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Publisher's Summary

Where did the universe come from? What was there before it? What will the future bring? And finally, why is there something rather than nothing?

Krauss’ answers to these and other timeless questions, in a wildly popular lecture on YouTube, has attracted almost a million viewers. The last of these questions in particular has been at the center of religious and philosophical debates about the existence of God, and it’s the supposed counterargument to anyone who questions the need for God. Scientists have, however, historically focused on more pressing issues—such as figuring out how the universe actually functions, which could help us to improve our quality of life.

In this cosmological story that rivets as it enlightens, pioneering theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explains groundbreaking scientific advances that turn the most basic philosophical questions on their head. One of the few prominent scientists to have actively crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss reveals that modern science is indeed addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing—with surprising and fascinating results. The beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending theories are all described accessibly, and they suggest that not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing.

With his characteristic wry humor and clear explanations, Krauss takes us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting recent evidence for how our universe evolved—and the implications for how it will end. It will provoke, challenge, and delight listeners as it looks at the most basic underpinnings of existence in a whole new way. And this knowledge that our universe will be quite different in the future has profound consequences and directly affects how we live in the present. As Richard Dawkins described it, this could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for supernaturalism since Darwin.

©2012 Lawrence M. Krauss (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Nothing is not nothing. Nothing is something. That’s how a cosmos can be spawned from the void—a profound idea conveyed in A Universe from Nothing that unsettles some yet enlightens others. Meanwhile, it’s just another day on the job for physicist Lawrence Krauss.” (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History)

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If you are new to the subject, listen to it!

What did you love best about A Universe from Nothing?

Let me just say, this book is great! But if you (like me) have gone thru a few books on the subject, for example Stephen Hawkins and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design (A more extensive look into this subject) this one will not make you much cleverer. But it will not bore you, far from it.<br/><br/>If you have no prior knowledge on the details surrounding the subject this book offers you great new insight from the world of physics and cosmology on how the universe came to be from absolutely nothing. Let me offer you the short layman formula: First there was nothing but nothing happens to be unstable on the quantum level. This “unstableness” created something that we now know as the Big Bang. Sounds weird? Yes it does, and that is one of many side stories of this book: That the modern understanding of reality goes beyond what we humans might be able to understand, comprehend and prefere. A quote from the book summarize this in seven words: “The universe does not owe us comfort”. And perhaps that is true, but I assure any potential reader that this book will offer you awe and wonder about the nature of reality and perhaps a better understanding of what reality is - and what it is not.

58 of 66 people found this review helpful

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Makes you think!

I mostly read or listen to sci-fi/fantasy and leave getting my cosmology, quantum theory, and particle physics to the nice, digestible shows produced by Discovery, the History channel, and the like. I also really try not to use credits on something this short (less than 6 hours!)...but I'm glad I made an exception for this one. I'll admit I had to listen to the book twice (but enjoyed it both times), and that there are still some things this guy says that...I'll probably never comprehend, but wow...this book is interesting. The author also does the narration, which was actually good in this case - he's got this...sort of...animated, smart-alecky attitude combined with true passion and excitement for his work. I also like his attention to detail (or I should say attention to the right details - trying to cram all the details that went into this work would make a book like this completely inaccessible to someone like me) and his overall...take on science - that scientists don't know everything and how they should spend as much time trying to disprove their results as they do trying to prove them, etc.

Anyway - the book kind of brings you up to speed on where these guys are on figuring out...the universe, and presents some really interesting ideas on where everything came from (spoiler alert: it's in the title :P - but it's not that simple, trust me). If you're at all interested in the subject - get this book. Oh, and one final thing - Krauss doesn't say there isn't a god - just that there doesn't HAVE to be one - but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be able superimpose god over what's being presented here either [translated: if you believe in god, this isn't going to change your opinion]

20 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 04-05-13

Great Ideas

The author’s narration is completely excellent. The book moves quickly and seemed to have much more information than I would have expected from a relatively short work (5.5 hours). I really felt this had the content of something twice as long.

