic and complex concepts in physics reminded me a lot of Feynman, if Feynman had been humble. Tegmark's gift for making the complex accessible to non-physicists reminded me of Carroll's gift in relating to all types of audiences. The subject matter in this book reminded me of Vedral's decoding reality, but it delved in a bit more at times and provided a richer over all experience, which felt more satisfying.
Tegmark provides one of the simplest and most beautiful descriptions of how each thing (be it atom, star, person, etc) is merely a compilation of smaller things that can ultimately be thought about ( and indeed do exist) as tiny bits of information. For sure, this argument has been made many times before, but I enjoyed Tegmark's argument to a surprising degree.
This was one of the most satisfying reading experiences I have had in a long time. When Tegmark related his Jekyll and Hyde story and then got into the meat of his argument, my brain was in a constant state of euphoria. Braingasm, braingasm, braingasm! I could feel the dopamine rush as he flooded my brain with idea after idea. While at university, I used to sit and talk with two of my best friends, and intellectual soulmates, about the ultimate nature of the universe. These times are some of my most treasured memories in life. Reading this book was like being back in those conversations.
Retired Political Science professor from a community college. Especially like Legal Thrillers.
Definitely if they have an interest in both physics and philosophy and how they intersect.
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.
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.
Enjoyed the concepts presented and how it was layed out - giving readers a good foundation to understand each section. Presents some pretty mind-bending concepts but manages to keep things in check. The narrator did a great job presenting the book.
The writer presents justifications for each hypothesis while remaining 'realistic' about the concepts presented, and implications if found to be true or false.
"Test Your Little Grey Cells"
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.
A very clear explanation of the theorys of the cosmos and the problems of interpreting what is observed and calculated.
Rob Shapiro, the voice actor, gives a very well paced and clear performance of the text.
Max Tegmark can be profound, humourus and very honest.
A great book that furthers the understanding of the origin and future of our cosmos.
"An entertaining explanation of fascinating ideas."
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.
"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.
"The Big Issues"
Thoroughly enjoyed this attempt to explain existence and our future in it. Mathematics remarkable ability to describe reality even when it is describing something incomprehensible to our everyday experience gives the driving force to Tegmark's arguments. And he is very convincing. He covers infinities and computability as well as cosmology.
It's a deep book that old guard physicists make not like.
loved it.For a person with no real scientific background, I recommend being patient in the beginning. You will be rewarded for your patience.
"I'd pay extra for Shapiro"
The narrator Rob is absolutely excellent and has clearly read through the material first. I hope he carries on doing more. It would actually sway my decision to purchase another title.
I haven't finished the book yet so will update when I do - but at chapter 4 I am enthralled and engaged and thoroughly enjoying.
I usually bombard myself with lectures (yes, self inflicted - I am old enough to have left school with O levels and not bothered with much more that wasn't earning money.)
This narrative is kind of personal and he makes no apologies for that. Not in rude way but sets out his stall early doors that he is not going to try to "balance" his theories by reciting 10 others. It's actually quite refreshing.
Well written and well read.
Finally a book that isn't watered down but presents a complete succession of ideas without losing the reader. The narrative is clear and understandable whilst incredibly informative.
Contains many weird but well argued and explained ideas in mathematics and cosmology. Saves the best chapter for last. The last chapter is about artificial intelligence and the likelihood of it taking over. The book also discusses multiple potential threats to humanity, including extinction causing meteors, global warming, nuclear war and many others, and the fact that politicians seem not to care much about any of these threats. Politicians need to read this book.
As someone who reads many books in this sub-genre/topic, this is probably best I've read so far, followed by the 'Beginning of Infinity' by David Deutsch. The performance is very professional, and the book itself it just outstanding. It has a great balance between complex and simple physics theories and explanations, and it's the range of topics considered is unparalleled to my knowledge by any other book on this topic.
Fascinating and Inspiring book that will blow your mind. Complex concepts are beautifully explained. Highly recommended.
Audio editing needs reviewing as there are a few repeated sections on the first chapters
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