Over the last 40 years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. Join us on a journey through how we understand the universe, from its most basic particles and forces to planets, stars, and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos.
Conflicting notions about our place in the universe are defined, defended, and critiqued from scientific, philosophical, and religious viewpoints. The authors' engaging and witty style addresses what fine tuning might mean for the future of physics and the search for the ultimate laws of nature. Tackling difficult questions and providing thought-provoking answers, this volumes challenges us to consider our place in the cosmos, regardless of our initial convictions.
Scientific speculation without experimental falsification is impotent. The authors seem to know this and attempt to cast their theories about theories as experiments. Most of the chapters discuss what they calculate might happen if one or more physical constants were varied more than a tiny amount and determining life as we know it might not exist. They seem to hope these speculations might yield some insight into the actual nature of our physical reality. I am more than a bit dubious.
I did find the last two chapters interesting (I listened to these two chapters many times). I always appreciate a speculative book directly addressing key objections and Chapter 7 (Audible chapter 11) was a long list of objections to their ideas with their refutations. Most of these challenges are reasonable (not strawman) and well refuted. Those refutations are simply stated and make sense Objection N & O (14 & 15) were the last and strongest objections with the weakest and least understandable refutation, and are my own primary objections. These objections is how do we know the myriad (if not infinite number) of universes they consider are actually possible and if so, how can one hope to apply sensible probabilities to these universes. They contend that those universes are internally consistent since the equations & parameters are only tweaked from our real universe in ways keeping them internally consistent. Unfortunately the authors are assuming existing theories are internally consistent while we are virtually certain they are not (as general relativity is inconsistent with quantum field theory). They through it back to the objector to prove why their twiddling of knobs might not be realistic. This seems a bit like a paranormal investigator insisting that I prove the ghosts don't really exist.
Early in the book the 2nd law of thermodynamics is described as absolute and unavoidable (and sloppy entropy language is used). Much later in the book (during objections) it is more correctly described as statistical and context dependent. This is not unusual in this genre, and entropy is very often misunderstood, even by most physicists. Nevertheless entropy seems to be a key concept in understanding our universe and sloppy entropy language should be edited out.
I am generally quite dubious about author narration, particularly in science books, but in this case the narration was excellent. There were a few cases were accents clouded my understanding but jump back eventually fixed that.
Although I was not convienced by this book I am very glad I read it, particularly for the last two chapters.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Great subject, horrible writing and execution. Had to turn off after enduring 5 chapters. Like author got paid by the word. Drones on and on, rarely making a point. Spent forever thanking everyone he ever met, had contact with etc for book. Terrible!