This book is packed with interesting ideas about how the universe might have evolved from nothingness. Note the all important “might”. This book is much, much less speculative than many popular physics books, nevertheless it is quite speculative, so should be enjoyed as mind broadening and definitely not science fact.

Most modern popular physics books share a common weakness. The authors are Relativists, String Theorist, Quantumists, or Informationists, but seldom crossover or generalists. Krauss is a relativist with a nod or two to quantum theory and virtually no string theory or information theory. This is a significant weakness. Relativists often cling to particles and continuums of space-time even though there is good reasons to believe both particles and all continuums merely observer phenomena.

I would recommend reading “The Trouble with Physics” before any other popular physics books.

Although the author is good at keeping the ideas interesting while (mildly) mentioning how much we don’t know, there is an afterword by Dawkins which was a bit science-thumping and I found to be a very weak ending.

34 of 40 people found this review helpful

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Pretty much a waste of time

If you are a physicist you already know all the details if you aren't you won't truly understand them just by reading this book. It would require years of education to distinguish for your self what is solid science and what is plausible theory. Deism offers plausible theory too. So why spend 11 chapters on the details of physics? My guess is to sound smart the way a preacher sounds holy, both to convince you they are right without a good argument. The book could be condensed down to 2 chapters but either way doesn't answer the real question any different or any better than a theologian. One says God is eternal and created something where there was nothing Krauss basically says quantum physics is eternal and created something out of nothing. Either way there was something even when this universe was noting and then something caused this universe to go from nothing to something. Basically something has always existed is some realm or dimension and caused this universe to exist, the question is was that something conscious?

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Reach Exceeds Grasp (Not Surprisingly)

The first 2/3 of this already short book are given to an overview of more or less recent developments in physics and cosmology, in preparation for the final 1/3, where at last the subject of the book's title is addressed. When the main arguments of the book do arrive, they turn out to be based on somewhat preliminary and speculative physics- very interesting, but nowhere near satisfying or convincing as an explanation of 'how something could arise from nothing.' Also, the author promises to show how the universe(s) could come into existence without 'preexisting' physical laws- his nothing plus ultra- but fails to actually do so. Honestly I would have been quite surprised and impressed if he had; but it illustrates the most frustrating aspect of the book, which is that it purports to sketch out a framework to obviate all manner of prime mover / first cause arguments, but fails pretty resoundingly to do so.

Still, thought provoking and worth reading. Author reads pretty well- sounds like Andersen Cooper!

60 of 78 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 08-17-12

Nothing is Impossible.

The book is short, simple and full of attitude.

'Nothing' is impossible. Just as 'nothing' goes faster than the speed of light (two galaxies far away from each other will recede from each other faster than speed of light), 'nothing' is unstable. Virtual particles will be created and there will be a violation of the second law of thermodynamics. He explains way better than I can and this short book is worth the listen.

The book explains how our understanding of space has been changing over time. They used to say space was a vacuum, then they would add something to the definition until finally they say that the fabric of space is teeming with vacuum energy and virtual particles are constantly being created and destroyed and dark energy floating around.

I'm a little bit puzzled why this book didn't make a bigger splash after it's publication. The author did such a good job at defending his view points. I guess, part of the problem is his view points on creation aren't mainstream. There is also the little problem of the biggest mismatch in all of science. The 10 to the 120th magnitude difference between what theory predicts and how much dark energy there really is.

The author is an exception to the rule that the author should never read his own book. He does a very good job.

The book is well explained, read and concise. Well worth the quick listen and will give you a good explanation for a possible explanation for our place in the universe.

19 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Great science writing, with a few flaws

This book is on the one hand a delight, and on the other hand a disappointment.

It's a lively and interesting look at current physics--or at least, physics as of 2011; developments have continued. Krauss gives us a clear, interesting, and compelling account of the current scientific understanding of how our universe came into existence, how matter and energy can come from nothing, and why such exotic concepts as dark matter are fundamental to understanding how this universe works the way it does and why we are even able to exist.

