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Michael

Walnut Creek, CA, United States
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  • Reality Is Not What It Seems

  • The Journey to Quantum Gravity
  • By: Carlo Rovelli, Simon Carnell - translator, Erica Segre - translator
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 984
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 896
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 887

What are time and space made of? Where does matter come from? And what exactly is reality? Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has spent his whole life exploring these questions and pushing the boundaries of what we know. Here he explains how our image of the world has changed over the last few dozen centuries.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Most compelling physics book in at least 10 years!

  • By Kyle on 02-03-17

Weak

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

This was close to the shortest books I am willing to pay a full credit for. It seems a normal sized book has been broken up into multiple parts.

This book starts with yet another very brief retelling of historical progress in physics. This covers nearly half of the book. This section touches on many of the stories covered in other history of modern physics, but covers them less deeply and somewhat less compellingly.

It then goes on to a very basic description of the basis of Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG).

My biggest nit with this book, as I have with many popular physics books, is the lack of a section addressing the weaknesses of the theory being presented along with the author's responses. When physicists leave this out they are essentially pulling the wool over the eyes of their reader and simply self promoting.

The author points out deficiencies of string theory (which are many), but not really LQG.

The author points out that LQG has many attributes that seem to me to be heading in the correct direction including eliminating infinities, background independence/purely relativistic, emergent (as opposed to fundamental) time and space. and being purely discrete. All of these features seem likely to be good things for a theory to have. Nevertheless there are weaknesses not mentioned by the author. Primarily that LQG currently does not lead to the results of General Relativity as a macroscopic limit. This is a rather large deficiency for a rather narrow theory focusing only on combining General Relativity and QM.. When the author points to possible experimental confirmations in the future, he hedges with LQG *may* be able to calculate values for eventual predictions. This is not yet clear. Of course, LQG is still much closer to predictions than is String Theory, but that is not saying very much.

I also question the author's assumption that the universe must be fundamentally random. As Bell points out the de Broglie-Bohm formulation of QM does not require randomness, thus assuming randomness seems dubious.

In general I am dubious that the narrow focus of LQG is likely to be successful. There are a large handful of open issues in physics which LQG is unlikely to address. I suspect that a successful generalizing theory will involve a larger fundamental change in underlying assumptions and will address, at least a few, of these open issues.

The narration is very good, especially considering the challenging material.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Inexplicable Space

  • By: Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Narrated by: Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Length: 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33

Scientists have made astounding progress in their grasp of the universe. But what remains to be understood? Investigate some perplexing aspects of space that science has uncovered in the last half-century. Learn about the mysterious trajectory of the Pioneer spacecraft (known as the “Pioneer anomaly”). Explore two of the longest-standing problems in astrophysics: dark matter and dark energy. And even try to map the shape of space-time.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • great short lecture

  • By EmilyK on 03-29-18

Well worth the price (free)

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

This is short but much less trivial than I thought it would be.
Only 32 minutes so what is covered is covered briefly.

Briefly covered are several unsolved problems of modern cosmology.

The first issue (The Pioneer Deceleration Anomaly) was resolved after this production and was found to be anisotropic radiation pressure of heat loss from the radioisotope generators. Thus no longer a mystery.

Dark Matter and Dark Energy are discussed. Tyson points out these are somewhat meaningless names as we don't actually know much of anything about these effects. He suggests calling them Fred and Barney.

This was short, out of date, and not very enlightening, but not at all bad

The narration was completely clear and high energy, but was a little too bombastic for my taste.

  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

  • By: Carlo Rovelli
  • Narrated by: Carlo Rovelli
  • Length: 1 hr and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 708
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 628
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 628

In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides listeners with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the 20th and 21st centuries. This playful, entertaining, and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already a major best seller in Italy, explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great book for the scientifically curious

  • By Brad Yeary on 03-25-16

Short but Sweet

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

I read "Reality is not what it seems" first and was not overly impressed. I really hesitated using a credit for a 1.75 hour selection from an author I found dubious. I got it anyway and was glad I did. This is a very good introduction to some of the key deep issues in physics. These are not basic F=MA physics lessons. These are lessons to get you thinking about what is next in physics. When finished with this book, I immediately started it again and added "The Order of Time" to my library. "The Order of Time" is an even better book, but this book should be read first to prime one's mental pump.

This is the first science book I have recommended to my adult daughter (and I have read a lot of science books). I also recommended to her "The Order of Time" (an even better book). It will be interesting to hear what she thinks of those two books.

