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Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universeby Lee Smolin
Synopses & Reviews
From one of our foremost thinkers and public intellectuals, a radical new view of the nature of time and the cosmos.
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 bestseller The Trouble with Physics, argues that a limited notion of time is holding physics back. Its 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.
"Contrary to Plato and Einstein, theoretical physicist Smolin (The Trouble with Physics) asserts that 'not only is time real, but nothing we know or experience gets closer to the heart of nature than the reality of time.' Though time has always been a quantity to measure, the author explains that in the 17th century, scientists began wondering whether 'the world is in essence mathematical or it lives in time.' Newton's laws of motion made time irrelevant, and 'Einstein's two theories of relativity are, at their most basic, theories of time — or, better, timelessness.' Galileo and Descartes, on the other hand, insisted that time should be regarded as another dimension, and in 1909, mathematician Hermann Minkowski developed the theory of 'spacetime,' a feature of the universe shaped by gravity. Smolin asserts that current-day cosmology has hit a wall because physicists refuse to understand that physical laws must 'evolve in a real time.' Changing that perspective, he says, will revolutionize everything from string theory to the stock market. Although the distinctions in point of view aren't always clear, Smolin makes an energetic case for a paradigm shift that could produce mind-boggling changes in the way we experience our world. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"With rare conceptual daring, Smolin beckons toward a new perspective for doing cosmological theory, a perspective allowing Leibniz's principle of sufficient reason to open surprising possibilities. This horizon not only readmits time as a reality; it enshrines time as the reality, the indispensable point of flux allowing everything else, including the laws of matter and energy, to evolve and change. Embracing time as real, Smolin asserts, will allow cosmologists to convert laws once regarded as timeless into the contingent data they need to develop testable new theories of galactic evolution. More immediately, Smolin anticipates that this paradigm shift will help climatologists understand global warming and economists to ameliorate financial turbulence. A thrilling intellectual ride!" Booklist, Starred Review
"This is a work as much of philosophy as science. Despite the absence of mathematics, it requires close attention, but readers who make the effort will absorb a flood of ideas from an imaginative thinker." Kirkus Reviews
"Smolin makes an energetic case for a paradigm shift that could produce mind-boggling changes in the way we experience our world." Publishers Weekly
"Smolin provides a much-needed dose of clarity about time, with implications that go far beyond physics to economics, politics, and personal philosophy. An essential book for physicists and non-physicists alike, Time Reborn offers a path to better theory and potentially to a better society." Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget and The Fate of Power and the Future of Dignity
"Applying his deep mastery of cosmology, quantum mechanics, general relativity and all the diverse attempts at quantum gravity, in Time Reborn Lee Smolin weaves a convincing and entirely new view of reality. He shows us how contemporary physics eliminates time and argues persuasively that any adequate cosmology rests on making time and 'now' fundamental." Stuart Kauffman, University of Vermont, author of At Home in the Universe
One of our foremost thinkers and public intellectuals offers a radical new view of the nature of time, and explores its implications for everything from physics and cosmology to economics and climate change.
"If you are looking for a bracing alternative vision of physics built from the ground up, Smolin's Time Reborn will take you to the mountaintop." — NPR
What is time?
It’s the sort of question we rarely ask because it seems so obvious. And yet, to a physicist, time is simply a human construct and an illusion. If you could somehow get outside the universe and observe it from there, you would see that every moment has always existed and always will. Lee Smolin disagrees, and in Time Reborn he lays out the case why.
Recent developments in physics and cosmology point toward the reality of time and the openness of the future. Smolin’s groundbreaking theory postulates that physical laws can evolve over time and the future is not yet determined. Newton’s fundamental laws may not remain so fundamental. Time Reborn serves as a popular primer and investigation of time, both what it is and how the true nature of it impacts our world.
"He challenges not only Einstein’s relativity, but also the very notion of natural laws as immutable truths." — Economist
“One of the essential books of the twenty-first century . . . Smolin provides a much-needed dose of clarity about time, with implications that go far beyond physics to economics, politics, and personal philosophy.” — Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
About the Author
Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has made influential contributions to the search for a unification of physics. He is a founding faculty member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His previous books include The Trouble with Physics, The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.
Table of Contents
Weight: The Expulsion of Time
1. Falling 3
2. The Disappearance of Time 12
3. A Game of Catch 25
4. Doing Physics in a Box 37
5. The Expulsion of Novelty and Surprise 46
6. Relativity and Timelessness 54
7. Quantum Cosmology and the End of Time 76
Light: Time Reborn
Interlude: Einsteins Discontent 93
8. The Cosmological Fallacy 97
9. The Cosmological Challenge 105
10. Principles for a New Cosmology 116
11. The Evolution of Laws 125
12. Quantum Mechanics and the Liberation of the Atom 142
13. The Battle Between Relativity and the Quantum 156
14. Time Reborn from Relativity 166
15. The Emergence of Space 174
16. The Life and Death of the Universe 188
17. Time Reborn from Heat and Light 195
18. Infinite Space or Infinite Time? 215
19. The Future of Time 229
Epilogue: Thinking in Time 254
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