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Publisher's Summary

Instant New York Times best seller

A Science News Favorite Science Book of 2019

As you listen to these words, copies of you are being created. Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and one of this world’s most celebrated writers on science, rewrites the history of 20th-century physics. Already hailed as a masterpiece, Something Deeply Hidden shows for the first time that facing up to the essential puzzle of quantum mechanics utterly transforms how we think about space and time. His reconciling of quantum mechanics with Einstein’s theory of relativity changes, well, everything. Most physicists haven’t even recognized the uncomfortable truth: Physics has been in crisis since 1927.

Quantum mechanics has always had obvious gaps - which have come to be simply ignored. Science popularizers keep telling us how weird it is, how impossible it is to understand. Academics discourage students from working on the "dead end" of quantum foundations. Putting his professional reputation on the line with this audacious yet entirely reasonable audiobook, Carroll says that the crisis can now come to an end. We just have to accept that there is more than one of us in the universe. There are many, many Sean Carrolls. Many of every one of us.

Copies of you are generated thousands of times per second. The Many Worlds Theory of quantum behavior says that every time there is a quantum event, a world splits off with everything in it the same, except in that other world, the quantum event didn't happen. Step-by-step in Carroll's uniquely lucid way, he tackles the major objections to this otherworldly revelation until his case is inescapably established.

Rarely does a book so fully reorganize how we think about our place in the universe. We are on the threshold of a new understanding - of where we are in the cosmos, and what we are made of.

©2019 Sean Carroll (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"What makes Carroll's new project so worthwhile, though, is that while he is most certainly choosing sides in the debate, he offers us a cogent, clear and compelling guide to the subject while letting his passion for the scientific questions shine through every page." (NPR)

“Carroll argues with a healthy restlessness that makes his book more interesting than so many others in the quantum physics genre.” (Forbes)

"Something Deeply Hidden is Carroll’s ambitious and engaging foray into what quantum mechanics really means and what it tells us about physical reality." (Science Magazine)

What listeners say about Something Deeply Hidden

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The Best Layperson Book on Quantum Physics

The only bad thing about this book is the title- It should really just be called "Understanding Quantum Physics". I have read several books on the subject before and have always been disappointed by the confused explanations found in popular books on this subject. This book is categorically better than any previous book I've encountered.

The first three chapters are key: Chapter 1 explains why this stuff is so damn confusing and why the usual explanations are so unsatisfying. Chapter 2 then describes the bare-metal math of quantum physics (the Schrödinger equation) and explains the ramifications of this formula when all other complexities are stripped away, so you can really understand "what's going on". Chapter 3 then recontextualizes the history of quantum theory, all the personalities and experiments of the 20th Century, in light of the Schrödinger equation. This ordering is so smart, because this theory was conceived through a series of haphazard scientific discoveries that really need to be discussed separately from the theory itself, and Dr. Carroll's book does this brilliantly.

After these initial sections, the book dives into more cutting-edge, speculative ideas, which are also a great read- But in my opinion, the early sections of this book are the main attraction & are a great read for anyone interested in science.

71 people found this helpful

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Good introduction to MultiWorld...but

This is largely a high level explanation and defense of Everett's Universal Wavefunction (aka Multiworlds). The first and primary argument is that since all other interpretations of QM involve the wave function, then a theory that postulates nothing more than the wave function better satisfies Occam's razor than any other, more complicated, theory. There are a number of subtle issues with this logic. Firstly, although the wave function is a part of all QM interpretations, it is generally regarded as a calculation tool, not an element of reality. The wave function is used in computing results but fundamentally can not be measured.

I, and others dubious of MW, agree that IF one accepts the WF as REAL, then MW is the obvious final result. Nevertheless there is no evidence the WF is actually real. Carroll refers to assuming MW from the reality of the WF as Austere QM.

