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Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe (Science Masters Series)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,151 ratings  ·  85 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 January 1st 1388)
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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
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
Aug 02, 2008 Jared rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Alfaniel Aldavan
Oct 09, 2013 Alfaniel Aldavan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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
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
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
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
Moataz Harb
I never rate a book before finishing it, but this one is an exception.
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of nonfiction
Shelves: 2012, science, nonfiction
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
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
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
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
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.
Sort of like Hawking's "A Brief History Of Time" only shorter and more readable. I really like the description of the Big Bang theory and of how all the elements in the periodic table are created by stars.
A striking and readable look at the anthropic principle and the ways gravity, star formation, the Big Bang, and 3 dimensionality are not only necessary for sentient life to occur but are essential in the precise quantities that are universe holds. Our universe it turns out is like the most finicky Goldilocks who's porridge can only be mixed if it contains exactly .007 hydrogen to helium ratio.

Rees does a commendable job of making the esoteric understandable, though I confess to losing him at th
Yasser Mohammad
I read this book too late. may be it woild have been surprising and informative a decade ago. The main point is that either the universe is designed to have life evolve or there are many universes snd we are in one of the minority of them. This argument from tuning though misses an important point. Yes you may be able to say that any variation in these 6 numbers would have made life impossible but it would have made many other features of the universe unlikely (e.g. any feature that life depends ...more
Ramkumar  R
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
This book uses an original perspective to explain the cosmos : it is structured around 6 numbers that represent a fundamental property of the cosmos, such as the proportion of electrical vs. gravity force in the atom and the amount of matter that is converted into energy when elements transform into heavier elements. A neat idea, but somehow it doesn’t pan out. The book is more about describing the cosmos than about explaining it. For instance, it would have been nice to find out about who deter ...more
Shout out to my sister Diana (is there any way to tag people in reviews? no?) for giving me this book long ago. It was pretty fascinating stuff. To be sure, most of it went over my head, but as far as explaining super complex physics it's about as accessible as can be. The main downside to it now is that it's 10 years old and so some of the things he discusses are a bit out of date, but still a really interesting read.
Even though Rees' book was published in 2001, it remains an important and fascinating study today. Clearly written and entertaining, Rees sheds light on the fine tuning of the universe that allows human life to exist.
Vincent Russo
Nice read about the 6 primary numerical constants which govern the universe we live in. Interesting thought experiments about how the universe would be different if these constants were off ever so slightly is also a good chunk of the book.
David Leemon
Actually, it is not six numbers. It is six ratios. There are twelve numbers, and the ratio can be held constant by varying the pair in a complementary way.

Still, this is a decent book.
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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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“[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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