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Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  2,761 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
How did a single genesis event create billions of galaxies, black holes, stars and planets? How did atoms assemble—here on earth, and perhaps on other worlds—into living beings intricate enough to ponder their origins? What fundamental laws govern our universe?

This book describes new discoveries and offers remarkable insights into these fundamental questions. There are dee
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published January 6th 2000 by Basic Books (first published 1999)
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[Original review, November 2008]

This book blew me away... I hadn't been paying attention, and had missed a scientific revolution that had happened right under my nose! To cut to the chase: either someone created the Universe expressly to make it suitable for living beings, or there are lots of universes, and we just happen to be in one of the rare ones that support life. Right now, there don't seem to be many other serious alternatives.

If you have trouble believing this, get Rees's excellent bo
Feb 04, 2008 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Rees is an interesting man - I went to a lecture by him years ago where he explained his theory of the six numbers. Essentially he says that if you were to change a few numbers - the force of gravity, say, or the electric charge - the universe would be completely different. It is interesting that the universe seems to be pretty nicely set up for life to evolve and even little changes in these fundamental numbers would make life as we know it impossible.

I always have problems with this sort of ar
Riku Sayuj
Cosmology 101

[Strictly for Cosmology amateurs]

Syllabus as follows:

- Read Rees' book thoroughly.
- Write an essay in appreciation that elucidates the crucial importance of physical constants.
- Submit three reports on the current state of understanding and how they have evolved in any of the major constants touched upon in the book
- Bonus assignment: Search out one popular science book that has managed to cover in 100s of pages what Rees covers with lucidity in a few scores.
- Extra Bonus Assig
Maru Kun
Aug 15, 2016 Maru Kun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
After we've had a few drinks my fundamentalist friends will often bring the talk round to The Creation just to have some fun at my expense.

They laugh at my belief in a "big bang", make ribald jokes about my "sudden, enormous inflation" and tell me I don't have much energy at all these days let alone any "dark energy". I've only myself to blame for not keeping up with the latest in cosmology. I tend to end up mumbling something about micro-wave background radiation before heading off quickly to t
Oct 22, 2015 Fortunr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This four-star rating is actually a compromise between the intrinsic value and merits of this book (5 star) and how much I personally enjoyed reading it (3 star).
This is a cute, very readable and superbly well written introductory book at beginners level. A fine example of popular science book, encapsulating several interesting concepts in just a little over 170 pages, with little oversimplification.
Had I come across this book 15 years ago, I would have appreciated it immensely more. Reading it
Aug 02, 2008 Jared rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: skeptical thinkers
Recommended to Jared by: my father
I don't hold much respect for "fine-tuning" arguments in relation to cosmology, but the book was a gift, so I felt obligated to give it a try. Also, if one wants to be knowledgeable about this kind of thing, one has to read more than just the stuff that supports one's own ideas.

In his attempt to be accessible to the public, the author does what I consider to be a lot of hand-waving and emphatic gestures rather than actually explaining anything. He also fails at what I think is a basic level of i
Tom Adams
Feb 24, 2012 Tom Adams rated it liked it
Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain (since 1995) and is a skilled writer on matters astronomical for the general public. In this book he describes six numerical constants that lie at the heart of knowledge about the universe at the turn of the millennium (the book was published in 1999). His subjects range from fundamental particle forces to the mysterious "dark energy" as represented by lambda, the force believed responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe. At on ...more
Mohamed al-Jamri
Feb 21, 2016 Mohamed al-Jamri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book might be short, but it is full of information that are presented in an easy-to-understand style. Unlike many of popular science books, this one is to the point and there are very few diversions. The main thesis is one of the greatest discoveries in physics that was made in the 1970s and 1980s; it tells us that there are these six numbers, which are extremely fine-tuned and what would happen if any of them is only slightly modified.

What makes this book more interesting is the fact that
Jun 06, 2016 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Science. Not much to review here, trying to understand physics is hard enough as it is.
Alfaniel Aldavan
Oct 09, 2013 Alfaniel Aldavan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alfaniel by: Manny
Shelves: science

Six numbers: if any was altered in a very small degree, the universe would not have permitted life to develop.
For example, if gravity wasn't exactly this weak comparing to other forces in the atom, but not weaker, the universe either would have collapsed right after Big Bang, or would have expanded so fast that no stars, galaxies, planetary systems could've formed.
Thus, no potential for life.

