Reading: Brian Greene

  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (15 Jul 2009)

This is an excellent popularization of various topics in physics — relativity and quantum mechanics, entropy and time’s arrow, cosmology, and various versions of string theory. Greene explains these rather arcane theories very clearly and was able to give me what had previously eluded me — a basic layman’s literacy in contemporary physics.

My only quibble is the plethora of TV-show references, which I found unnecessary, patronizing, and (at least for someone like me, who knows even less about the Simpsons than about physics) distracting. One gets the distinct impression that Greene thinks his readers are a little dumb and are in need of kool pop culture references to help them realize that physics is, like, totally rad. (Steven Pinker’s books are also heavy on the pop culture, but he manages to do it in a non-grating, genuinely entertaining way. I should try to figure out what the difference is between their two techniques.)

Greene’s book also reminded me that some of the ideas I’ve been thinking of under the heading of “anti-solipsism” already have a prefectly good name: relativity. If you accept that all persons and points of view are equally real, then under Einstein’s theories it follows that all points in time are equally real.

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