A rising star in theoretical physics offers his awesome vision of our universe and beyond, all beginning with a simple question: Why does time move forward?
Time moves forward, not backward—everyone knows you can’t unscramble an egg. In the hands of one of today’s hottest young physicists, that simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the universe, and other universes, too. In From Eternity to Here, Sean Carroll argues that the arrow of time, pointing resolutely from the past to the future, owes its existence to conditions before the Big Bang itself—a period modern cosmology of which Einstein never dreamed. Increasingly, though, physicists are going out into realms that make the theory of relativity seem like child’s play. Carroll’s scenario is not only elegant, it’s laid out in the same easy-to- understand language that has made his group blog, Cosmic Variance, the most popular physics blog on the Net.
From Eternity to Here uses ideas at the cutting edge of theoretical physics to explore how properties of spacetime before the Big Bang can explain the flow of time we experience in our everyday lives. Carroll suggests that we live in a baby universe, part of a large family of universes in which many of our siblings experience an arrow of time running in the opposite direction. It’s an ambitious, fascinating picture of the universe on an ultra-large scale, one that will captivate fans of popular physics blockbusters like Elegant Universe and A Brief History of Time.
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The explanations of physics are very confusing. I have degrees in physics but found this book aggravating. The explanations of quantum mechanics included “kitty” doing very strange things, especially when one of her paths was a assigned a negative probability for no good treason. Was it bad writing or bad physics?15
The early chapters are accessible to people with an interest in science, but the author loses many if not most of his readers along the way. There are too many esoteric thought experiments, speculations that are borderline metaphysical, too much talk of (Miss Kitty's) superpositions without bringing it back to earth and proposing what it might mean in practical terms to the layman that Mr Carroll wants to reach - such as avenues for new inventions, solutions to our energy challenges and so on. In order to fully understand this book, you would need at least two or three years of college in Physics, if not a graduate degree. Don't expect any cocktail party talk ideas.25
I was very excited to read this book, as this is a subject I have a lot of interest in. But once you hit the chapters concerning entropy, the whole book grinds to a halt. I managed to make it through, and felt I learned quite a bit, but I would still have a hard time recommending this book to anyone. It just isn't an enjoyable reading experience. It's more akin to a textbook.25
This book is chock full of interesting and mind-expanding ideas. To most non-physicists, these concepts won't come naturally. I found I had to read and re-read portions to get the full meaning. So, one can't expect to read the book like a novel--it does take time and effort. All I can say, the effort is worth it. Unlike in most science books, the author does not treat the reader like a hopeless case unable to assimilate difficult ideas--he doesn't gloss over details, but shows you all the nuts and bolts. One of the best physics books I have read.55
A gifted 6th grader could understand this book. To me, its primary value is not in the author's presentation of his pet view for a multiverse (the book's conclusion), but his elucidation of entropy, relativity, and quantum mechanics (which most of the book is devoted to). By providing this we're able to think critically about some of the most fascinating concepts in cosmology today, e.g. quantum gravity, the arrow of time, and multiple universes.45
It seems that a way to supplement your income as a physicist, if not extend your fame or credentials, is to write a book about a contemporary topic - in this case TIME. Pepper it with your own useful metaphoric images of mind-bending mathematics, while giving the occasional nod to the familiar metaphors constructed by the BIG names in science, and if you are clever like Carroll, you can further flavor the epic with pop culture references. Unfortunately, in this case, Carroll added too much spice and not enough substance to his somewhat enjoyable tome. First, he treats TIME as an EPIC and figures it should take a lot of time to read about time for time to be serious enough to be read. Second, the pop culture references, if done in a PowerPoint, would be what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” Superfluous, but pretty margin scrawls that detract, rather than enhance the pertinent information. I admit I advanced my understanding of the nature of time, space-time, and space a little more, but the slog through forest almost obscured these trees.25