Until the End of Time

Until the End of Time

Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in An Evolving Universe

Book - 2020 | First edition.
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"From the world-renowned physicist, co-founder of the World Science Festival, and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes this utterly captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose. Brian Greene takes readers on a breathtaking journey from the big bang to the end of time and invites us to ponder meaning in the face of this unimaginable expanse. He shows us how, from its original orderly state the universe has been moving inexorably toward chaos, and, still, remarkable structures have continually formed: the planets, stars, and galaxies that provide islands in a sea of disorder; biochemical mechanisms, including mutation and selection, animate life; neurons, information, and thought developed into complex consciousness which in turn gave rise to cultures and their timeless myths and creativity. And he describes, as well, how, in the deep reaches of the future, the nature of the universe will threaten the existence of matter itself. Through a series of nested stories Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. Taken together, it is a completely new perspective on our place in the universe and on what it means to be human"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2020.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781524731670
Branch Call Number: 523.1 GREENE
Characteristics: xiii, 428 pages ; 25 cm


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Jul 03, 2020

I have an interest in physics but this book was disappointing and a little dull. There was a mention of the laws of thermodynamics early but the bulk of the book until the end chapters was the author's take on the big questions of the origin of life, consciousness, language, myth, religion. He has researched these questions thoroughly and does present many ideas and his personal take but, not surprisingly, no real answers. In short, the book was about scientific look at philosophy. In short this book kept putting me to sleep.

May 06, 2020

Greene has a real genius for making esoteric aspects of science accessible to a general public. He spends a chapter or two discussing how we experience time and the scales of time in which various things happen. It’s akin to the approach Neil deGrasse Tyson takes on NatGeo’s Cosmos, although Greene hopes to take us from the Big Bang to the end of the universe, or what he thinks of as the end of time itself. It is a slow and careful approach, working through misunderstandings about entropy and laying a foundation for the rest of the book. His discussion of consciousness and free will is not as sure-footed as the rest of the book, but still interesting. The “Mary” problem outlined on p.127ff took some time to digest. I am not convinced it is a problem, but that’s an issue for another day. The book is personal, bringing in the religious experiences of his family to show the common human need to explain the world around us. A lengthy series of chapters covering Story, Belief, and Creativity reminded me strongly of having read Malinowski’s “Magic, Science and Religion” as a teenager, and of the lasting influence it had on me. The final chapters are pure flights of fancy for theoretical physicists, but fun to read, even if of no meaning to our existence. All the efforts he made in the early chapters to clarify quantum probabilities come into play at this juncture. My only small quibble with the book is his tendency to anthropomorphize a bit, using terms that suggest consciousness to describe actions of inanimate objects. I hope this does not put me in league with the literalists who criticize Dawkins for giving genes intent. Perhaps my quibbles are more reasonable because I have read Greene’s book, while the anti-Dawkins crowd, well, fill in the blanks.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to over 300 pages of text, there are roughly 60 pages of endnotes and nearly 20 pages of bibliography. While many of the notes are simply references, many of them offer further explication of topics in the text, greatly expanding one’s enjoyment. The bibliography includes the expected batch of physicists, tilting a bit towards cosmologists, as well as scientists from all eras and disciplines. Philosophers, poets, playwrights, music critics, and others I have probably forgotten rub shoulders in these 20 pages. Stephen Jay Gould wrote wonderful articles for the American Museum of Natural History’s magazine. Finding one of my favorite authors in the list, I just had to print out the article listed at the top of page 394, co-authored by Richard C. Lewontin. If you think scientists arguing viewpoints is just dry stuff full of politesse, let this piece disabuse you of such notions.

May 06, 2020

NYT recommendation

Mar 13, 2020

If you are interested in where we came from, how we got here and where we are going, as individuals, as a species, as part of a biosphere, or as part of the universe, you should enjoy this book very much. Here Brian Greene draws on a deep understanding of the relevant math and physics to very eloquently explore a remarkably broad range of thoughtful topics, in clear non-technical language, augmented by copious notes for the more technically minded reader. He connects through personal anecdotes and extensive references to other leading thinkers, being honest and open about what is known and what is not. In this way he paints a fascinating picture of the cosmic life cycle and our place in it.


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