The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?

Cosmic Jackpot (also published under the title The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?) is Paul Davies's eagerly awaited return to cosmology, the successor to his critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind of God. Here he tackles all the "big questions," including the biggest of them all: Why does the universe seem so well adapted for life? In his cha...

DownloadRead Online
Title:The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?
Author:Paul Davies
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? Reviews

  • Johan Haneveld

    A couple of years ago a friend of mine told me about this book and some of the ideas involved in it. I was intrigued and my ideas about the universe and Gods purpose (this book is at best agnostic, but I am a theist) changed consequently. My friend explained that this book put forth the theory that (in accordance with quantum mechanics) the observer of the universe (a future universe wide intelligence?) by observing and understanding the universe, is responsible for the universe being a fit plac

    A couple of years ago a friend of mine told me about this book and some of the ideas involved in it. I was intrigued and my ideas about the universe and Gods purpose (this book is at best agnostic, but I am a theist) changed consequently. My friend explained that this book put forth the theory that (in accordance with quantum mechanics) the observer of the universe (a future universe wide intelligence?) by observing and understanding the universe, is responsible for the universe being a fit place for observing intelligences. This implies that the arrow of time is not unidirectional, going from the past to the future in a deterministic (and thus fatalistic) way, but the arrow of time points to the future, meaning it's direction is determined by what is going to be and how to get there, not by what was. The deterministic view is kept by materialist scientists as well as fundamentalist christians and both views to me led to a loss of hope in life. In both views we left a perfect state and all is going down hill since then. If all is determined to go to the drains (the heat death of the universe or hell) and there is no room for choice, then why live? But if there is a 'telos' in the universe, something we are travelling towards, something that will be accomplished, then we gain meaning, and hope. This is a more 'open' view, but I believe that God is working towards a future, that is promised, and our lives can be taken up in that, if we allow him to. We can work with him, but even if we don't, he's making it so. Yes, humanity failed, but this was not a 'fall' from a perfect state, but a failure to achieve a destiny, and God has promised that this destiny will be fulfilled anyway. Not Genesis is our goal, but Revelation.

    Yes, I use a scientific text (or popular science anyway) to inform my theological speculation, but I think as christians we ought to do that more often anyway, as I think Gods creation says more about him than we often think it does. Why did God make this world using a process of laws distilling from the symmetry of the big bang? Why the long epochs of gasses slowly congealing into galaxies, why the long road? This book also asks questions of theists and their explanations of why this universe is the way it is - questions that made me think: the notion of God is not rationally to be understood, from a rational point of view it is quite absurd even. If God is eternal, not created, and there is nothing outside of him: how can that be? How could he think? How could he decide to create? But (and this is a big but) the scientific or rational explanations for why the universe is the way it is (being a place conducive to intelligent life) are also absurd and require a leap of faith as big as believing in a creator. The reason to believe in God then is not based on a rational explanation, but the deciding factor in choosing an explanation to me is based on the revelation of God in Christ. As to the nature of God and creation, I think they are more intricately involved in each other than is often accounted for (for if there is not space and time outside of the cosmos, where is God? That is not a question that can be asked. So God must be everywhere. As Paul said: In him we live, move and have our being.)

    This is not all speculation though! Especially the first half of the book is a very involving and to me understandable explanation of current idea's on cosmology, particle physics and the big bang. Even without a lot of prior knowledge I gained a lot of insight from this (e.g. why the Higgs boson is such a big deal!), but the subject is tough, and Davies does not explain himself twice, so one has to read carefully (the boxes and illustrations help, though). I was inspired by this summary of the respective fields, and the search for unification in theories, and will read more on this subject. Oh, and I liked his references to SF-authors and stories in the text.

    Definitely recommended for people who want their minds blown. We live in a strange universe, that is for sure, and whatever ultimate theory you accept, the fact that we exist and that we are able to understand our universe (a bit), is shown to be a marvel, something to be in awe of. A book that accomplishes this wonder about our world and our existence does something good to ones soul.

  • SJ Loria

    "All science is a search for unification." - Paul Davies

    "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" - Stephen Hawking

    A quick description of the book. A small rant. Quotes.

    Book: A pretty, pretty, pretty good book written with the idea that people are smart and capable of figuring things out, but not arrogant enough to think we have it all figured out.