And if my references to "this universe" and "our universe" seem a bit strange, well, Krauss also describes why it's likely there's more than one universe.

This is all challenging material, and Krauss makes it worth the work to pay careful attention. That's a vital skill in a good science popularizer--and we need more good science popularizers. Children taught in school that science is a matter of rote memorization to pass a test are at far too high a risk of becoming adults who think science is a matter of belief and ideology--and that scientists are just being narrow-minded when they insist climate change is real, or that so-called "creation science" is simply, factually false, and not anything like real science. They will, in short, be at risk of becoming adults who think science is a liberal conspiracy out to undermine decent moral and religious values, and wreck our economy and way of life.

Where we run into trouble in this book is that Krauss thinks he has not not just make the science clear, but also make it clear that, in his mind, which he takes to be objective fact, of course you are totally free to believe in God, but "God" is completely unnecessary... He's far too polite, reasonable, and probably a totally nice guy, to say that only fools believe in God.

He doesn't seem to understand, as many other atheist or agnostic scientists do understand, that religion and science are not about the same things. (Granted, there are religious believers who make the same mistake, aided and abetted by poor quality science education in the schools.) No, Mr. Krauss, I don't need to know your views on God, or your views on my belief in God, to be a fascinated and receptive audience for your explication of the physics and cosmology you've devoted your professional life to doing such good work in. I'm not interested in what Christopher Hitchens had to say; if I were, I would read his books to find out, not yours. There's no need to quote him repeatedly in a books I'm reading because I want to know about the physics and cosmology you're writing about.

Seriously.

Now, I do need to say that there was not so much of this stuff that it prevented me from enjoying the book and learning from it. And I'm well aware that what annoyed me will make this book more attractive to some readers. If so, great! Enjoy! I don't write these reviews to discourage anyone from reading something they'll enjoy. My hope is, in fact, that even if you disagree with my judgments, you'll still be able to recognize in my reviews books you'll enjoy even if I dislike them, and books you won't enjoy even if I love them.

In any case, I did enjoy A Universe From Nothing. I just would have enjoyed it a bit more if he'd stayed on topic better.

So, on the whole, recommended.

I bought this book.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • st paul, MN, United States
  • 09-24-12

Makes you think!

I mostly read or listen to sci-fi/fantasy and leave getting my cosmology, quantum theory, and particle physics to the nice, digestible shows produced by Discovery, the History channel, and the like. I also really try not to use credits on something this short (less than 6 hours!)...but I'm glad I made an exception for this one. I'll admit I had to listen to the book twice (but enjoyed it both times), and that there are still some things this guy says that...I'll probably never comprehend, but wow...this book is interesting. The author also does the narration, which was actually good in this case - he's got this...sort of...animated, smart-alecky attitude combined with true passion and excitement for his work. I also like his attention to detail (or I should say attention to the right details - trying to cram all the details that went into this work would make a book like this completely inaccessible to someone like me) and his overall...take on science - that scientists don't know everything and how they should spend as much time trying to disprove their results as they do trying to prove them, etc.

Anyway - the book kind of brings you up to speed on where these guys are on figuring out...the universe, and presents some really interesting ideas on where everything came from (spoiler alert: it's in the title :P - but it's not that simple, trust me). If you're at all interested in the subject - get this book. Oh, and one final thing - Krauss doesn't say there isn't a god - just that there doesn't HAVE to be one - but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be able superimpose god over what's being presented here either [translated: if you believe in god, this isn't going to change your opinion]

16 of 23 people found this review helpful

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Amazing!

Narrated by Krause himself, this book this book explains so much about how our universe works. After listening to it I feel both humbled and inspired to learn more. You might want to go back and listen to a few difficult topics again but this book is definitely worth a listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Incredible

A wonderful look into the deepest structures of our universe, to which Dr. Krauss then expands upon these irrevocable facts to skew just how we get what we have today from what was ultimately the nothing of before...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful