The Universe Speaks in Numbers

How Modern Math Reveals Nature's Deepest Secrets
Narrated by: Hugh Kermode
Length: 8 hrs and 38 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (59 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"These are brilliant successes of the mathematical approach, and Farmelo leads us through them adeptly, with a mixture of contemporary accounts and scientific insight." (Nature)

How math helps us solve the universe's deepest mysteries 

One of the great insights of science is that the universe has an underlying order. The supreme goal of physicists is to understand this order through laws that describe the behavior of the most basic particles and the forces between them. For centuries, we have searched for these laws by studying the results of experiments. 

Since the 1970s, however, experiments at the world's most powerful atom-smashers have offered few new clues. So some of the world's leading physicists have looked to a different source of insight: modern mathematics. These physicists are sometimes accused of doing "fairy-tale physics", unrelated to the real world. But in The Universe Speaks in Numbers, award-winning science writer and biographer Farmelo argues that the physics they are doing is based squarely on the well-established principles of quantum theory and relativity, and part of a tradition dating back to Isaac Newton. 

With unprecedented access to some of the world's greatest scientific minds, Farmelo offers a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of the blossoming relationship between mathematics and physics and the research that could revolutionize our understanding of reality. 

A masterful account of the some of the most groundbreaking ideas in physics in the past four decades, The Universe Speaks in Numbers is essential listening for anyone interested in the quest to discover the fundamental laws of nature. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Graham Farmelo (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Mathematics here becomes a brilliant laser beam illuminating the very frontiers of science!" (Booklist, starred)

"A thought-provoking look at a fierce, ongoing controversy over the future of theoretical physics." (Kirkus)

"A riveting account of one of the greatest stories of our time. Graham Farmelo has delved deep into this fascinating subject, combining original scholarship and lively interviews with leading contemporary theorists at the forefront of the field. The result is a masterful book, which gives us, for the first time, a behind-the-scenes look at how physicists and mathematicians, driven by their pursuit of ultimate Truth, have been drawn into common territory by mysterious intellectual forces seemingly beyond their control." (Nima Arkani-Hamed, professor, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton) 

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great story and narration, but lacks rigor...

This book's storyline is cohesive, interesting, and informative, and the audiobook is narrated impeccably; I think I probably finished it in "one sitting" - deeply enthralled. But I didn't give it perfect marks because I was really hoping for a lot more depth than what it offered, particularly given its advertised description and the strong endorsements from Nima Arkani-Hamed and Nature Publishing - both of which implied enough rigor to make the concepts pop, which they didn't.

If you're looking for a more in-depth treatment of mathematical physics, something mainly focused on an overarching area of study that is much more mathematical in nature called the Langlands program, which Farmelo only mentions in passing, check out "Love and Math" by Edward Frenkel.

For an apples-to-apples comparison, though, I still prefer Brian Greene's old faithful "The Elegant Universe" (EU); Greene's explanations are unbeatable regarding String Theory and its relevant - though dated - developments. Greene at least explains what is meant by "dual spaces", while Farmelo only uses them as elements of the story. Greene's follow-up to EU, "The Fabric of the Cosmos", is even better than EU, but it's focus is more cosmological and doesn't make for a good apples-to-apples comparison.

In summary, Farmelo puts together the big picture very well, but his explanations lack the necessary depth to make the relevant concepts come to life for those of us who could possibly understand the math-physics between the lines, if given the right verbal clues.

21 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book!

I’ve listened to several books on the developments within theoretical physics and this book provides a fresh prospective. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

A great book to get a big view of modern physics

The perishable nature of theories in physics use to upset me. This book helps me accept that the difference between math and physics is that one is for ever, and the other not, and that is ok!