    The Goldilocks Enigma is an interesting book. Though I doubt it (or anything) will sway the harden

    "All science is a search for unification." - Paul Davies

    "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" - Stephen Hawking

    A quick description of the book. A small rant. Quotes.

    Book: A pretty, pretty, pretty good book written with the idea that people are smart and capable of figuring things out, but not arrogant enough to think we have it all figured out.

    The Goldilocks Enigma is an interesting book. Though I doubt it (or anything) will sway the hardened atheist, it's the most scientific analysis of the miracle of life I've read. Davies is a wonderful thinker, driven by the most dangerous and powerful of all questions - "why." Why are the laws of physics and conditions of the universe conducive to life? Why does consciousness and life emerge in the universe? If life is not an accidental byproduct, then it's miraculous. If consciousness plays a direct role in shaping the physical world, then wow. Davies catalogues a number of fascinating examples of how perfectly the universe is situated to allow us to walk around, marvel at the clouds, construct theories, build businesses, and waste our time on celebrity gossip.

    While comprehensive, I don't think the book is going to change anyone's opinion. A skeptic is still going to go, so what, and resort to the gap solution belief that we'll figure out all these questions soon enough. The gap solution belief is the opposite of the God of the gap theory.

    Rant: How the debate dissolved into a shouting match

    The quantum universe is weird. Physics currently holds that the observer effects the observed, that particles are better described as waves, and that the future is uncertain. When you ask that powerful question, "why" you find it's turtles all the way down (that's a science joke), until you find your super turtle - the answer or the uberturtle as Nietzsche might have said (that's a philosophy joke). The chain of causality leads to 3 possible options.

    1. GOD

    2. TOE

    3. WTF

    God: Option one is to say God exists. Usually God is tangled into religions, but that is not a necessary relationship. To draw an analogy, we believe in freedom and different governments protect it, but we would never say blank country is freedom. So it is with God and religion.

    Toe: Option two is to say there exists a theory of everything (TOE) and that science will discover it soon enough. This relies on a confidence in our ability to figure things out. It's like a sign at a bar that reads "Free beer tomorrow." Belief in TOE is similar to belief in God. You cannot "prove it" using empirical methods (ironic since science prides itself on exactly that point) but its advocates believe we'll get there. The deity in this system are the "laws" of nature.

    Wtf: Option three is to say, WTF mate, there is no reason anything exists, chaos rules! It's not so much an answer to the question as it is a way of saying this isn't a question, now step out of my sunlight and let me live in my barrel. It's the cynical response, impossible to argue against in the same way it's impossible to disprove a solipsist. Try it on for a bit, but, this is a solution that in my mind is best discarded with the rest of your college posters.

    There's a phrase that's hard to say, "I'm sorry." Perhaps we also have a hard time saying, "we don't know." The ultimate why, the super turtle, will always be a debate. Our intelligence and our methods of figuring things out are insufficient. It's an eternal mystery, which is either fascinating or infuriating.

    Here's the problem. The discourse around this debate, like the discourse around any idea nowadays, has become a shouting match and name calling battle. Take, as an example, the title of Richard Dawkins "The God Delusion." The implication is that any belief in God is akin to a mental illness. That's not a healthy starting point for any debate. As a man who has lived on all sides of this debate (grew up in a radical Catholic sect, spent several years a chest thumping atheist, have settled into a kind of pantheism meets wonder and awe at the universal flux) I see the fundamental problem as complete confidence in our own perspective, a lack of respect for the opposing camp's starting position, and a refusal to admit the built-in assumptions in any position. Yes, TOE and science involve belief and assumptions, but that's ok. Yes, God cannot be captured in an equation, but that's ok. It doesn't mean someone is a cold blooded spreadsheet (the caricature of a scientist) or a delusional idiot (the caricature of a religious believer).

    Davies is one of many scientists who acknowledges the divine. He demonstrates its possible to both know and understand the scientific method (our best invention for figuring things out) but also recognizes its limitations.

