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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Spin Networks, Ltd. (P)2013 Tantor

What listeners say about Time Reborn

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Probably the best Science book I've listened to

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).


31 people found this helpful

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False Dichotomies

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."

54 people found this helpful

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Stick with it

The beginning of this book rubbed me the wrong way. The narrator and author created a pretentious combination that can be annoying at times. This book didn’t pick up until a few chapters in, but then it got really interesting. The concepts were slightly complex but well explained. He got into weird areas like Boltzmann brains and various types of multiverses, and he still kept a skeptical standpoint while explaining these things. I feel like everything was covered thoroughly in the end.

The author was really against the Block Universe idea and argued that time is fundamental. I think he seemed a little too confident in his position, because who knows? This stuff is all speculative and you can’t pretend like you know the truth of the universe for certain. Also when he claimed that the universe cannot be fundamentally mathematical, that was another grey area where I thought he could be more open minded. Humans will no doubt be unimaginably smarter in the near future. It is possible that physics will keep progressing to the point where we have a fundamental theory and equally possible that it won’t happen. We can’t say for certain that the universe isn’t mathematical unless we know everything about the universe.

I didn’t dislike the book for the parts I disagreed with because the whole book was fascinating. The beginning was dry but if you stick with it, you’ll learn a few things from this book. Also, it’s good to meditate on these big ideas of time and the universe even if you’re only halfway paying attention to the story. Well worth the mental energy in the end.

2 people found this helpful

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too much random thought

Maybe the author thinks the book very organized. I feel it otherwise. listening to the narration, it sounds more like the author talking to himself randomly. I can't get through half of the book. regret the purchase.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book but did not like voice of narrator.

Good content. Annoying voice i found. Sorry. But felt very casual voice. Not sure if that is intentional. But worth listening to!

1 person found this helpful

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Pretty deep and easy to loose me, but brilliant thinking

I enjoyed this book, it felt like it was less about time and more about narrowing down options around what makes up our universe and reality. I got lost a lot and had to rewind almost every chapter. But Smolin is a visionary and I loved being challenged. Def worth the effort. I will re- listen in the future !

1 person found this helpful

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Physics and Philosophy well done.

Really enjoyed this book, it presented quite a few tantilizing ideas. Good as a deeper dive into the concepts of quantum physics and modern cosmology. A similar approach to 'Our Mathematical Universe' but taking an anti-multiverse viewpoint, the author tackles the topics philosophically, focusing on stretching out concepts to their logical extremes and adding in theories, principles, and conjectures which form the stepping stones to his conclusions. A few key points I enjoyed, but I need to listen to again to put the pieces together: relativity of time can be equally exchanged for relativity in size (I forget where he goes with this),, hidden variable theories are background dependent emerging from a fixed background of time but this can be obtained from...I think... loop quantum gravity where space could be emergent by a relational structure where entanglement connections over many dimensions form a sort of scaffolding, thus time was a fundamental measure of these connections...I think. He also purposes a universe with properties that evolve rather than a multiverse, he proposes that black holes are the beginnings of new universes. He goes over theories where particles interact with their past selves. All kinds of stuff. I'll caution, I feel this book may work better in written form given the complexity of twist and turns taken in the logic, that may make it easier to follow, but it really offers a plethora of concepts to mull over. Next, listen to The Universe for more 'out there' kinds of ideas.

Recommend first listening to something on quantum mechanics (Quantum Story, or Quantum Weirdness) and some modern cosmology (The Hidden Reality) then listen to this book,

1 person found this helpful

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When Science Makes Us Think Like Philosophers

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. =)

5 people found this helpful

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there are better options

he does have some very interesting views however, I found it to be more rambling at times. it's worth listening to just to be better educated on quantum foundations and some of the more speculative theories in quantum gravity. ultimately I much prefer rovellis books and rovelli's overall views.

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Worth it just for the epilogue

Great mind making great points about the soul of physics. Easy to grasp for a lay reader.

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  • Nicholas
  • 12-23-13

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Radu Marincean
  • 08-04-17

Welcome back...TIME!

Just as consciousness arise from our vast neural network, the universe self-creates itself from the huge relational network between its particles. It is a living organism, and we are some of its cells. It grows from us and with us.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-21

Though Provoking

Book describes a beautiful and scientific thought process that gave me a lot to think about.