The Fabric of the Cosmos (Book review)

14 Mar

This is an extremely in depth review of the history of, and the continuing research into, the nature of the universe from the perspective of physics. The edition I read was printed in 2005 and I intend to follow up the ongoing research mentioned in the book to bring me up to date.

I would suggest that the author assumed his potential readers possessed some prior physics knowledge as some of his material makes some connections that, for someone like me who hasn’t particularly studied the field for some time, are not immediately obvious.

The beginning of the book goes into the theories of, and the circumstances surrounding, the field of classiclal physics (Newton et al) through Einstein and onto quantum mechanics. The clash between general relativity and quantum mechanics is studied in some depth demonstrating the conflicts in reconciling the macro and micro environments.

The resulting history of string theory is then delved into as a consequence of some of this conflict. It becomes obvious that the author is a proponent of string theory, though to his credit, he does explain and acknowledge other ideas as well.

For me though, the real interesting sections are towards the end, with the realization of the physics community that the nature of the universe may have some basis in an illusionary context and this was brought home by some of the newer ideas, such as M-theory and I found a particular empathy with cyclical cosmology and the brane world cosmology. As a physicist, the author steers well clear of any theological interpretations, which one would expect, but I have to confess that it has sparked many connections that I will be exploring in some depth in the coming months.

It would appear that the author received some critical acclaim for this book, and the depth of the subject matter he displays is, indeed, very impressive. I do have to say though, that this book may represent hard work for the general reader, for whom physics may represent nothing but a passing interest. It would represent, and indeed I intend to use this, as a quality reference source, though I have to admit,  at 500 pages, this made a very challenging book to complete.

Recommended, with these stated reservations.

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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in Book Reviews


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