The author does have an accent that caused me to rewind a couple of times, but he is very clear and reads with great heart.

  • The Order of Time

  • By: Carlo Rovelli
  • Narrated by: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Length: 4 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,374
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,258
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,241

In lyric, accessible prose, Carlo Rovelli invites us to consider questions about the nature of time that continue to puzzle physicists and philosophers alike. For most listeners, this is unfamiliar terrain. We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it appears. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where, at the most fundamental level, time disappears.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Brain Workout With A Great Narrator

  • By Raymond on 05-15-18

Best Physics Book in a Long Time

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

This is a very good discussion of time. which approaches time from philosophical, scientific, poetical, and personal perspectives.

Although one of the best physics books I have read in a long time, the author still is inconsistent with his language about particles and entropy. He also jumps around a bit on the concept of Time, but eventually comes around to a clear and consistent viewpoint (such jumping around is understandable for a book considering Time). He does not reach such clear ideas regarding entropy and particles. On entropy he sometimes seems to think it is relative to the observer and variables being considered (which it is, in the classical sense well described by Penrose) but he also points out the fundamental importance of low-entropy to the universe (for doing any work). He never really bridges this gap - and he seems to know this is a weakness of this part of his considerations. He also sometimes has a purely relative and events-only outlook but then describes particles as appearing then...something. He seems clear the wave function is not real, but he seems unable to describe what he thinks IS real.

Rovelli also does not address the "spooky action at a distance" aspect of QM which should have be integral to this consideration.

Finally Rovelli assumes QM randomness is fundamental. This is a questionable assumption given, as Bell points out, in the de Broglie Bohm formulation of QM the apparent randomness is actually due to unknowable non-local events. Not to mention is the history of science randomness has always been due to a lack of our detailed knowledge of underlying details.

Nevertheless, these are relatively minor nits and this is one of the most coherent presentations of the subtle issues of modern physics including, but not limited to, Time. I have already listened to this twice and will likely listen to it several more times.

I recommend reading Penrose's Cycles of Time before reading this book as Rovelli's descriptions only very briefly describes the basics of entropy (which is trickly and important).

The narration by Cumberbatch is completely excellent, reading the complex material very well and expressing the passion and poetry I believe the author intended.

  • Fifth Business

  • The Deptford Trilogy, Book 1
  • By: Robertson Davies
  • Narrated by: Marc Vietor
  • Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 511
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 466
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 462

This first novel in The Deptford Trilogy introduces Ramsay, a man who returns from World War I decorated with the Victoria Cross but who is destined to be caught in a no man's land where memory, history, and myth collide. As we hear Ramsey tell his story, we begin to realize that, from childhood, he has influenced those around him in a perhaps mystical, perhaps pernicious way.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Been waiting for this

  • By Vinity on 12-10-11

Canadian Gem

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

This is one of the pleasant surprises found by going through lists of "great books". I had not heard of the author or the book. I really enjoyed this book a lot. The writing is subtle and excellent, mixing in themes of religion and spirituality, Jung and Erikson archetypes, and fate versus free will. The story is revealed through an introspective letter from an older adult retelling his life. There is a lot of humor, explicit and subtle and very subtle. I particularly enjoyed the multiple levels that kept influencing the story. The smooth writing along with this gentle shifting makes this a truly great read.

I would recommend this to most readers and will likely read it again.

I appreciated the narration which is completely clear, and expresses the extraordinary subtle humor and the quirky perspective of the narrator.

  • Cutting for Stone

  • A Novel
  • By: Abraham Verghese
  • Narrated by: Sunil Malhotra
  • Length: 23 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,220
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,385
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,391

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics - their passion for the same woman - that will tear them apart.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant story, pitch perfect narration

  • By Mary Lynn Richardson on 03-20-09

Highly Praised, Less than I Expected

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

This book was both highly rated and has stellar Audible reviews, and I thought it was good, but did not find it great. It seemed to me predictable and lacked depth. It was fine writing, with good characters, but it felt a bit like it was for adolescents, not mature adults. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but it was less than I had hoped given the fantastic reviews. I was never really surprised, and don't think I ever laughed or teared up. The medical details were mildly interesting, and the Ethiopian history might have been interesting if I did not know it.

The narration was excellent, very clear and expressing the subdued emotions of the novel very well.

