Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just finished reading...


I consider myself to be a bit of an armchair physicist. I have greatly enjoyed following the unfolding concepts in both relativity and quantum physics from several different authors over the decades. I read Greene’s first book, THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and quite liked it. It was full of easy to understand explanations and metaphors to illustrate the very large, complex, hard-to-grasp concepts of quantum mechanics. And of course the first book I read on this subject was the marvelous THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS by Gary Zukav, which introduced the idea that some of the advances in physics are proving some spiritual concepts from Buddhism and other esoteric beliefs. This idea is taken for granted now, with the Dalai Lama involved in brain mapping and brain studies, but when Zukav published his book in 1979, it was a radical idea. Because of the brilliant discoveries in physics since 1979, THE DANCING WU LI MASTERS is dated, but the information was formative and still true as science builds on past discoveries.

So, being very familiar with the subject matter, I was excited to start THE HIDDEN REALITY, but Greene’s book proved to be a bit too academic for me. I can grasp abstract concepts, and I truly appreciated his stories, and fun, illustrative examples of abstract concepts in THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, but this newest book seems to have eschewed stories and fun examples in favor of mathematical explanations. And I am no mathematician. Trust me when I say that…

I found it took me more time and chapters to build an image and put the pieces together than his other books. I suspect this has something to do with the advanced and complicated nature of what Greene is trying to explain. I got it… it was just a little dry.

Basically, he explores the idea of parallel or multiple universes and stresses that these ideas are not born out of some kind of science fiction daydream, but from the results of other mathematical physics equations. The math presents them, not someone’s imagination. And since there are many branches of string theory and other paths that physicists are looking at for explanations to some vexing questions (gravity, the Big Bang, the nature of reality, etc.), we are looking at nine different equations for the case for parallel or multiverses.
• Quilted Multiverse
• Inflationary Multiverse
• Brane Multiverse
• Cyclic Multiverse
• Landscape Multiverse
• Quantum Multiverse
• Holographic Multiverse
• Simulated Multiverse
• Ultimate Multiverse

He spends time setting up and explaining each variation of the multiverse, but for me, only the last two or three chapters became lively with discussions about black holes and holograms.

Recommend? Yes, but I would say you need to be familiar with quantum mechanics, string theory, and general relativity, to enjoy it all. Even then, it might be a little slow… unless you are a mathematician or physicist… then you will be in your element!

No comments: