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Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Max Tegmark(Author)

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Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist. Fascinating from first to last—this is a book that has already prompted the attention and admiration of some of the most prominent scientists and mathematicians.

*Starred Review* Nobel-laureate physicist Eugene Wigner regarded the power of mathematics to explain the cosmos as a baffling mystery. Tegmark offers a resolution of that mystery, arguing that mathematics describes the universe so well because the universe ultimately is mathematics. The rare intellectual daring in this claim emerges as Tegmark teases out its stunning implications not only for the visible universe but also for countless, unseen, parallel universes (on four levels!) in which all conceivable possibilities become realities. Aware of the skeptics, Tegmark demonstrates that his theorizing harmonizes with concepts now central to cosmology, particularly the astrophysical formulas for the post–Big Bang inflation that gave space its geometry. Tegmark’s mathematical paradigm also accounts for the strange fine-tuning of the universe’s fundamental constants and dispels the paradoxes surrounding quantum measurement. Lively and lucid, the narrative invites general readers into debates over computer models for brain function, over scientific explanations of consciousness, and over prospects for finding advanced life in other galaxies. Though he reflects soberly on the perils of nuclear war and of hostile artificial intelligence, Tegmark concludes with a bracingly upbeat call for scientifically minded activists who recognize a rare opportunity to make our special planet a force for cosmic progress. An exhilarating adventure for bold readers. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. “This is science writing at its best—dynamic, dramatic and accessible. . . . Our Mathematical Universe is nothing if not impressive. Brilliantly argued and beautifully written, it is never less than thought-provoking about the greatest mysteries of our existence.” —Amir Alexander, The New York Times“Cosmologist Max Tegmark has written an engaging and accessible book, Our Mathematical Universe, that grapples with this multiverse scenario. He aims initially at the scientifically literate public, but seeks to take us to—and, indeed, beyond—the frontiers of accepted knowledge. . . . This is a valuable book, written in a deceptively simple style but not afraid to make significant demands on its readers, especially once the multiverse level gets turned up to four. It is impressive how far Tegmark can carry you until, like a cartoon character running off a cliff, you wonder whether there is anything holding you up.” —Andrew Liddle, Nature “Our Mathematical Universe is a fascinating and well-executed dramatic argument from a talented expositor.” —Peter Woit, The Wall Street Journal "An informative survey of exciting recent developments in astrophysics and quantum theory [...] Tegmark participated in some of these pioneering developments, and he enlivens his story with personal anecdotes. [...] Tegmark does an excellent job explaining this and other puzzles in a way accessible to nonspecialists. Packed with clever metaphors” —Edward Frenkel, The New York Times Sunday Book Review“The book is an excellent guide to recent developments in quantum cosmology and the ongoing debate over theories of parallel universes. . . . Perhaps this book is proof that the two personalities needed for science—the speculative and sceptic—can readily exist in one individual.” —Mark Buchanan, New Scientist “Our Mathematical Universe boldly confronts one of the deepest questions at the fertile interface of physics and philosophy: why is mathematics so spectacularly successful at describing the cosmos? Through lively writing and wonderfully accessible explanations, Max Tegmark—one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists—guides the reader to a possible answer, and reveals how, if it’s right, our understanding of reality itself would be radically altered.”  —Brian Greene, physicist, author of The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality“Daring, Radical. Innovative. A game changer. If Dr. Tegmark is correct, this represents a paradigm shift in the relationship between physics and mathematics, forcing us to rewrite our textbooks. A must read for anyone deeply concerned about our universe.” —Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future “Tegmark offers a fresh and fascinating perspective on the fabric of physical reality and life itself. He helps us see ourselves in a cosmic context that highlights the grand opportunities for the future of life in our universe.” —Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near"Our Mathematical Universe is a delightful book in which the Swedish-born author, now at MIT, takes readers on a roller coaster ride through cosmology, quantum mechanics, parallel universes, sub-atomic particles and the future of humanity. It is quite an adventure with many time-outs along the way. . . . Our Mathematical Universe gives keen insight into someone who asks questions for the pure joy of answering them." —Stephen Hirtle, The Pittsburg Post-Gazette “Readers of varied backgrounds will enjoy this book. Almost anyone will find something to learn here, much to ponder, and perhaps something to disagree with.” —Prof. Edward Witten, physicist, Fields Medalist & Milner Laureate“This inspirational book written by a true expert presents an explosive mixture of physics, mathematics and philosophy which may alter your views on reality.” —Prof. Andrei Linde, physicist, Gruber & Milner Laureate for development of inflationary cosmology“Galileo famously said that the universe is written in the language of mathematics. Now Max Tegmark says that the universe IS mathematics. You don’t have to necessarily agree, to enjoy this fascinating journey into the nature of reality.” —Prof. Mario Livio, astrophysicist, author of Brilliant Blunders and Is God a Mathematician?“Scientists and lay aficionados alike will find Tegmark’s book packed with information and very thought provoking. You may recoil from his thesis, but nearly every page will make you wish you could debate the issues face-to-face with him.” —Prof. Julian Barbour, physicist, author of The End of Time“In Our Mathematical Universe, renowned cosmologist Max Tegmark takes us on a whirlwind tour of the universe, past, present—and other.  With lucid language and clear examples, Tegmark provides us with the master measure of not only of our cosmos, but of all possible universes.  The universe may be lonely, but it is not alone.” —Prof. Seth Lloyd, Professor of quantum mechanical engineering, MIT, author of Programming the Universe“A lucid, engaging account of the various many-universes theories of fundamental physics that are currently being considered, from the multiverse of quantum theory to Tegmark’s own grand vision.” —Prof. David Deutsch, physicist, Dirac Laureate for pioneering quantum computing“Tegmark offers a fascinating exploration of multiverse theories, each one offering new ways to explain ‘quantum weirdness’ and other mysteries that have plagued physicists, culminating in the idea that our physical world is ‘a giant mathematical object’ shaped by geometry and symmetry. Tegmark’s writing is lucid, enthusiastic, and outright entertaining, a thoroughly accessible discussion leavened with anecdotes and the pure joy of a scientist at work.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)“Lively and lucid, the narrative invites general readers into debates over computer models for brain function, over scientific explanations of consciousness, and over prospects for finding advanced life in other galaxies. Though he reflects soberly on the perils of nuclear war and of hostile artificial intelligence, Tegmark concludes with a bracingly upbeat call for scientifically minded activists who recognize a rare opportunity to make our special planet a force for cosmic progress. An exhilarating adventure for bold readers.” —Bryce Cristensen, Booklist (starred review)“Max Tegmark is a professor of physics at MIT and a leading expert on theories of the Universe. But he’s also arguably the nearest we have to a successor to Richard Feynman, the bongo-playing, wise-cracking physicist who proved it is possible to be smart, savvy and subversive at the same time. […] now `Mad Max’ has been given the freedom of an entire book. And he hasn't wasted it. Around half of it is a lucid tour d'horizon of what we know about the Universe. The rest is an exhilarating expedition far beyond conventional thinking, in search of the true meaning of reality. Don't be fooled: Tegmark is a very smart physicist, not a hand-waving philosopher, so the going gets tough in parts. But his insights and conclusions are staggering—and perhaps even crazy enough to be true.” —Robert Matthews, BBC Focus magazine “Just a few years ago, the idea of multiple universes was seen as a crackpot idea, not even on the margins of respectability. . . . But now, thanks in large part to Tegmark and his pursuit of controversial ideas, the concept of multiple universes (or a multiverse) is considered likely by many experts in the field. . . . Tegmark's clear, engaging prose style can take you down these exciting and unexpected pathways of thought without making you feel lost. . . . In Our Mathematical Universe, we meet a revolutionary cosmology physicist who is hell bent on figuring out if that theory is true, how to prove it, how to use it, and what it means for the world as we know it.” —Nathan Gelgud, Biographile Nathan Gelgud, Biographile “Today multiple universes are scientifically respectable, thanks to the work of Tegmark as much as anyone. [...] Physics could do with more characters like Tegmark. He combines an imaginative intellect and a charismatic presence with a determination to promote his subject [...] enough will be comprehensible for non-scientific readers to enjoy an amazing ride through the rich landscape of contemporary cosmology. There are many interesting diversions from the main argument, from an assessment of threats to human civilisation (such as a 30 per cent risk of nuclear war) to the chance of intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy (lower than astrobiologists like to think). Written in a lively and slightly quirky style, it should engage any reader interested in the infinite variety of nature.” —Clive Cookson, Financial Times"In Our Mathematical Universe, Max Tegmark—a distinguished cosmologist—gives a lucid rundown of the current state of knowledge on the origin, present state, and fate of the universe(s). [...] It is immensely illuminating on the reach of current cosmological theories. [...] From time to time, Tegmark engagingly admits that such ideas sound like nonsense, but he makes the crucial point that if a theory makes good predictions you have to follow all of the consequences. [...] His concluding chapter on the risks humanity faces is wise and bracing: he believes we "are alone in our Universe" but are capable of tackling terrible threats from cosmic accidents, or self-induced nuclear or climatic catastrophes. He doesn’t cite poets but his philosophy adds up to an updated 21st-century version of Thomas Hardy's 'If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.'" —Peter Forbes, The Independent “[M]ind-bending book about the cosmos. . . . Tegmark's achievement is to explain what on earth he is talking about in language any reasonably attentive reader will understand. He is a professor at MIT, and clearly a fine teacher as well as thinker. He tackles the big, interrelated questions of cosmology and subatomic physics much more intelligibly than, say, Stephen Hawking." —Giles Whittell, The Times"Max Tegmark's doorstopper of a book takes aim at three great puzzles: how large is reality? What is everything made of? Why is our universe the way it is? Tegmark, a professor of physics at MIT, writes at the cutting edge of cosmology and quantum theory in friendly and relaxed prose, full of entertaining anecdotes and down-to-earth analogies." —Brian Rotman, The Guardian

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Book details

  • PDF | 432 pages
  • Max Tegmark(Author)
  • Vintage; Reprint edition (February 3, 2015)
  • English
  • 8
  • Science & Math

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  • By EmpiricalWarrior on January 24, 2014

    Well somebody needs to rain on this parade of fanboy reviews, so here goes. The only reason I’m giving this book any stars at all is because it is worth the read to see just how daft and disconnected from physical reality modern cosmological views have become.The author claims to be a scientist but he is not, he is only a mathematician and a delusional one that. Not all mathematicians are delusional but plenty of them are and Max Tegmark is a shining example of the breed. How can you tell a delusional mathematician when you encounter one? It’s simple, if he/she claims that math underlies reality and is, in fact, the very basis of physical reality, they are delusional.This claim, that math underlies reality, is as simple-minded and unsophisticated as the tired old philosophical view that things only come into existence when we humans have given them names. No, the matter is straightforward, mathematics is a human invention. It is a powerful and useful tool for modeling physical reality. Models however are only models and as such they are no more equivalent to the reality they describe than a map is equivalent to the territory it describes. People who believe otherwise are delusional.The whole thrust of Our Mathematical Universe is to stake a claim for the primacy of math over physical reality and as such it should at best be considered a kind of freak show curiosity. If you want a close up look at what has become of the once noble endeavor of science this is the book for you. All the hubris, the vacuous intellectual posturing, and the incestuous back-scratching of the academically walled-off guild that is the modern scientific community is fully on display.This psychological and sociological nightmare that has evolved in the academy over the last hundred years or so might be forgivable if it had brought forth a scientifically viable cosmological model. Unfortunately, the results, known variously as the Big Bang, Lambda-CDM, or the Standard Model of Cosmology no more resembles the physical reality we actually observe than does the ancient earth centered cosmology of Ptolemy.Like the Ptolemaic model, the Big Bang can, by clever mathematical finagling, be made to ‘predict’ mundane events, but you cannot ask if the model itself structurally resembles physical reality. If you do ask, you will find the answer is no. The Big Bang model no more resembles physical reality than does the Ptolemaic model. Both require a belief in events that defy scientific credulity.According to Ptolemy the sun, moon, planets and stars all whirl about the stationary earth on a daily basis. It is hard to account for a physical mechanism which might permit such behavior of course. The Big Bang model is far worse. It tells us that at one point in time, approximately 13.8 billion years ago, all of the vast universe that we observe and even parts of it we cannot observe, were all co-located at a single infinitessimally small point. Except of course, as you will read in Tegmark’s account, mathematician’s would rather not discuss this inexplicable moment of origin but prefer to take up the tale a few millionths of a second after so they don’t have to account for a physically impossible condition and can instead proceed to discuss with great confidence a merely implausible one.An impossible initial condition isn’t the Big Bang model's only problem unfortunately. The model starts with the assumption that the cosmological redshift discovered by the astronomer Edwin Hubble is caused by a recessional velocity; the farther away a galaxy is from us the faster it is receding. (It should be noted that Hubble himself did not fully accept that interpretation but it nevertheless became the orthodox belief.) Mathematicians then arrived at the Big Bang’s impossible initial condition by ‘running the film of expansion backwards’. But a funny thing happened when they reran the expansion forward; it didn’t produce the universe we observe.Not to worry though, a clever mathematical theorist named Alan Guth cooked up a scenario whereby some negative vacuum pressure in the early moments of the expansion blew up the whole cosmos at a rate far exceeding the speed of light, thereby imprinting quantum fluctuations and producing just the universe we observe. Truly amazing, no? You can call it ad hoc and implausible also if you want to but the end result is, this so-called Inflation Theory saved the Big Bang’s bacon.But then, there are still other problems, The Big Bang model doesn’t seem to work on larger scales without invoking some invisible and ill-defined ‘stuff’, with the descriptively blunt names dark matter and dark energy. This invisible ‘stuff’ we are told comprises 95% of the universe while the real stuff we actually observe comprises the remaining 5%. To make matters clear, in order to agree with the results of actual physical observations the Big Bang model requires that the universe be composed of large amounts of invisible ‘stuff’ despite the fact there is no empirical evidence whatsoever for the existence of any such hypothetical ‘stuff’.Having said all this you may be surprised to hear that the Big Bang model is considered a triumph by mathematical theorists like Max Tegmark. Well that’s why I gave the book 3 stars - don’t take my word for it - read it for yourself. It’s all there in black and white. But do the memory of once noble Science a favor - borrow, don’t buy the book. You really shouldn’t provide funding and encouragement for this kind of blithering mathematical nonsense.

  • By Ashutosh S. Jogalekar on December 30, 2013

    Max Tegmark's book is a dazzling journey through the farthest reaches of physics, from the very small to the very large. Tegmark's wide-ranging mind leads us through physics spread across an incredible range of scales, from the size of the atomic nucleus to the entire universe. Tegmark does an excellent job of telling us how we know about the details of events like the Big Bang. He has succinct descriptions of the two cornerstones of physics, quantum mechanics and relativity, and describes many of their manifestations ranging from lasers to black holes. The sheer range of phenomena and topics explored by Tegmark in the book is staggering, and for the most part he does a good job explaining technical details like anomalies in the cosmic microwave background and quantum entanglement. There are even chapters on biology including ruminations on quantum effects in the brain and the emergence of biological complexity.Tegmark's stories are highly personal and his infectious enthusiasm for science shines through, even if the language is often a little too colloquial and gee-whiz (the phrase "Oh no!" punctuates the narrative literally hundreds of times) and even if the author seems to be a little too smitten at times with his own cleverness and late night thinking binges. Another slight issue with the book is that in his quest to cover as much ground as possible, Tegmark often gives short shrift to some important topics; for instance his criticism of Roger Penrose's thoughts on the brain operating by quantum principles is all too brief and does not consider some recent work implicating quantum entanglement in photosynthesis.Unfortunately these splendid discussions and detours are marred in my opinion by an even bigger problem: Tegmark's analysis of multiple universes. Drawing on the latest theories in physics, mathematics and quantum computing he navigates the myriad and fascinating implications of parallel universes. He also takes a swipe at the very fanciful conjecture that the entire observable universe might simply be a computer simulation in some super-intelligent alien's universe. Unfortunately this is all speculation and currently we don't have any experimental evidence that these wondrous creatures actually exist. In addition many of the ideas seem to only push previous problems under the rug. For instance, so-called "M theory" suffers from the presence of an unimaginable number of possible solutions; in Tegmark and others' world, the answer to this conundrum is to postulate unobservable multiple universes, each one of which can accommodate every one of these solutions. It's like building one unstable structure to support another. Unlike some other treatments of the subject, Tegmark's narrative pays scant attention to discussing the testable implications of these fantastic theories, and one wishes he had expressed more reservations about some of his musings, especially in the absence of experimental evidence. This makes the journey less of science and more of science fiction and philosophy. Now it's perfectly ok to write a book about philosophy, but it's a problem when it's pitched as cutting-edge science.Ultimately the discussion of multiple universes generates more heat than light and sounds more like the byproduct of a brilliant and feverish imagination than the handiwork of rigorous science constrained by experiment. Speculation, no matter how fascinating and mind-expanding, is not science. Ever since the Renaissance science has been defined by agreement with observation and experiment, and it would be an understatement to say that this commonsense approach has yielded a windfall of scientific discoveries and benefits that the founders of the scientific method wouldn't even have imagined. Even quantum physics with all its paradoxes and counterintuitive implications is ultimately accepted as legitimate science only because of its unprecedented agreement with experiment. In contrast, the founders of modern science would not have recognized fantasy-laden speculations about extra dimensions and multiverses that have been propagated in a decade's worth of popular physics books, of which Tegmark's volume is only the latest incarnation.It is time we again grounded physics in the real world and lifted a page out of Newton and Bacon's playbook, and it is time that we clearly separated science from philosophy, but Tegmark's book provides little clues regarding how this very important and necessary goal can be achieved.


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