Shane audiobook cover art
  • Shane

  • By: Jack Schaefer
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 4 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 254
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 216

Shane, the traveller and ex-gunfighter, a mysterious gunman who enters into the life of Joe Starrett and his family and carves a place for himself in their hearts. Although he tries to leave his gunslinging past behind, refusing to even carry a gun, he decides to fight Fletcher and Wilson, the town enemies, in order to save Joe Starrett’s farm.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • typical coming of age western

  • By Laura on 04-01-12

I wish I read this 40 years ago

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-18

I generally don't like westerns novels, and growing up I never cared for western movies, but this was a big exception. I did not care about the movie, but loved this book.

With the first chapter I had (multiple times) alternately laughed out loud and misted up. I really enjoyed the writing, the characters, the narration, the story, the beginning, the middle, and the ending. I only wish it was longer. I very, very, rarely regret anything, yet I do wish I had read this many years ago, so I could have re-read it now and over the years. I will definitely re-read this one.

Grover is one of my favorite narrators and he perfectly narrates Shane.

  • The Manhattan Project

  • By: Edward T. O'Donnell
  • Narrated by: Edward T. O'Donnell
  • Length: 29 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 31
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 27

The origins of the atomic bomb go back to 1939, when scientists and military leaders undertook an operation to create the world's first successful atomic weapon before the Nazis could. Investigate how the Manhattan Project began, and follow its legacy through the bombing of two Japanese cities that ended World War II.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very i teresti g

  • By treebeard on 12-07-18

OK...worth the price (free)

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-18

I added a bunch of the free The Great Courses lectures to my reading list.
This was one of them. Overall the lectures were mildly interesting and worth the price (free).
These free lectures are single lectures from longer series of lectures and often refer to other material in other lectures.
All of these were too short to be very useful. These are also all in lecture format (as opposed to book format). For me the lecture format is harder to absorb than book format.

This one briefly covered the Manhattan Project and the creation of the Atom Bomb. This was one of the least interesting of the lectures I tried. There are many interesting stories surrounding the Manhattan project but this lecture was narrow and largely boring.

  • What Truth Sounds Like

  • Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
  • By: Michael Eric Dyson
  • Narrated by: Michael Eric Dyson
  • Length: 6 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 430
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 389
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 385

This audiobook exists at the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy - of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Riffing on a meeting with RFK and James Baldwin

  • By Adam Shields on 06-08-18

A few interesting parts and a lot of tedium

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-18

I added this to my list after listening to Chris Matthews' (slightly disappointing) RFK book. This book has two focuses. The first is a meeting between RFK and James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Clarence Jones, Lena Horne, Lorraine Hansberry, Jerome Smith, Edwin Berry, Kenneth Clark, June Shagaloff, and Rip Torn.

The bit about this meeting was interesting (even though the writing was a bit boring). RFK was deeply surprised and angered by the intensity and passion of the black participants' refusal to accept the status quo or gradual progress and the willingness of these, otherwise reasonable seeming, artist to take up guns, now, to fight for their rights.

The book did not really go on to follow the transformation (if any) the meeting stimulated in RFK.

The rest of the book is a somewhat odd review of various black celebrities somehow related to black empowerment. Some are lauded, some are denigrated, some both. I found much of this part tedious.

The book ends with a celebration of Wakanda (the fictional Black Panther country). This also seemed odd to me, as Wakanda is a fiction being promoted by an exploitive, for profit, corporation.

The narration by the author is OK, but the intensity of the reading did not make up for the lack of focus of the writing.

  • Being a Poor Roman

  • By: Robert Garland
  • Narrated by: Robert Garland
  • Length: 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 26
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 23
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 25

Put yourself into the world of Rome’s plebian class. This lecture takes you to the leaky, rat-infested housing where the urban poor suffered from disease and malnutrition, and you’ll experience the threat of fire that hung over Rome in the 1st century A.D. You’ll also get a glimpse of what sustained the day-to-day life of the poor.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting lecture

  • By EmilyK on 11-22-18

OK...worth the price (free)

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-04-18

I added a bunch of the free The Great Courses lectures to my reading list.
This was one of them. Overall the lectures were mildly interesting and worth the price (free).
These free lectures are single lectures from longer series of lectures and often refer to other material in other lectures.
All of these were too short to be very useful. These are also all in lecture format (as opposed to book format). For me the lecture format is harder to absorb than book format.

This lecture was a very brief overview of the life of a poor roman. I had already read a lot about Rome and find integrated history much easier to absorb than topic histories.