What is time?
This deceptively simple question is the single most important problem facing science as we probe more deeply into the fundamentals of the universe. All of the mysteries physicists and cosmologists face - from the Big Bang to the future of the universe, from the puzzles of quantum physics to the unification of forces and particles - come down to the nature of time.
The fact that time is real may seem obvious. You experience it passing every day when you watch clocks tick, bread toast, and children grow. But most physicists, from Newton to Einstein to today's quantum theorists, have seen things differently. The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable. That is why the consequences of adopting the view that time is real are revolutionary.
Lee Smolin, author of the controversial best seller The Trouble with Physics, argues that a limited notion of time is holding physics back. It's time for a major revolution in scientific thought. The reality of time could be the key to the next big breakthrough in theoretical physics.
What if the laws of physics themselves were not timeless? What if they could evolve? Time Reborn offers a radical new approach to cosmology that embraces the reality of time and opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. There are few ideas that, like our notion of time, shape our thinking about literally everything, with huge implications for physics and beyond - from climate change to the economic crisis. Smolin explains in lively and lucid prose how the true nature of time impacts our world.
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Letting the rest of the world go by
There is not a wasted concept in this book. The author explains everything you need to understand about time and why he thinks it is real and how modern physics has taken it out of the equation. He starts with defining mathematics as the study of the unchanging. Math (in the Platonic/Western Thought way) is how how we sneak timelessness into our way of thinking about the universe. The Newtonian paradigm adds to taking time out of the equation by the way we always must consider a subset of the universe as a whole and we are the observers and we create the time, but the part under study never covers the whole universe. Time is external to that which is under study.
The author explains "Boltzman's Brain" so that I finally understand what it means and why it's important, he explains entropy, entanglement, the standard model and Einstein's General relativity and how they relate to how we take time out of the model.
This book will forever change the way I think about time. I think it is probably the best of all the 50 or so astrophysics/cosmology/physics books I've read and reviewed over the last 2 years.
I highly recommend listening to this book. The narrator knew exactly when to have the mocking laugh, the inflection and so on. I suspect the author worked with the narrator to make the presentation that flawless.
(p.s. At the core of this book lurks the question "why is there something instead of nothing". I just listened to Holt's book "Why does the world exist". It's mostly a philosophical book, but both this book and that book do complement each other and would make and excellent summer read).
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
Smolin is brilliant and an excellent writer. I really enjoyed, appreciated, and mostly agreed with his hypotheses in his The Trouble with Physics. Time Reborn is a good book and well worth the read. The narration is expressive and excellent. The first half of Time Reborn is a particularly well written account of why Smolin feels Time should be reborn. The second half of the book is more technical, less well written, quite speculative, and has weak foundations that seems to render the main conclusions invalid.
I think the fundamental weakness is the author’s self-limitation by acceptance of quite a few false dichotomies. The most important of these false dichotomies is regarding Bell’s Theorem. Smolin says Bell’s Theorem proves quantum theory must be non-local. This is not so. Bell’s Theorem proves that no local theory can explain quantum correlations. There could be some novel theories that are neither local nor non-local and are able to explain quantum correlations without violation of Bell’s theorem. Accepting this false dichotomy leads Smolin down a chain of reasoning culminating in a rejection of the relativity of synchronicity.
The second dichotomy I found invalid is any theory without time must yield a deterministic world that would necessarily have fixed laws, fixed constants, fixed particles, would lack novelty, and would be a stranglehold upon thought. All this is ridiculous. It is quite easy to imagine non-Newtonian deterministic theories without time that allow constants and particles to evolve deterministically with causation as a time-like partial ordering. Such a universe would seem as open and novel to an observer as any open universe.
Smolin kind of explains why giving up the relativity of synchronicity is really not a good idea, then tosses it out anyway. This seems really unwise and weakens his ideas depending upon elimination of this well tested feature of special relativity.
I had a number of other minor nits with this book. Smolin, who should know better, called non-locally in QM an “effect”. There is no non-local quantum effect (that would transmit information from the cause), but instead there is a subtle influence, incapable of transmitting information of any kind.
Another nit, but still annoying, Smolin describes the path of a thrown object as a parabola. Not so, it is an elliptical segment; which becomes clear if one imagines what would happen if the path continued without hitting the Earth, going into orbit (not flying off parabolically into space.)
I agreed strongly with Smolin’s trouble with physics, and that trouble almost certainly involves a fundamental invalid assumption we are making. Dragging back the theory of universal time seems very unlikely resolve this invalid assumption issue, since that old theory, until recently, was held by almost everyone, and has been extremely well examined.
Smolin also seems to contend that questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing” are outside the scope of scientific questions. I instead like Hawking’s quote from In A Brief History of Time “if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."
This book is just beautiful! It can be a little hard to follow in the beginning but Mr. Smolin does a great job connecting different authors, various theories and explaining some seriously complicated science stuff into simple words to make your jaw drop by the end of the book.
This book is not only scientific but also very philosophic. In fact, this work was born from a series of conversations and discussions with Brazilian philosopher/ex-minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Smolin's long time colleague.
Your head will spin with ideas that time isn't real, and then it's real again, and then space isn't what you think it is, and dimensions are dynamic, entropy will eat you alive, etc, etc. It sounds a little overwhelming and confusing but it's not... Well... The book is complex but it's so brilliantly wrapped up in the end that I actually felt pretty brilliant for understanding it - when I know that the reality is that the author is fantastic!
Summing up: This book is gonna make you feel dumb, smart, worthless, special, godlike, powerless and, in the end, very human, since neither our lives nor our Universe is perfect, or stable, static and unchangeable. And this is actually what makes The Universe - and our lives - quite interesting. =)
I have a science background and I am fascinated with epistemology.
The author is one of the leaders in the physics community today. He provides very detailed discussions of many of the important topics. If you have lots of time, and enjoy ingenious discussions of of important and sometime controversial topics in physics and/or philosophy performed by a less than enthusiastic reader , you should take it on. Dr. Smolin seems to believe that the scientific method and democracy, can save the planet. History would not seem to support this. He believes that the qualia of psychologists are real, and not manifestations of recursive, highly integrated information carried out by the biochemistry of the brain as demonstrated by frequency modulated MRI. Overall I found it stimulating.
No - see below
Smolin makes really great books and he knows how to deliver his points. very educational, provocative and relevant as ever. Tries to push our current theories to the next level
I am no fan of Sean Pratt. He has a beautiful and almost flawless voice but in my opinion this is where he fails. Wonderful in the first 15 minuets but then he simple becomes too monotone and his constant reuse of the same short melody or telling technique over and over and over... quickly makes in very difficult to really listen and not drift away. No true emotions and no soul. Like the elevator music you do not want to be caught on between two floors.
Shame for me, as we seem to like the same books. In none fiction literature I think Edward Herrmann or William Roberts stand out, and the difference is simply that I believe they are telling me the story, and a story they themselves believe in... unlike Pratt, he seem like a machine reading a script. Sure he tries, but he never quite leaves the uncanny valley. Sadly, whatever the none-fiction book may be, I cannot recommend it if Pratt narrates.
(i sound bitter, and I apologize for this but he keeps me from many of my favorite books)
Time Reborn by Lee SmolinI vehemently agreed with what Les Smolin had to say in his last book, Trouble with Physic. In my humble opinion, I think this book goes a step further, it is a milestone of its own right. Even though many of the ideas Smolin is arguing in Time Reborn, are hopefully, not labeled as speculative challenges, L. S. offers to an unaware reader, a head spinning and entertaining way to look and reconsider the notion of TIME in Physic. In reassessing what we know, thought and told about time. Just being a humans tool, to measure events and by being a figment of our imagination. Without time we would not be able to measure, the speed of a photon. I got to confess this book flow well, but I will need to re-listen it again. Please LS write more books Rgds Luigi P Porcu
I like the way Lee write and his mental process to dissect and postulate his belief
Sean is an excellent reader
Most certainly not. Due to the nature of the subject, this book certainly deserve more than reading or listening
Lee, please write more books, for the non scientist at large
"Exciting and surprisingly clear"
For a complex science book, this is beautifully read, and well-paced. The first part, in which Smolin describes just exactly how time has been removed from physics ever since the Enlightenment, and what problems this creates, is superb. Even if one knows much of it already, the clarity of his presentation is wonderful.
As to his solution - the reintroduction of time as fundamental - in the second part, it is not so good. There is so much material in contemporary physics, so many theories and so much complexity that he cannot avoid getting bogged down in uninspired detail. As for his epilogue, it is just loopy in the extreme. But one must forgive him, for the brilliance of the first part.
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