Astronomy Lee Smolin The Life of the Cosmos

ISBN 13: 9780195108378

The Life of the Cosmos

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9780195108378: The Life of the Cosmos

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 universe that 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 of nature themselves," he argues, "like the biological species, may not be eternal categories, but rather the creations of natural processes occurring 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 of which 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 home to 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, is accidental. 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 occurrence 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's physics.

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Review:

Lee Smolin is not afraid to think big--really, really big. His theory of cosmic evolution by the natural selection of black-hole universes makes what we can experience into an infinitesimal, yet crucial, part of an ever-larger whole. Smolin says, "the new view of the universe is light, in all its senses, because what Darwin has given us, and what we may aspire to generalize to the cosmos as a whole, is a way of thinking about the world which is scientific and mechanistic, but in which the occurrence of novelty--indeed, the perpetual birth of novelty--can be understood." Other scientists are, to say the least, divided on whether Smolin has much chance of being right, but they agree with Paul Davies that he is "a deep and original thinker."

About the Author:


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.

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Smolin, Lee
Editore: Oxford University Press (1997)
ISBN 10: 019510837X ISBN 13: 9780195108378
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Lee Smolin
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