I don't find this logic Austere at all. The WF is, itself, is not purely quantum. Indeed the WF is very non-quantum involving multiple continuums, including a complex continuum, along with countless degrees of freedom. This is hardly Austere as implied by Carroll's argument. Only very late in the book does Carroll admit the dark side of the WF, infinite degrees of freedom, unexpected infinities, and inherently classical underpinnings. MW does not really add anything useful to QM and seems to become a theory of anything.

Carroll spends a chapter demonstrating that MW is consistent with the statistics of the world we experience, but his arguments depend on limited branching - without ever explaining when, if ever, branching happens. Much later he admits that how and when and how much branching occurs is completely unknown. If branching is infinite (which it seems to be) Carroll's MW statistical arguments all become invalid.

Carroll examines a few other QM interpretations but does not include Smolin's Causal Sets (or other relational QM theories) which seems much more likely, actually IS Austere, is completely discrete, and is without classical underpinnings.

The last I checked, MW was the most popular interpretation of QM and its popularity was growing.
I was certainly was not convinced and found the author did not really present counter arguments to MW thoroughly or well.

The narration was excellent.

45 people found this helpful

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For Sale: Many Worlds, Gently Used

Dr Carroll is our generation’s preeminent physics explainer. He does not disappoint in this latest book. In particular, his vector analogy of the wave function - wherein measurements we can make (position, velocity, etc.) are as vector components of the sum total of reality at any given moment - is very satisfying. Sean pulls off similar magic in elucidating “random” radioactive decay as our measured view of what is really a *deterministic* evolution of superposed un-decayed plus decayed wave function states. Ironically, there is a lot of poetry in what Dr Carroll refers to as austere quantum mechanics, or AQM.

AQM is Dr Carroll’s quick re-branding of Many Worlds. None of this re-branding or wonderful explanation, however, has me convinced of the Many Worlds interpretation. This is because I believe there is a better explanation. Dr Carroll does compare Many Worlds to other theories here, and I do agree Many Worlds is indeed superior to the other theories presented in this book. But he does not consider theories for which the wave function is neither ontologically real, *nor* epistemic, which are nevertheless complete in themselves. In particular, Relational Quantum Mechanics (RQM) asks us to consider quantum interactions (measurements) as real, such that the wave function is relegated to a “theoretical account of the way distinct physical systems affect one another when they interact (and not of the way physical systems ‘are’)” [Laudisa, Federico and Rovelli, Carlo, "Relational Quantum Mechanics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy].

In the end, walking away from this book without the Many Worlds is ok. Dr Carroll was never really selling them anyway. He only ever wanted us to take this journey with him, and take it seriously. And that I would do many, many times over.

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Excellent and thorough for non scientists

I've listened to at least a dozen books on particle physics, astrophysics, and quantum theory. Sean Carroll is by far the most thorough without being esoteric. He does not skip over explanations of complex material. Every time you think to yourself "but why" or "how does that happen" the next words he speaks are addressing those thoughts.

His narration is excellent. The pace is also perfect. It's fast enough to not become boring, but deliberate enough so you have time to absorb the concepts being discussed.

I am not a scientist and do not have a favorite among quantum theories, so I was not bothered by the fact that this book openly advocates for the many worlds interpretation. Carroll spends a good deal of time describing other theories as well as the critiques of many worlds.

15 people found this helpful

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Shut up and calculate

"I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics."
- Richard Feynman

"Shut up and calculate."
- David Mermin

"Sweet is by convention, bitter by convention, cold by convention, color by convention; in truth there are only atoms and the void."
- Democritus

As an enthusiast, I love physics. I think there is something in my brain that associates the bleeding edge of physics with poetry and art. I'm not the only one. Authors like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy are constantly using physics as a springboard into literary ideas and explorations. I think one of the big connections between theoretical physics and literature is the fact that both seek to explain the world through imagery and metaphor. Physics are hard science's poets.