Writing and readability
Rees makes his case of fine tuning with regard to life very convincing. The book i
Jan 25, 2010 Gendou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A terse survey of cosmology. Covers a wide breadth without going into satisfactory depth.
For example, the author sometimes mentions only one of several interesting points of view.
Still, a fine read, especially valuable to the novice, but not boring to the expert.

Embarrassingly, the author predicts the discovery of dark matter particles by 2005.
Mohammed Al-Garawi
Aug 30, 2016 Mohammed Al-Garawi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A very good summary of pretty much everything about what happened after the Big Bang.

I recommend reading this along with Neil deGrasse Tyson's Origins.
Moataz S Harb
Jul 04, 2014 Moataz S Harb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: god
I never rate a book before finishing it, but this one is an exception.
Jan 04, 2015 Roger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As its title suggests, this 1999 book by Martin Rees, the UK's Astronomer Royal, addresses six numbers that determine whether a universe can support life as we know it. The first number Rees calls N, which is the ratio of the gravitational force to the electromagnetic force and is about 10^36. He explains how, if this ratio were less, and therefore gravity was relatively stronger, stars would be much smaller and would burn much quicker. There would not be sufficient time for life to evolve.

The s
Ramkumar  R
Aug 25, 2014 Ramkumar R rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cosmology, physics
Rees was able to encapsulate a complex topic regarding the essence of the physical laws and constants which governs the macro and the world of atoms in the universe in a superb little book of 170 pages rather elegantly.He penetrates deep into the intricacies and reasons behind the right values of six physical constants which constitute the recipe and precursors (imprinted at the time of BIG Bang) for evolution and functioning of universe and life. Rees envisages that these numbers are too precis ...more
Mar 02, 2012 Keith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If any of six numbers were slightly altered, the universe as we know it – including ourselves – would not exist. Small changes to any one of six numbers – the strength of electrical forces, the amount of matter in the universe, antigravity, etc – and everything would be different. So how did the universe become so finely tuned to support our existence and the existence of the stars?

Was it Providence? A cosmic coincidence?

Neither, says Martin Rees. He postulates that our universe is one of many
Cassandra Kay Silva
Aug 19, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I gobbled this one up in a heartbeat. Brilliant, wonderful, insightful. I loved it. I plan on reading it again before taking it back to the library. Maybe I will get a copy for the house too. I don't have anything to add to what the author said. Bravo and thank you for letting the reader make his own conclusion or choose not to make any at that point. I was worried there for a bit that he was going to pounce an agenda on me. Nope. It looks like the author is just genuinely interested in as he ca ...more
Mar 07, 2010 Raj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe, this pop science book, written by the astronomer royal, discusses six cosmological constants that define the size, shape and structure of the universe.

An interesting book, but one that didn't really teach me that much that I didn't already know. The most interesting thing was the stress on how if any of these numbers were very slightly different, they would have resulted in a universe that would be unsuitable for life. Rees deliberately avoids t
Jana L.
Jan 30, 2016 Jana L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In _Just Six Numbers_, Martin Rees examines six numbers describing our universe, six numbers that are unique in that they cannot be derived from any theory. He uses those numbers to show both that our universe seems to be "finely-tuned" for diversity and life, and that we can use the fine-tuning aspect to think about why or how the universe as we know it began and is situated in the whole of reality.

I vascillated between 3 and 4 stars for this book. It is a fantastic look into some of the forces
Jun 21, 2014 Mansoor rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
این کتاب یکی از نمونه های موفق در زمینه ی ترویج علم* است که به قلم یک دانشمند برجسته نوشته شده و از این لحاظ ترجمه اش می توانست مایه ی خوشنودی و راه گشا باشد.ولی ترجمه ی کتاب این امید را به باد می دهد.مترجم در موارد متعددی عقاید ایدئولوژیک اش را در قالب پاورقی به خواننده ی این کتاب علمی تحمیل می کند و یا توضیحاتی بی فایده ارایه می دهد. برای نمونه در پاورقی یک کتاب علمی به "عدل الاهی" مرتضی مطهری ارجاع می دهد و با اشاره هایی ناقص یا اشتباه به ابیاتی از سعدی و حافظ، متفنن بودنش را در آن زمینه ها ن ...more
Jul 27, 2012 Naomi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book centres around six crucial numbers, without which our universe would not exist.
I found this book intriguing and it really made me aware of how extraordinary out planet is; the author reiterated the importance of these six vital numbers by pointing out that if the numbers were slightly higher or lower than their current value, then the universe as we know it would be completely different. It emphasised how special life is and how wonderful the universe is with all its diversity. Rees exp
Feb 09, 2012 Brie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. That about sums up my feelings on this book.

When I finally got my hands on this book I was so excited. I expected to be blown away by the 6 numbers and the perfection to which they were tuned to allow life to emerge in our universe. Instead I was bored at times, and definitely not blown away. There is a show on the History channel called 'The Universe', which at times is over the top, but in this case they have done a better job of getting the point across then Rees has. This book is basica
Jun 30, 2012 Dolly rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of nonfiction
Shelves: nonfiction, science, 2012
This is a very readable, but still fairly complicated look at our universe and the six different factors that allow it to be a hospitable place in which we may live. I enjoyed reading the book, but I must admit that much of the science went waaaaay over my head. In fact, I was very glad that the book was so short or else I might've been too intimidated to read it.

interesting quotes:

"If one had to summarize, in just one sentence, 'What's been happening since the Big Bang?', the best answer migh
Aug 11, 2010 Drew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This seemed like a cool book, given my lay person's love of astronomy, high-energy physics and cosmology. I think a combination of the author and the reader (me) led me to give this book only an "ok" rating. Rees writes in an easy open style, but occasionally throws in some big words or theories, but doesn't go into explaining them in the depth I'd like to see. Perhaps that's because it would exceed the intended mass audience of his book. But, to be fair, if he went into massive detail, I'd be b ...more
Mar 04, 2016 Mel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book I will probably return to again. At times I seemed to grasp the key concepts, which is a credit to how well Prof Rees writes for a lay audience. Full of fascinating concepts, and much more readable than Stephen Hawkins, a terrific guide to cosmology.
Jan 01, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I've only read half of it but I have the basic concepts and will probably not finish it. The "numbers" themselves are not that crucial (despite the title) - the main concept is that our universe is shaped by a particular balance between forces- such as the force that holds subatomic particles apart versus the force of gravity. In that a case, a different ratio than the one we experience would result in longer or shorter lives of stars and therefore longer or shorter evolutionary opportunities on ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Rama rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What makes this universe so structured and habitable?

Space, time and matter are principal components of the universe in which matter and energy are interconvertible given by the famous Einstein's energy-mass equation. The structure and functions of the universe are guided by the laws of physics and four principal forces. These forces operate on matter and energy in spacetime to provide structure. The cosmic structures include; the clusters of galaxies, galaxies, clusters of stars, stars, planeta
Jan 12, 2016 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math-and-science
I happened across this book when putting away something else. I decided to read it - it's small, and should go quickly. Which it did.
I say 3 and a half stars.
It was an enjoyable read, even if a lot of supporting detail for the numbers and conclusions had to be omitted. I think the book was aimed at people who know less physics than I do. I'm sure it was aimed at people who know less math than I do. I did REALLY like some of the quotes for the chapter headings.
The book was written late in the 20t
John Schneider
In this very accessible and well written book on astrophysics, Sir Martin Rees explores six numbers that deeply effect the formation and shape of our universe. Rees excels in helping the reader picture what the universe most probably was like after the "Big Bang." Reading this book has rekindled my interest in astronomy and given me new wonder at the cosmos.

I give this book a high rating, but I do not agree with Rees on two points: dark matter and the multiverse. "Dark matter" is the hypothesiz
Merima Smajic
It's very readable if that's even a word and mind boggling. What continues to perplex me is these authors that write these great books on difficult and highly specialized topics and STILL don't see any great design or beauty behind it, rather mere coincidence.
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Incomplete without context information 1 5 Aug 09, 2014 08:41AM  
Dante Palombo 1 5 Oct 18, 2012 09:04PM  
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Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, PRS (born June 23, 1942 in York) is an English cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995, and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004. He became President of the Royal Society on December 1, 2005.
More about Martin J. Rees...

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“Our universe, extending immensely far beyond our present horizon, may itself be just one member of a possibly infinite ensemble. This ‘multiverse’ concept, though speculative, is a natural extension of current cosmological theories, which gain credence because they account for things that we do observe. The physical laws and geometry could be different in other universes, and this offers a new perspective on the seemingly special values that the six numbers take in ours.” 0 likes
“[The fine structure constant] ... defines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together and how all the atoms on Earth were made. Its value controls the power from the Sun and, more sensitively, how stars transmute hydrogen into all the atoms of the periodic table.” 0 likes
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