The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe

The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe


By (author) Julian B. Barbour

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Time is an illusion. Although the laws of physics create a powerful impression that time is flowing, in fact there are only timeless 'nows'. In THE END OF TIME, the British theoretical physicist Julian Barbour describes the coming revolution in our understanding of the world: a quantum theory of the universe that brings together Einstein's general theory of relativity, which denies the existence of a unique time, and quantum mechanics, which demands one. Barbour believes that only the most radical of ideas can resolve the conflict between these two theories: that there is, quite literally, no time at all. This is the first full-length account of the crisis in our understanding that has enveloped quantum cosmology. Unifying thinking that has never been brought together before in a book for the general reader, Barbour reveals the true architecture of the universe and demonstrates how physics is coming up sharp against the extraordinary possibility that the sense of time passing emerges from a universe that is timeless. The heart of the book is the author's lucid description of how a world of stillness can appear to be teeming with motion: in this timeless world where all possible instants coexist, complex mathematical rules of quantum mechanics bind together a special selection of these instants in a coherent order that consciousness perceives as the flow of time. Finally, in a lucid and eloquent epilogue, the author speculates on the philosophical implications of his theory: Does free will exist? Is time travel possible? How did the universe begin? Where is heaven? Does the denial of time make life meaningless? Written with exceptional clarity and elegance, this profound and original work presents a dazzlingly powerful argument that all will be able to follow, but no-one with an interest in the workings of the universe will be able to ignore.

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Author information

Julian Barbour has worked on foundational issues in physics for 35 years, making important and original contributions to the theory of time and motion. Author of ABSOLUTE OR RELATIVE MOTION?, a much-praised book on the history of science, he has contributed to several recent major television and radio programmes that have been broadcast worldwide.

Editorial reviews

This is a cracker. Julian Barbour subscribes to the version of quantum theory which holds that everything that could possibly happen exists 'all the time' in some set of alternative realities that are stacked together forwards, backwards, up, down and sideways. We're accustomed to thinking of there being a smooth flow of time but in the picture the author creates, there is no such flow but rather an ordering of things analogous to a series of still images on a strip of movie film which merely gives an illusion of time passing. No short review can do justice to these ideas or to the cogent way in which he presents a case that will intrigue you and make you think deeply about the world, even if you conclude that he is as mad as a hatter. (Kirkus UK)