    Quotes

    John Archibald Wheeler's style was distinctive. He was the master of the thought experiment, taking an accepted idea and extrapolating it to the ultimate extreme, to see if and when it would break down…Not content with simply applying the laws of quantum mechanics, he wanted to know where they came from: 'How come the quantum?'...These concepts led him to propose the 'participatory universe,' an idea (or, as Wheeler preferred, 'an idea for an idea') which has proved to be an important part of the multiverse / anthropic discussion. In his beliefs and attitudes, Wheeler represented a large section of the scientific community: committed wholeheartedly to the scientific method of inquiry, but not afraid to tackle deep philosophical questions; not conventionally religious but inspired by a reverence for nature and a deep sense that human beings are part of a grand scheme which we glimpse only incompletely; bold enough to follow the laws of physics wherever they lead, but no so arrogant as to think we have all the answers. Xiii

    Attempts to gain useful information about the world through magic, mysticism and secret mathematical codes mostly led nowhere. But about 350 years ago, the greatest magician who ever lived finally stumbled on the key to the universe - a cosmic code that would open the floodgates of knowledge. This was Isaac Newton - mystic, theologian, and alchemist - and in spite of his mystical leanings, he did more than anyone to change the age of magic into the age of science. 4

    Newton, Galileo and other early scientists treated their investigations as a religious quest. They though that by exposing the patterns woven into the process of nature they truly were glimpsing the mind of God. 5

    Schoolchildren learn about this law as 'a fact of nature,' and normally move on without giving it much further thought. But I want to stop right there and ask the question, why...The fact that the physical world conforms to mathematical laws led Galileo to make a famous remark. 'The great book of nature,' he wrote, 'can be read only by those who know the language in which it was written. And this language is mathematics." 9

    The idea of laws began as a way of formalizing patterns in nature that connect together physical events. Physicists became so familiar with the laws that somewhere along the way the laws themselves - as opposed to the events they describe - became promoted to reality. 13

    When it comes to actual physical phenomena, science wins hands down against gods and miracles…when it comes to metaphysical questions such as 'why are there laws of nature?' the situation is less clear…. The God of scholarly theology is cast in the role of a wise Cosmic Architect whose existence is manifested through the rational order of the cosmos, an order that is in fact revealed by science. 16

    Instead of finding that space is filled with a dog's breakfast of unrelated bric-a-brac, astronomers see an orchestrated and coherent unity. On the largest scale of size there is order and uniformity. [I think the presence of beauty is one of the most compelling arguments for the cosmic creator, the word cosmos in fact means beauty and order.] 21

    There is a horizon in space beyond which we cannot see. This infinite red shift, clearly, is a fundamental limit: we could not see beyond in space or this moment in time. Cosmologists refer to this limit as a horizon. The moment of the big bang, in this simplified and idealized picture, is a horizon in space beyond which we can never see, even in principle, however powerful our instrument (and ignoring the opacity of the material). 34

    The universe contains no net mass at all! And that, as we shall see later, is yet another one of those 'coincidences' that is needed for a life-permitting universe….another one of those bio-friendly features in need of explanation. 54

    Quantum weirdness. Wave-particle duality is a basic feature. Which aspect - wave or particle - depends on the type of experiment or observation performed. It is not possible to say in general whether a photon or an electron is "really" a wave or a particle, because it can behave like both. Closely related to this vagueness is a central tenant of quantum mechanics called Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. This forbids a quantum object from possessing a full set of familiar physical attributes at any given time. 72

    Time itself began with the big bang. Augustine's considered answer to what God was doing before creating the universe was that 'the world was made with time and not in time.' Augustine's God is a being who transcends time, a being located outside time altogether, and responsible for creating time as well as space and matter. 81

    Either the cosmic origin is a natural event, or it is a supernatural event. 92

    The Standard Model looks like a halfway house to a fully unified theory in which the strong and electroweak forces would be merged into a single superforce…all science is a search for unification. 116

    Uniformity and mediocrity are by no means the only features of the universe that must be explained. There is one aspect that often gets left off the list of observed properties, and this is the fact that there are observers to observe them. 148

    The question of whether or not we are long in the universe is one of the great unsolved puzzles of science. 150

    Our existence depends on the dark energy not being too large. A factor of ten would suffice to preclude life: if space contained ten times as much dark energy as it actually does, the universe would fly apart too fast for galaxies to form. A factor of ten is a pretty close call. The cliché that 'life is balancing on a knife-edge' is a staggering understatement in this case: no knife in the universe could have an edge that fine. 170

    The human brain alone has more cells than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. 218

    One man's super-turtle is another man's laughing stock…You can't use science to disprove the existence of a supernatural God, and you can't use religion to disprove the existence of self-supporting physical laws. 247

    The strong anthropic principle…the laws of physics and the evolution of the universe are in some unspecified manner destined to bring forth life and mind. 251

    Defining life is notoriously hard, but three properties stand out. The first is that biological organisms are a product of Darwinian evolution…the second key quality is autonomy. If you throw a dead bird into the air, it will follow a simple geometrical path and land a predictable spot. But if you throw a live bird into the air, it is impossible to know how it will move or where it will land…the third distinctive property of living systems is how they handle information. 254

    According to the Copenhagen interpretation, the act of observation itself was the key step in forcing nature to 'make up its mind' (left or right). A few physicists saw this as evidence for consciousness playing a direct role in the physical world at the quantum level. Most physicists, however, rejected that view. 257

    "We see that without introducing an observer, we have a dead universe, which does not evolve in time. We are together, the universe and us. The moment you say that the universe exists without any observers, I cannot make any sense out of that. I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness. In the absence of observers, our universe is dead." - Andrei Linde

    There is a logic as well as a temporal loop here. Conventional science assumes a linear logical sequence: cosmos - life - mind. Wheeler suggested closing this chain into a loop: cosmos - life - mind - cosmos. He expressed the essential idea with characteristic economy of prose: "Physics gives rise to observer-participancy; observer-participancy gives rise to information; information gives rise to physics." 281

  • Manny

    I read Martin Rees's

    a couple of weeks ago and found it remarkably interesting. But, as Nick said, it's also about 15 years old. I decided I needed something a little more modern, hence this book.

    Well, if you're interested in Big Questions, there's no doubt that

    is a fun read. The first half presents the core problem. When you look at the fundamental laws of the universe, a weird pattern emerges: everything is tuned exactly right for life to be possib

    I read Martin Rees's

    a couple of weeks ago and found it remarkably interesting. But, as Nick said, it's also about 15 years old. I decided I needed something a little more modern, hence this book.

    Well, if you're interested in Big Questions, there's no doubt that

    is a fun read. The first half presents the core problem. When you look at the fundamental laws of the universe, a weird pattern emerges: everything is tuned exactly right for life to be possible. There is a whole row of these "coincidences", as they're generally called. If the early universe, just after the Big Bang, had been slightly more uneven, then galaxies couldn't have formed. If gravity were a bit stronger, stars would have burned up quickly rather than shining for billions of years. If carbon didn't have some very special properties, no elements except hydrogen and helium would have been created. If neutrinos didn't react just as strongly as they do with atomic nuclei, supernovae wouldn't happen and there would be no heavy elements. All of these things, and others, have to work for life to have a chance of emerging. Davies covers more or less the same material here as the Rees book, but his treatment assumes less background; for example, he explains how we know that the universe is expanding, and what a quark is. If you know this kind of thing already, you'll be a little irritated, and probably find the Rees more enjoyable.

    The rest of the book looks at possible explanations, starting with the most mainstream ones and moving into more and more speculative territory. Even the mainstream stuff is seriously mind-blowing; we seem to be in the middle of a scientific revolution here. One possibility is that the "coincidences" are just that. It's possible, but seems very much against the odds. An explanation which has won some measure of respectability is some version of the "multiverse". People appear to have constructed reasonably plausible models of what happened in the early stages of the Big Bang, when a mysterious process called "inflation" exponentially expanded the universe, in a tiny fraction of a second, from the size of a proton to the size of, perhaps, a few meters across. As far as I can make out, no one really understands what "inflation" is, but it's the only theory that makes sense of the data, in particular the fact that the universe is so homogeneous.

    Many models of "inflation" predict that the process keeps on occurring in different places ("eternal inflation"). Every time it kicks in, you get in effect a new Big Bang which creates a bubble of space-time like the one we live in. There is a huge, perhaps infinite, number of these bubbles, separated by incredible distances which make the size of our own universe look tiny in comparison. Moreover, each bubble universe could come with different flavors of the physical laws; it is not impossible that parts of the laws are set when the universe cools down from its initial superhot state. The strongest evidence to support this idea is the now generally accepted idea that the electromagnetic and "weak" nuclear forces are the same thing at high enough energies; the two forces were the same in the early universe, and then split apart. It's speculative, but maybe other and more dramatic changes in the physical laws happened even earlier.

    If this account is roughly correct, and "eternal inflation" means that the Big Bang happened many times, then you could indeed in effect have many universes, all with more or less different versions of the physical laws. We just happen to be one of the ones which got the right combination of numbers. It doesn't seem out of the question to investigate the "multiverse" hypothesis scientifically, making testable predictions: in particular, statistical arguments suggest that, when a constant needs to have a value in a particular range to make life possible, we would usually expect it to have a value that's only just good enough, rather than being in the middle of the range. People have been trying to explore this line of reasoning using the strength of "dark energy", which is one of the critical numbers; so far, the results are unclear.

    This was the section of the book I found most interesting. Afterwards, it got very speculative indeed, and often seemed to be straying into what to me felt like science fiction or mysticism. It was still fascinating to see Davies, clearly the veteran of many cosmological bull sessions, methodically going through the possibilities. One explanation, of course, is that the universe was designed by a Higher Intelligence. This is a solution, but has no explanatory power; we have no way of knowing anything about the the Higher Intelligence, and there is still the problem of where

    came from. ("Who created God?") A twist I hadn't seen before is a cross between the "multiverse" and the idea that we are living in a simulation ("The Matrix"). If there are an infinite number of universes, the argument goes, then some of them must have advanced enough technologies that they can create simulated Matrix-style universes. It's much easier to create a simulated universe than a real one, hence statistically we are most likely living in a simulation. I'm afraid this idea sounded to me like pure bullshit, but apparently some people like it.

    Another way-out suggestion may appeal to some mathematicians. Perhaps the "Platonic World" of mathematics is the real world, and every consistent mathematical theory exists merely by virtue of being consistent. On this account, the world we see as real is no more than a mathematical abstraction. Nothing needs to

    it real; it already is. I have had this thought myself, and I can't actually see any flaw in the argument, but it still feels too bizarre to be credible. But the final chapters are the weirdest of all. Davies thinks about formulations of quantum mechanics where the observer is an essential part of the theory. Maybe the universe needs us, because it has to have observers; without them, it wouldn't exist. Again, this seems to be me ridiculous, and just shows that those versions of quantum mechanics are mistaken. But if as great a thinker as Wheeler took the argument seriously, I'm probably being a bit hasty in dismissing it out of hand.

    Okay, okay... frequently annoying, but fun and thought-provoking. I couldn't put it down. Next, I'm reading Brian Greene's

    and Julian Barbour's

    . I will report in due course!

  • WarpDrive

    This is a quite interesting, thought-provoking book by an author who is not scared of asking the Big Questions about the origins of what exists, about the meaning of life and consciousness in the Universe, about the bio-friendliness of the Universe, and its tendency to self-organize into increasing levels of complexity.

    The first part of the book is the least interesting: it just looks like another of those popular science books, at beginner level, that describe the usual stuff: CMB, Inflation T

    This is a quite interesting, thought-provoking book by an author who is not scared of asking the Big Questions about the origins of what exists, about the meaning of life and consciousness in the Universe, about the bio-friendliness of the Universe, and its tendency to self-organize into increasing levels of complexity.

    The first part of the book is the least interesting: it just looks like another of those popular science books, at beginner level, that describe the usual stuff: CMB, Inflation Theory, Standard Model, shape of the Universe, relationship between QM and GR, dark matter and dark energy etc. - stuff that I have seen ad nauseam, and at much more detailed level – so this part did not arouse much of my interest at all (and occasionally it irritated me, to be honest). On the other hand, the section about symmetry-breaking is actually done quite well, and the author manages to explain this very important concept in a simple but very informative manner.

    It must also be said, to be fair to the author, that even the initial part of the book is written in a nice, compelling and informative way that will delight the beginner with no prior exposure to such subjects.

    In the first part of the book the author also makes several examples of how, when you look at the fundamental laws of the universe, an interesting and unquestionable pattern emerges: everything is tuned exactly right for life to be possible. The extent of such remarkable “fine-tuning” appears quite overwhelming. The examples are "run of the mill" stuff (relative strength of the fundamental forces, relative mass of the neutron versus proton etc.) - so nothing groundbreaking here - but they are explained in a nice way and made interesting and easily comprehensible.

    The rest of the book is far more interesting and it looks at possible explanations to the “Goldilocks enigma”; in trying to address this enigma, the author analyses all options in a open-minded, balanced but also rigorous manner (within the limits of the subject matter, where speculative analysis is unavoidable). All options are analyzed and given a fair treatment, from the most mainstream ones to the most speculative ones.

    I enjoyed the open-mindedness of the author, his willingness to complement the scientific approach, where necessary, with a philosophically analytical approach (the author manages to adopt philosophical arguments that at times can be pretty compelling and quite methodical); I also appreciated his intellectual honesty in highlighting the speculative character of some of the hypotheses being discussed in the book. And even the most speculative options are analyzed methodically against the current scientific understanding and the available philosophical methods and ideas.

    Where I personally draw the line, as I am temperamentally very disinclined to this type of approaches to QM, is when the author uses the delayed-choice experiment to highlight that the observer is an essential part of the theory, and that backward causation can be argued for, proposing that the the universe needs observers as, without them, it wouldn't exist. This is a step too far, IMHO. But it must be said that a great scientist like Wheeler took the argument seriously, so maybe the author was not wrong in not apriori discounting this option.

    I loved that the author included Max Tegmark's perspective (which, in my opinion, has more merits than some people are willing to concede), and that he also included a variation of a particular option towards which I personally tend – the self-explanatory, teleologically structured, causally-looped Universe (option which appears to be favored by the author himself). This option tries to address the fact that the Universe has somewhat engineered its own awareness and self-understanding.

    In more general terms, I agree with the author in his refusal to discount, aprioristically, that the Universe, in its structure and tendency to increasing levels of complexity, is “about something”. He refuses to concede, on a priori basis, that complexity, life and consciousness are just accident that do not require explanation.

    I also like the author's refusal to be driven into an either theistic or atheistic type of intellectual bigotry.

    What I also liked is that aspects of computational complexity, and informational contents, are taken into proper consideration. We should not forget the incredible amount of information content presented by life and, even more, by consciousness and intelligence. Wheeler's famous “it from bit” is also explained.

    I also really liked that the author tried to address (even though he does it quite succinctly) very important, fundamental questions about the relationship between mathematics, mathematically idealized physical laws, and reality, as posed by Landauer and Chaitin. Their important work, and their potentially foundational consequences to philosophy of mathematics and science, have not always been taken fully into consideration.

    Overall, it is a well-written, thought provoking book, pretty mind-blowing in some parts, and quite enjoyable to read.

  • Murray

    This is a fine book, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys pondering the imponderable. If you want to read about the most important existential question we humans have asked through the ages, written by one our most creative minds, this is a book for you. However I have several recommendations to make before you begin:

    1.Do not read at night before you go to bed (I did for much of it, but it I didn’t understand what I was reading and I fell asleep before I could finish the page). I didn’t r

    This is a fine book, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys pondering the imponderable. If you want to read about the most important existential question we humans have asked through the ages, written by one our most creative minds, this is a book for you. However I have several recommendations to make before you begin:

    1.Do not read at night before you go to bed (I did for much of it, but it I didn’t understand what I was reading and I fell asleep before I could finish the page). I didn’t really appreciate the book until I could finally reserve some time during the day when I had time and the frame of mind to appreciate what I was reading.

    2.Do not expect a definite answer to the question posed in the title. No one, not even someone as brilliant as Professor Davies has that answer. (Except of course people who adhere to the Intelligent Design Theory—but why should they waste their time on the other alternatives explored in this book?) Likewise, if you are an absolute atheist you might not like the book either. You need to have an open mind, so a confused agnostic like myself will find the possibilities intriguing.

    3.Consider starting at the Afterword at the end of the book. The various possible explanations, with their pro’s and cons (including Intelligent Design) are concisely rendered.

    For those of you who still wish to embark on this journey through time and space, be prepared. Dr. Davies is going to take you from the big bang to multiple universes, explore the weird mysteries of quantum fields, and explain why time travel isn’t just science fiction. I’ve read about this before, and I am as confused as ever about the ways photons can decide at the last minute whether or not they wish to behave as particle or waves, or travel forward and backward in time. (I keep thinking we still don’t understand something essential about them, and that our concepts will change once we have better tools to measure their seemingly disparate properties. But minds far better than mine, unconstrained by normal human experience, are at work at this while I am writing this review).

