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The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  443 ratings  ·  46 reviews
The Goldilocks Enigmais Paul Davies’s eagerly awaited return to cosmology, the successor to his critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind of God. Here he tackles all the "big questions," including the biggest of them all: Why does the universe seem so well adapted for life?

In his characteristically clear and elegant style, Davies shows how recent scientific discoveries poin
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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May 14, 2011 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Big Questions
I read Martin Rees's Before The Beginning a couple of weeks ago and found it remarkably interesting. But, as Nick said, it's also about 15 years old. I decided I needed something a little more modern, hence this book.

Well, if you're interested in Big Questions, there's no doubt that The Goldilocks Enigma is a fun read. The first half presents the core problem. When you look at the fundamental laws of the universe, a weird pattern emerges: everything is tuned exactly right for life to be possibl
I'm not sure that this book is entirely successful in answering, or even trying to address, the question posed on the cover -- why is the universe just right for life? It talks a lot about how the universe may have formed, and what the laws of the universe are, and it seems like it does a lot of describing rather than explaining. Now, of course, that's because we don't really have an answer, but it does seem a little misleading.

Davies looks at a lot of different theories here, some of them more
In the preface and acknowledgements Paul Davies cites his thanks to the John Templeton Foundation. This is the foundation that is responsible for supporting ‘pro god’ science (ahem) and trying to suppress what it considers ‘anti god’ science. This did not fill me with confidence with what was to come. The first half of the book was, however, very interesting. The latter stages went along with what you would expect from somebody who is supported by Templeton. Although Paul Davies does not support ...more
This is a fine book, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys pondering the imponderable. If you want to read about the most important existential question we humans have asked through the ages, written by one our most creative minds, this is a book for you. However I have several recommendations to make before you begin:

1.Do not read at night before you go to bed (I did for much of it, but it I didn’t understand what I was reading and I fell asleep before I could finish the page). I didn’t r
When mind and cosmos will be one.

The primary purpose of Paul Davies in Goldilocks Enigma is to appeal to scientific inquiry and reason in order to address the big questions of existence.
Why does theoretical physics work?
Why is nature shadowed by the mathematical reality?
Is a theory of everything possible?
How did the universe begin?
And most the most important: Why is the universe fit for life?

Davies analyses the ideas and the developments of theoretical physics the last fifty years and and examin
Alan Cash
May 26, 2008 Alan Cash rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in physics/ cosmology
I initially was a bit down on this book. After reading that Paul Davis is a winner of the 'Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities' and the author's several mentions of God in the first chapter jarred, especially after just having read The God Delusion. I thought this was going to be a pseudo-scientific backlash to Dawkins and was therefore reluctant to plough through until the inevitable 'God of the gaps' conclusion. However I was pleasantly surpris ...more
In this book, Paul Davies, a well-known physicist and cosmologist, presents a detailed examination of the many ways in which the universe seems remarkably well-suited for the rise of intelligent life -- namely us. Davies goes far beyond the usual (and rather tired) examples of the earth being the right distance from the sun, etc, and instead looks at the fundamental laws and constants of physics. Why are they what they are? Could they have been different? How much different?

One of the most remar
Why is the universe just right for life? Forget all the evolution vs. creation debate. That’s been settled. Let’s even ignore the Intelligent Design biochemists who claim that the biochemical processes inside cells show “irreducible complexities” that cannot be explained by evolution based on natural selection. There are far more basic questions to ask regarding life. Like: why are the laws of physics such that they allow formation of galaxies and stars and planets? If you think that the bacteri ...more
G.R. Reader
You have to be extremely good to write about this subject without sounding like an idiot. Well Paul, you were brave to try.
Khalid Khan
I was disappointed by the book. A lot of material in the book was too technical for the average reader; I found the going tough despite having taken college physics so I wonder how those who have not take physics will cope. The author explored ways in which the universe we life in and the one in which he wrote his book is perfect for life. But then he goes about exploring the ‘Why the Universe is just right” question and ends up creating more confusion then sense. I won’t recommend this book to ...more
Arthur Sgalia
I suspect this is about as readable a book as can be written on this excruciatingly complex subject. I needed about 15 more IQ points than are available to fully grasp it.
Johan Haneveld
A couple of years ago a friend of mine told me about this book and some of the ideas involved in it. I was intrigued and my ideas about the universe and Gods purpose (this book is at best agnostic, but I am a theist) changed consequently. My friend explained that this book put forth the theory that (in accordance with quantum mechanics) the observer of the universe (a future universe wide intelligence?) by observing and understanding the universe, is responsible for the universe being a fit plac ...more
This is the fourth book I've read by Paul Davies (as heard on Science Friday) and I think this, his latest work, is a fine synthesis of his previous works on physics, cosmology, and astrobiology. Roughly the first half of the book provides a highly readable back round on what the universe is made of, how it holds together, and the attempts to provide a unified theory of everything. Along the way many important bases are covered including particle physics, quantum physics, and recent discoveries ...more
Of course Davies doesnt answer the question - but he does a good job of describing the current understanding of all the factors that need to line up to lead to a livable universe that managed to grow life and consciousness that can ponder this question. Starting from the Gravitational constant, carbon resonance (formation of heavy elements in first/second gen stars) etc - we have a large set of factors that seem like they are fine tuned to give this end result. The only way we can explain this r ...more
Alex Klimkewicz

The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies is an interesting look at how and potentially why the universe can support life. This is a big book that tackles all of the big questions facing physicists and cosmologists today, including the origin of the big bang, the possibility of a multiverse, the role of dark forces and dark matter, and the grand unification theory. Near the end of the book Davies looks at the role that intelligence may have played in the formation of the universe. But there is no the
As a non-scientist this was just about fathomable, but as the book progressed I was increasingly glad of the key points at the end of each chapter. I appreciate science books written for the interested general reader and this book managed to work through the theories and progress from creationism to big bang and multiverses (and slightly back again) without falling into the trap of totally rubbishing all that has been gleaned and learned before. Whilst some of the science started to make little ...more
Johnny Story
Oct 25, 2008 Johnny Story rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science geeks and people who question why they are alive
Recommended to Johnny by: some girl a the book store
The origin of everything, the biggest question ever, has never been tackled with such great scientific assembly. Yes, parts of the book evoke flashbacks to chemistry class and that's never too much fun, but Davies gets to a point. In the book he explores, The Big Bang, the big bounce, the grand unification theory vs. multi-verse, going as far as entertaining the idea we are in a Matrix type universe. Perhaps the more perplexing aspect to the book are the numbers behind the science. How Earth, or ...more
Brandon Armstrong
Davies comes to the conclusion that the universe can't be an accident, yet does not subscribe to the intelligent design theory either. Davies book is thought provoking, and is not shy to ask the hard questions that both the literal creationists, and scientists are scared to touch.

The first 3/4 of the book is essential reading for any budding cosmologist. Paul is a leading thinker in the realm of the cosmos and philosophy. I like the way each chapter was partitioned into segments. Each chapter's theme is broken into a number of short easy to read sections. Moving through each section helps one move through the ideas and concepts in a nice orderly fashion. Paul then builds each subsequent chapter upon the last.

I was not so much into the philosophical meanderings in the l
Thomas Simard
While I may not be completely scientifically illiterate, I wouldn’t want to be asked too many obvious questions as my inability to answer may prove embarrassing. That being said, Davies writes very clearly, and although I'll confess there were a few areas I couldn't get my head around, I understood (or at least I think I understood) most of it. A fascinating topic.
Gavin Baskett
Whenever I get complacent and uninspired, I pick up this book and start to feel unbelievably lucky and blessed to be alive and conscious. I've read it multiple times and never tire of it. I strongly recommend it to you, especially!
A rather intrigiung discussion of various metaphysical attempts to answer John Archibald Wheeler's proverbial question "How come existence?"

While Davies doesn't hesitate to dwell on eccentric theorems like the self-replicating universe, he never succumbs to being cocksure of a theory and maintains a sensible distance to all proposed mechanisms. His explanations are rich in detail and he always provides the reader with adequate sources.

Of course, this book won't solve the puzzling existential my
I wouldn't say this book is anti-theist but there are atheist undertones. I felt that it went into a bit of a ramble towards the end, certain issues were repeated, there were no real arguments or views fully formulated and it felt like there were a lot of assertions. But he makes some interesting points, I was particularly fascinated by his explanation of the laws of physics being frozen in at the beginnings of a universe, he uses an analogy of what happens to an iron bar when heated, this is, h ...more
Rod Davies
Excellent first half, laying out the ideas and physics at work for a scientifically illiterate reader to get a grasp on the basics. Lost me slightly in his overview of other ideas and theories in the final chapters. He is up front about where his personal opinion and suspicions lie but does consider all options in a fairly even handed way. This was 2005 though so I'd be curious to see what the view is post Higgs LHC discovery.
Steven Williams

I found it to contain a super good explanation of the multiverse theories, as well as, other cool stuff.
This was a marvellous book! I loved every bit of it! Though I most definitely disagreed with Davies when he ventures to comment on Christianity or theism. I enjoyed the sections on forces and particles and found it all to be very informative. You'll learn tons from reading this book. Moreover, Davies is a good writer and pleasure to read. I'm little moved by his arguments to persuade me of the validity of the mulitverse theory. His sections on string theory are a real primer to get you intereste ...more
While claiming to answer the question of why is the Universe just right for life, it actually touches the subject only marginally, and fails to mention lots of interesting facts that show the special nature of the Universe (such as the number of dimensions... if there would be anything other than 3 spatial dimensions, planetary systems could never be stable). Instead, it goes off various tangents which, while interesting, are patchy and unrelated to the topic. It's not what I expected.
Any book that tries to discuss the universe, existence and life risks falling off a tightrope. Talk only about the scientific facts and some will say you're missing the big picture. Talk too much about the speculations and others will say you're philosophizing. Paul Davies has done a fine job walking this tightrope. He has nicely balanced his discussion on sound scientific theories and informed speculations.

Recommended to people who would like to know the current trends about cosmology.
This book was recommended me by a prof when I was struggling with life, meaning and purpose. It didn't help for that but it was an interesting read! In terms of what it sets out to answer (why is the universe just right for life?) it probably could have done it in a much shorter time (because if there are all possible universes out there, one is bound to be just right- there, done) but the tangents it goes off on are interesting so I give it 3 stars :-)
Peter Amidon
I found this surprisingly engaging - a lot of details about the Big Bang, quantum mechanics, relativity and post-relativity, matter, anti-matter, dark matter, fundamental particles, the uncertainty principles, universe pockets and the megaverse (mega-universe: infinite number of pocket universes). Stunning stuff. Not for everyone, I am sure, but quite well written. I am halfway through.
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  • New Theories of Everything
  • Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang
  • In Search of the Multiverse
  • Before The Beginning
  • The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe
  • The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us
  • The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
  • Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos
  • Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe
  • The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins
  • Four Laws That Drive the Universe
  • Chance and Necessity
  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
  • Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth
  • The End of Time. The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe
  • Quintessence The Search For Missing Mass In The Universe
  • The Life of the Cosmos
  • Wrinkles in Time
Paul Charles William Davies AM is a British-born physicist, writer and broadcaster, currently a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University of London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His re ...more
More about Paul Davies...
About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World God and the New Physics How to Build a Time Machine The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

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“A really big question is why the universe is fit for life; it looks like it has been ‘fixed up’.” 0 likes
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