Sean Carrol does a fantastic job of describing the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) as initially suggested by Hugh Everett. The entire price of admission to this book was paid when I discovered in this book that Hugh Everett is the father of EELS' lead singer and song-writer Mark Oliver Everett (also known as E). Talk about convergence.

Anyway, the book was well written, carefully laid out, and like other topics I've flirted with (Knot theory), I'm pretty sure I just walked off with a pip of knowledge, but I'll keep coming back to the damn fruit of the tree of knowledge.

7 people found this helpful

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Boggle

Mr Carroll has left no stone unturned in his analysis of the 'difficult' roots of quantum mechanics. His smooth style carries you along his lucid stream of explanation. I am on my third listening. His dissertation on the structure of Hilbert spaces via the example of spins & q-bits is tremendous. As for the deeply hidden secret, well, this was known several generations ago. It's just that very few like the implication : the many worlds interpretation of measurement instances. I hadn't known that this a straightforward consequence of the simplest set of axioms. Entanglement now sounds so obvious, not forgetting especially the experimental work of Mr Aspect who verified the musings of Mr Bell. The universe really works that way. How amazing is that !

Oh, and did you know that the Earth orbiting around the Sun generates a mere 200 Watts of power in gravitational waves ? Or that a moving body may lose kinetic energy by emitting light, and by doing so it doesn't slow down but loses mass as per E/c^2 ! These are two of many lovely snippets scattered within the text.

One point of sociology within the physics community : those who prod and poke at these base areas of quantum mechanics are viewed with at least mild disdain. We are very lucky to have Mr Carroll on the job and reporting back to us from this 'mystical' frontier. For me he is right up there with Mr Feynman for quality of communication.

A soft warning though : you'd best have no distractions while listening, as it would be a shame to miss the finer points. A quiet, dark room would be ideal.

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An honest and humble look at fundamental physics

Couldn't stop listening when I started. The most honest description of physics I've heard In a while. Also really nice to atlast get a physics book on something new and not just rehashing the same old stories

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Something Deeply Boring

I read Carroll's previous two books; very good. He's been a good teacher, up to this point. This book is almost supernatural in effort.

First of all, a Quantum Field must include a "probability" outcome. Once any field can be measured as 99% predictable it loses its "quantum" denotation. In the Light-Speed Universe, our giant universe, life is 99.9...% deterministic. Subatomic particles are not making decisions of free-will; like water they are simply choosing the path of least resistance.

"Effective Physics" looks at the consequence of actions. Subatomic particles aren't quantum, they simply moving too fast for humans to measure exactly; thus probability is the best measurement. Effectively however, they are producing deterministic outcomes. Just because humans can't measure something doesn't mean the coordinates aren't there.

There is only one true quantum field; it is the human being (or other free-will species in the universe). Free-will lends itself to irrational actions. Look at the people around you or in the mirror. Subatomic particles are not making irrational decisions. They aren't acting rational either.

Humanity will never be measured with certainty, far from there; we can only use probability to predict the future.

Einstein probably discovered the most important axiom ever; light speed is the universal speed limit (or Causality Principle of Special Relativity). Sad, Einstein didn't relate light speed with the unique velocities of the human universe; there are countless relative unique speed limits (all slower than light speed). These are the "many worlds". He could have explained to all of us the relative dangers of chasing light speed or living in debt away from balance (no such thing as surplus). Go too fast you start going backwards. Instead he ventured into meaningless endeavors.

Carroll's book is a meaningless endeavor. It's a meaningless endeavor to chase every nook and cranny in the universe only to find out effectively you already knew what you were chasing. Instead you should be at home teaching the world how to live within the laws of physics. At the same time; I guess we still need people to chase meaningless endeavors.

Balance is the ultimate human velocity and impossible to sustain. Instead we are all burdened by debt mostly of our own choosing. A photon may act similarly given the free-will to decide. More-perfect-balance requires more-certain behaviors. Humans constantly try to violate the laws of physics and find themselves in heaps of debt (some debt is only seen by the debtor and the Creator). But if we didn't have debt, we wouldn't be human. RDST

Note: I hear this term, "quantum computer". That's a misnomer; instead it is a computer that computes equations with certainty when before this computer existed these equations could only be solved with probability. The solution was always there; only now are computers so fast they can compute them with certainty. Perhaps it is time find a new term; that which can only be measured in probability? As science moves on, as computers get faster, human free-will may become the last probability standing (there's a book).

6 people found this helpful

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Much like the quantum foam, I am abuzz

I love that this was narrated by Sean Carroll himself as it ensures that you get his desired emphasis and intonations with every sentence.

Whether you have no existing quantum mechanics knowledge, support the Copenhagen interpretation, or perhaps one of the other approaches like Loop Quantum Gravity, you'll find that this book provides you with lots of good brain food to chew on. Honestly I have already listened to some chapters more than four times just to really ponder some of the points he makes and I'll likely listen to it in its entirety at least three times - so definitely money well spent for me.

Professor Carroll is doing us all a favor here by (quite literally) speaking so elegantly on the foundations and meanings of quantum mechanics. For too long the status quo in quantum has been "shut up and calculate" and this book aims to change that. Every significant technology wave in human history has come from finding a deeper understanding or insight of (often times) mundane or known concepts (e.g. thinking deeper on the speed of light led to relativity). Quantum mechanics has already provided society with so much in terms of technology... for us to sit idly by and accept a partial understanding of the topic while allowing those entrenched in the field to push the "shut up and calculate" mentality is really kneecapping progress.

Get started on your next book Sean!

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Very interesting

I didn't follow everything but I only have a BS in Physics. Each time I listen I understand more.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-15-19

Super position of all relevant texts.

Great work! Sean Carroll recording it himself was important to me. Would have lost interest quickly if it was in the voice of some random speaker who could'nt care less about quantum waves and field theory. Thank you!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-02-19

Easy to understand. Great narrating.

So much information packed into each chapter. Carroll explains concepts well. Flows like a story with bolstering physics theories and formulae. will listen again.

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  • D R.
  • 03-15-21

Sean Carroll is very knowledgeable, I am not

Reluctantly I stopped listening. this latest book is too complex for my uneducated mind. Sean however is as fantastic as ever as a narrator. his knowledge of the subject is conveyed. I have listened to too many books where the narrator provides emphasis and punctuation in a way that it is obvious that they have no knowledge of the topic.

I will, without doubt listen to Sean again, I may even listen to this one if my understanding develops.

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  • Adam Revill
  • 04-21-20

Still struggling

Elegantly explained I have no doubt, except that I still struggle to understand. My limitation not the books

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  • Cyberbilge
  • 09-24-21

not a clue

I love Sean Carroll but I've no idea what he was on about. anyone? help!

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  • Daniel Earwicker
  • 09-22-21

Engagingly read, and knows what he’s talking about

It’s heavily biased towards many-worlds, and yet makes a very good case for the position that we can’t tell which interpretation is “correct”, or what that even means scientifically - we literally can’t tell them apart. The justification for many worlds is only that, in the absence of any reason to add more bells and whistles to the theory, we’re left with the bare bones, and these inherently include “worlds” branching off from one another, and the “you” of the future is really a very large set of “yous”, all with an equal right to think of themselves as the successor of the “you” from the past, so in the end, the answer to the question “if the photon could have gone either way, why did it go THAT way?” is “it just did, as far as this world and all it’s successors are concerned.” All this is thoroughly discussed in a friendly, no-idiot-left-behind way, and he reads his own writing very well.

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  • Dean P. D'souza
  • 09-13-21

Fascinating!