    Inflation we find out is more than something government does with our money. It’s the cosmologist’s fanciful article of faith that “explains” how the universe got to be as large as it is when it started infinitely small. Galaxies and black holes dot the landscape. Will the universe fly apart or collapse? Dark matter and energy lurks sinisterly in the background with that solution. And what are galaxies but aggregates of quarks and neutrinos, tiny little things that go bump in the night?

    This book is as much a philosophical treatise as a book of pure science. Davies takes on Platonic idealism amongst many other ideas. Do the laws of physics really exist? Are they the same in all universes, or all regions of ours? Towards the end of the book Davies gently probes the prejudices of all believers and non-believers.

    Dr. Davies can wax arcane and lost me in several areas. If one is not well versed in the field of cosmology one is taken aback when the author summarizes an argument by concluding, “In this section I have shown how, by accepting that the universe is a finite computational resource, and making use of the work by Landauer and Lloyd, Wheeler’s assertion can be made explicit.” Huh? Not explicit enough for me. But that’s my fault, not the author’s.

    The book is not for everybody. You will have to invest more mental resources in this if you wish to get something out of it. But there’s a lot of “there” there if you are up to the effort.

  • Nikki

    I'm not sure that this book is entirely successful in answering, or even trying to address, the question posed on the cover -- why is the universe just right for life? It talks a lot about how the universe may have formed, and what the laws of the universe are, and it seems like it does a lot of describing rather than explaining. Now, of course, that's because we don't really have an answer, but it does seem a little misleading.

    Davies looks at a lot of different theories here, some of them more

    I'm not sure that this book is entirely successful in answering, or even trying to address, the question posed on the cover -- why is the universe just right for life? It talks a lot about how the universe may have formed, and what the laws of the universe are, and it seems like it does a lot of describing rather than explaining. Now, of course, that's because we don't really have an answer, but it does seem a little misleading.

    Davies looks at a lot of different theories here, some of them more scientific than others -- he includes the philosophical side of things too, including the religious point of view. He's fairly even handed about this, so it's hard to tell exactly where he'd put his money most of the time (except that he's generally sceptical of the religion explanation, because it's a non-explanation: it just shunts the question up a level). Most of the explanations are clear, though string theory remains utterly baffling to me (or at least, the rationale behind it does).

    Oddly enough, I'm left feeling that

    is much more positive about the idea that other intelligent life is out there than

    . I haven't looked at publication order or anything, but it was a little strange, reading them one after the other.

    Regardless, this was written before the Large Hadron Collider swung into action, so no doubt it's out of date in some ways. Still a good background in the various theories, particularly the more philosophical ones like the anthropic principles that aren't likely to change. (To his credit, I now understand the anthropic principle a lot better than I did after GCSE/A Level Religious Studies. Sorry, Mr B.)

  • S.P.

    In the preface and acknowledgements Paul Davies cites his thanks to the John Templeton Foundation. This is the foundation that is responsible for supporting ‘pro god’ science (ahem) and trying to suppress what it considers ‘anti god’ science. This did not fill me with confidence with what was to come. The first half of the book was, however, very interesting. The latter stages went along with what you would expect from somebody who is supported by Templeton. Although Paul Davies does not support

    In the preface and acknowledgements Paul Davies cites his thanks to the John Templeton Foundation. This is the foundation that is responsible for supporting ‘pro god’ science (ahem) and trying to suppress what it considers ‘anti god’ science. This did not fill me with confidence with what was to come. The first half of the book was, however, very interesting. The latter stages went along with what you would expect from somebody who is supported by Templeton. Although Paul Davies does not support the view that the universe popped into existence on the whim of a benevolent and omnipotent deity, he does count this as a viable option alongside more contemporary ideas based on science and mathematics, then he goes onto postulate that at some point in the far future the universe itself may become god-like and creates itself in the past. I found the explanation for this to be somewhat dubious personally (though admit I am no physicist) and was ultimately felt that the purpose of the book was not to honestly try to explain why the universe is the way it is but to muddy the waters of existing rational explanations (blind luck, multiverse) and to somehow suggest that there is a god after all.

WISE BOOK is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2019 WISE BOOK - All rights reserved.