The Life of the Cosmos

The Life of the Cosmos

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We live in the age of a new scientific revolution, one as sweeping and profound as that launched by Copernicus, one that continues to unfold. Beginning at the turn of the century, with the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics, this second revolution has collapsed the elegant old Newtonian universe. Yet physicists have yet to complete a replacement, as they search for a grand unified theory. Now cosmologist Lee Smolin offers a startling new approach--a theory of the universethat is at once elegant, comprehensive, and radically different from anything proposed before. In The Life of the Cosmos, Smolin cuts the Gordian knot of cosmology with a simple, powerful idea: "The underlying structure of our world," he writes, "is to be found in the logic of evolution." Today's physicists, he writes, have overturned Newton's view of the universe, yet they continue to cling to an understanding of reality not unlike Newton's own--as a clock, an intricate yet static mechanism. Smolin sees the very fabric of reality as changing and developing. "The laws ofnature themselves," he argues, "like the biological species, may not be eternal categories, but rather the creations of natural processes occuring in time." A process of self organization like that of biologal evolution shapes the universe, as it develops and eventually reproduces through black holes, each ofwhich may result in a new big bang and a new universe. Natural selection may guide the appearance of the laws of physics, favoring those universes which best reproduce. Smolin's ideas are based on recent developments in cosmology, quantum theory, relativity and string theory, yet they offer, at the same time, a completely new view of how these developments may fit together to form a new theory of cosmology. The result will be a cosmology according to which the fact that the universe is a hometo life will be seen to be a natural consequence of the fundamental principles on which it has been built. This will be in direct contrast with the older point of view, coming from Newtonian physics, according to which the fact that the universe contains life, or any form of organization, isaccidental. We exist in a universe filled with an array of beautiful structures ranging from the molecular organization of living things upwards to the galaxies, and science must ultimately explain why. In so doing, science will give us a picture of the universe in which, as the author writes, "the occurence of novelty, indeed the perpetual birth of novelty, can be understood." Lee Smolin is one of the leading cosmologists at work today, and he writes with an expertise and force of argument that will command attention throughout the world of physics. As startling as many of his ideas sound, each is subject to testing, and he includes several ideas on how they might be confirmed or disproved. Perhaps most important, however, is the humanity and sharp clarity of his prose, offering access for the layperson to the mind bending space at the forefront of today'sphysics.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 366 pages
  • 166.9 x 231.9 x 28.2mm | 716.68g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 019510837X
  • 9780195108378

About Lee Smolin

About the Author: Lee Smolin is Professor of Physics at the Center for Gravitational Physics and Geometry at the Pennsylvania State University. As a theoretical physicist, he has contributed several key ideas to the search for a unification of quantum theory, cosmology, and relativity.show more

Table of contents

Prologue/Revolutions; Introduction; PART 1: THE CRISIS IN FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICS; 1. Light and Life; 2. The logic of the atom; 3. The miracle of the stars; 4. The dream of Unification; 5. The lessons of string theory; PART 2: AN ECOLOGY OF SPACE AND TIME; 6. Are the laws of physics universal?; 7. Did the universe evolve?; 8. Detective work; 9. The ecology of the galaxy; 10. Games and galaxies; PART 3: THE ORGANIZATION OF THE COSMOS; 11. What is life?; 12. The cosmology of an interesting universe; 13. The flower and the dodecahedron; 14. Philosophy, religion, and cosmology; 15. From the anthropic and evolving universe; PART 4: EINSTEIN'S LEGACY; 16. Space and time in the new cosmology; 17. The road from Newton to Einstein; 18. The meaning of Einstein's theory of relativity; 19. The meaning of the quantum; PART 5: EINSTEIN'S REVENGE; 20. Cosmology and the quantum; 21. A pluralistic universe; 22. Ther world as a network of relations; 23. The evolution of time; Epilogue/Evolutions; Appendix: Testing cosmological natural selection; Notes and Acknowledgements; Bibliography; Glossary; Indexshow more

Review quote

"Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos is a fascinating book. Its central theme is an extraordinary speculative idea, but very well argued for. There is wealth of interesting and informative accompanying material here--as one would expect from an author of such breadth and depth of physical understanding."--Roger Penrose"Smolin is a deep and original thinker. In this provocative book he merges key elements of Einstein and Darwin in a breathtaking synthesis. The result is nothing less than a radically new view of the cosmos and our place within it."--Paul Davies"In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman"One of the more informed imaginative thinkers of our time, Lee Smolin, has set forth a challenging exploration of natural philosophy. This book will surely change your thinking about some things, maybe about everything."--Harold J. Morowitz, Director, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University"In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman "Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos is a fascinating book. Its central theme is an extraordinary speculative idea, but very well argued for. There is wealth of interesting and informative accompanying material here--as one would expect from an author of such breadth and depth of physical understanding."--Roger Penrose "Smolin is a deep and original thinker. In this provocative book he merges key elements of Einstein and Darwin in a breathtaking synthesis. The result is nothing less than a radically new view of the cosmos and our place within it."--Paul Davies "In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman "One of the more informed imaginative thinkers of our time, Lee Smolin, has set forth a challenging exploration of natural philosophy. This book will surely change your thinking about some things, maybe about everything."--Harold J. Morowitz, Director, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University "In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman "Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos is a fascinating book. Its central theme is an extraordinary speculative idea, but very well argued for. There is wealth of interesting and informative accompanying material here--as one would expect from an author of such breadth and depth of physical understanding."--Roger Penrose "Smolin is a deep and original thinker. In this provocative book he merges key elements of Einstein and Darwin in a breathtaking synthesis. The result is nothing less than a radically new view of the cosmos and our place within it."--Paul Davies "In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman "One of the more informed imaginative thinkers of our time, Lee Smolin, has set forth a challenging exploration of natural philosophy. This book will surely change your thinking about some things, maybe about everything."--Harold J. Morowitz, Director, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, George Mason University "In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman "Lee Smolin's The Life of the Cosmos is a fascinating book. Its central theme is an extraordinary speculative idea, but very well argued for. There is wealth of interesting and informative accompanying material here--as one would expect from an author of such breadth and depth of physicalunderstanding."--Roger Penrose"Smolin is a deep and original thinker. In this provocative book he merges key elements of Einstein and Darwin in a breathtaking synthesis. The result is nothing less than a radically new view of the cosmos and our place within it."--Paul Davies"In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffman"One of the more informed imaginative thinkers of our time, Lee Smolin, has set forth a challenging exploration of natural philosophy. This book will surely change your thinking about some things, maybe about everything."--Harold J. Morowitz, Director, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, GeorgeMason University"In The Life of the Cosmos Lee Smolin asks some of the most fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology and physics. A wonderful book--indeed a thrilling book. Read it."--Stuart Kauffmanshow more

Rating details

615 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 45% (274)
4 33% (202)
3 18% (113)
2 3% (20)
1 1% (6)
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