Loved it. Sean Carroll also has a (free) video series that goes into more depth. It's on his website and on youtube. he's also done some good talks. Highly recommend. Fascinating topic. Great communicator!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-06-21

Superb

Such a fantastic detail of our stunningly elegant universe. Thank you Sean for sharing your wonderfully structured understanding of time with us. As I touch the keyboard, entropy increases taking all in its finite grasp. Wonderful wonderful book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-03-21

amazing but what

think I need to listen another 12 times until I understand, but very much enjoyed trying

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  • R. B. Colver
  • 03-18-21

A lot to get my head around

There are significant leaps of ration that my little legs can't make in this book. I finished it and felt enlightened, but I will need to listen again at least once to grasp its full content.

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  • Neety Thorsteinsson
  • 11-09-19

This book is bloody brilliant

Sean has a way of explaining complicated concepts in a very visual way. I found myself finally starting to understand and visualise some  fundamental concepts in quantum physics. I learnt about entropy, entanglement, what a Hamiltonian is, particles, waves, the Everettian interpretations of quantum mechanics; basically things that blew my mind. I didn't really do any maths or science at school (clearly the concept of science wasn't explained to me very well at school, I thought it had something with to do with a bunson burner) so finding out so many amazing things about our universe has been awesome. Of course I had to listen to every chapter three times. And by three I mean seven. The point is some of this started to sink into my brain. So buy this book. Sean's podcasts are also great. 

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  • SteveK
  • 10-20-19

Very heavy going for the layperson

I love reading about physics in layman's terms (such as the works of Brian Greene, Kip Thorne and Leonard Susskind) and I love Sean's mindscape podcast. This text was a little too heavy on the assertive statements and very light on the analogy, which I felt made it harder to comprehend for the layperson that it could have been. nevertheless it's a fascinating topic and this book still have me a glimpse of some very deep and awe inspiring ideas.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-28-20

I was the right audience for this book

and was well rewarded

Over the years, I had read several popular science books on similar subjects, and in recent years watched PBS Space Time and listened to Sean Carroll's Mindscape. I had been left with questions and despaired for answers. This book anticipated these, and corrected some errors for which I had not even formed questions. Its probably the case that to do better requires actually studying the math.

This book did an exceptional job in clearly explaining the route through the consensus and onto the quantum interpretation that it championed. As history of science, I found it very satisfying. I would have loved the book to have engaged directly with the philosophy of mathematics or of science. Without expertise in either, I nevertheless feel confident they would offer cogent critiques of the interpretation. In particular, I cannot help but be unsettled by the sense in which it seems to settle the interpretation of probability as being a real property of the universe.  

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-11-19

truly hidden

really comes together in the final chapters. a difficult book worthy of everyone, excellent work from sean once again. ❤

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  • Andy Lee
  • 09-30-19

Wild.

The concepts in this book are wild. I can't say I understood all the equations but I think I got my head around most concepts. I'm not a cosmologist, but this book feels super important.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-19-21

Insightful,Honest and Compact

Incredible summary of the history of Quantum Field theory so far and what different interpretations have arisen from it, although Carroll takes an Everettian stance on Quantum Mechanics, he gives respect to other interpretations of the Quantum reality of our world.

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  • busyingmyself
  • 03-21-21

I now all-in on many worlds

I love this book, I’ve listened to it 3 times as there’s so much to learn and take in. Sean is a good reader, performer and has a good way of explaining things so non-scientific peasants like me can follow. Very informative and I’m now an advocate for the many worlds interpretation... until someone comes along with a more compelling argument that is!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-21

Elegantly explained

Thanks Sean. While I'm no physicist, I found this approach to laying out this complex knowledge space masterful and elegant. You've kept me company while in the garden, and on long drives. Thank you, and I'd never considered that gravity is emergent, which makes more sense to explain why it doesn't interact with other fields, which now makes.me wonder if this is the same for dark matter. Thank you.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-21-20

A satisfying journey

If you have an interest in quantum physics this book is a good follow on from Carlo Rovelli et al. The book covers a lot of territory and yet manages to be coherent and interesting along the way. There are a few slightly laborious moments related to particle observation and entanglement however the following chapters coalesce what seemed to be at first disparate ideas nicely.