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A Tear at the Edge of Creation: A Radical New Vision for Life in an Imperfect Universeby Marcelo Gleiser
Synopses & Reviews
For millennia, shamans and philosophers, believers and nonbelievers, artists and scientists have tried to make sense of our existence by suggesting that everything is connected, that a mysterious Oneness binds us to everything else. People go to temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues to pray to their divine incarnation of Oneness. Following a surprisingly similar notion, scientists have long asserted that under Nature's apparent complexity there is a simpler underlying reality. In its modern incarnation, this Theory of Everything would unite the physical laws governing very large bodies (Einstein's theory of relativity) and those governing tiny ones (quantum mechanics) into a single framework. But despite the brave efforts of many powerful minds, the Theory of Everything remains elusive. It turns out that the universe is not elegant. It is gloriously messy.
Overturning more than twenty-five centuries of scientific thought, award-winning physicist Marcelo Gleiser argues that this quest for a Theory of Everything is fundamentally misguided, and he explains the volcanic implications this ideological shift has for humankind. All the evidence points to a scenario in which everything emerges from fundamental imperfections, primordial asymmetries in matter and time, cataclysmic accidents in Earth's early life, and duplication errors in the genetic code. Imbalance spurs creation. Without asymmetries and imperfections, the universe would be filled with nothing but smooth radiation.
A Tear at the Edge of Creation calls for nothing less than a new humancentrism to reflect our position in the universal order. All life, but intelligent life in particular, is a rare and precious accident. Our presence here has no meaning outside of itself, but it does have meaning. The unplanned complexity of humankind is all the more beautiful for its improbability. It's time for science to let go of the old aesthetic that labels perfection beautiful and holds that beauty is truth. It's time to look at the evidence without centuries of monotheistic baggage. In this lucid, down-to-earth narrative, Gleiser walks us through the basic and cutting-edge science that fueled his own transformation from unifier to doubter — a fascinating scientific quest that led him to a new understanding of what it is to be human.
"For most of his career, physicist Gleiser (The Dancing Universe) was a 'true believer in unification,' seeing in string theory a 'more profound description of Nature' with 'a higher level of mathematical symmetry.' He now rejects the search for a perfect theory as an improvable article of belief akin to monotheism. Explaining his turnaround, Gleiser points to the game-changing 1998 discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, indicating that 96 percent of the 'stuff of the cosmos' is undetectable 'dark matter' or 'dark energy.' Even the 4 percent of matter contained in the known universe reveals anomalous behavior, like the predominance of matter over anti-matter, and the asymmetry of 'left-handed' neutrinos. Gleiser argues that life, and perhaps even matter, could not have developed in a symmetrical universe: 'Behind every imperfection there is a mechanism for generating structure and complex behavior.' The conclusions Gleiser draws from his reconfiguration include the idea that time has a beginning and that 'human understanding of the world is forever a work in progress'; though Gleiser has a remarkable gift for elucidating complex scientific concepts (without mathematics), this is not a volume for novices." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Marcelo Gleiser declares that there is no grand unifying theory and upends man's relationship to the cosmos.
In this profound and exhaustive examination of the universe, Gleiser declares that there is no grand unifying theory and upends humankind's relationship to the cosmos.
About the Author
Marcelo Gleiser is a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College where he runs a very active cosmology group. His work in theoretical physics focuses on the dynamical processes that took place during the very early universe. As such, it brings together particle physics, the study of the very small, and cosmology, the study of the very large. He is the author of The Dancing Universe: From Creation Myths to the Big Bang; and The Prophet and the Astronomer.
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