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Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,940 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
An understanding of nature's final laws may be within our grasp - a way of explaining forces and symmetries and articles that does not require further explanation. 'This starting point, to which all explanations can be traced, is what I mean by a final theory', says Steven Weinberg in this extraordinary book. In it he discusses beauty, the weakness of philosophy, the best ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published 1993 by Vintage (first published 1992)
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Squatting Erudite
Sep 26, 2016 Squatting Erudite rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
Incredibly lucid, honest and concise. Possibly the best popular science book I've read so far. But I do have to warn you that I'm a theoretical physicist with worldviews closely resembling those of Weinberg, so don't expect an unbiased review.

Although he doesn't go too far to explain the actual laws of nature, as one might expect to see in a popular science book, Weinberg touches on some of the most important questions.

Can we have a final theory? Are we close? How can we know if we are close? I
...more
Charlene
Absolutely a must read. I cannot believe it took me this long to read it. Weinberg presented his and other physicists' theories that try to explain the universe. As difficult and possibly impossible as this goal may be, Weinberg makes it fairly simple for the curious reader. He really does have a gift for relaying complex knowledge to the non physicist.

Since this book was written in 1992, I think readers can and should forgive it for its focus on beauty as criterion for a viable theory. It is o
...more
Bob Nichols
This is sort of an intellectual biography of Weinberg’s career in (quantum) physics, and a pitch for the Superconducting Super Collider that was under consideration in the early 1990s. As with many other books for “general readership” in physics, a good part of this book is difficult to understand. Even so, there are several things that stood out.

Weinberg states outright that quantum mechanics, in contrast to classical mechanics, describes nature in terms of waves and probabilities, not particle
...more
Cara
Jul 18, 2014 Cara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won't judge this book on its out-of-dateness or it's terrible audiobook narrator (not the author's fault), and I will try not to give too much weight to the ending of the book, where Steven Weinberg leaves the realm of science and instead moves into religion (this is never a good thing for a scientist to do - too often they conflate "science being unable to prove the existence of God" with "science proves God doesn't exist"). The rest of the book is pretty good, though not exceptional, and not ...more
Safae
Oct 09, 2014 Safae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
ليس تقيمي الاخير والنهائي لهذا الكتاب، سأعيد قرائته مرة اخرى بعد ان اتعمق اكثر في فيزياء الكم لان الكاتب طرح الكثير من المفاهيم والمسائل الفيزيائية التي وجدت صعوبة كبيرة في فهمها
Bojan Tunguz
Jun 02, 2011 Bojan Tunguz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steven Weinberg is one of twentieth century's greatest theoretical physicists. He is one of the codiscoverers of the Electroweak Theory, an important piece of the puzzle that describes all of the fundamental forces of nature. He is also a very prolific writer, with several important textbooks and a few books that aim to popularize Physics and make it accessible to the general audience. The theme of this book is the long standing problem in Physics, and that is the one of unification of all force ...more
Trevor
Jan 03, 2008 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, philosophy
I'm again about half way through this one, but I've spent the last couple of days thinking about a quote in this by Bohr. Now, you need to know that the Uncertainty Principle states that one can not know both the position and the momentum (sometimes people say velocity – but it is actually momentum, as they wrongly assume that a particle’s mass won’t change) of a particle at the same time and that the more accuracy you have in measuring the one, the less you have of the other. These types of pro ...more
H L
Nov 23, 2008 H L rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating mashup of sciences and arts usually thought to be exclusive of the others, but this book demonstrates, probably more clearly than any other I've read, that physics, mathematics, philosophy and religion are inextricably intertwined. There's something here to stimulate the fundamentalist physicist, the atheist mathematician, and any and all combinations in between.
Vismay
Aug 07, 2012 Vismay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At last, respite! Finally there comes a writer who does not evoke God when writing a book on physics for general public, finally I get to read someone who brings out his point with little or no historical bullshit or brings in no orientalism or mysticism when dealing with the interference pattern!!

Maybe if I were a reputed critic working for Times in 1993, I might have started my critique in the above manner for Steven Weinberg’s ‘dreams of a final theory’.

Well, I my short, stupid life I have r
...more
Simon Mcleish
Mar 21, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in October 1998.

Steven Weinberg, winner of the Nobel prize in physics for his work on elementary particle theory, wrote this book while involved in the campaign by American physicists to obtain a grant for the Superconducting Super-Collider (SSC). This campaign colours the book, a lot of it being Weiberg's responses to the type of questions both physicists and non-physicists asked about the project and its aims, or an outcome of his own background thought as
...more
Derek Davis
Feb 03, 2014 Derek Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Particle physicist Weinberg's extraordinary intelligence infuses every sentence, but without pushiness or arrogance. Not every concept and theory he presents comes through clearly to this non-mathematical layman, but the currents, both of writing and thought, flow smoothly. And he brings a different approach to some concepts than I have run across in other "popularizations." (Weinberg includes no math here, but certain ideas in particle physics are close to impossible to envision completely with ...more
Madelynp
Apr 17, 2012 Madelynp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this one took me a while. It may be because my students are taking the AP exam this coming Monday, but it is more truthfully because this book was dense. Very good, but dense. Originally published prior to the defunding of the SSC in 1994, Weinberg used his discussion of the final theory as a means of framing his well-considered defense of this amazing piece of technology. The afterward, "The Super Collider: One Year Later" read like an open letter to Congress, and was clearly sorrowful, bu ...more
José Monico
Steven Weinberg is a prolific and significant figure-head of the late 20th century physics community. So, I was a bit intimidated by the potential complexity of this book. Quickly mulling over the pages did not reveal any math text; which came to a big surprise for me. It looked like it was going to be another qualitative overview on a specific branch of physics.

It turned out to be quite welcoming and specifically catered towards the layman. I definitely appreciated his take on the state of scie
...more
Aydin
In the preface, Kuhn briefly, indirectly but beautifully thanks a friend and colleague of his, Stanley Cavell, a philosopher who, while focusing on ethics and aesthetics, was one of the few people with whom Kuhn was "…ever been able to explore my ideas in incomplete sentences."

It is a truly profound gift to find such people, and as I read this essay, I was hit by the onrushing awareness that Kuhn was one of the thinkers with whom, in many respects, I was staggeringly precisely on the same page.
...more
Mark
Jan 23, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ulises
Jan 06, 2013 Ulises rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
He descubierto que soy positivista (y yo sin saberlo) porque creo que hay principios más fundamentales que otros...sin embargo estoy de acuerdo en que: "toda explicación puede ser a su vez explicada a partir de una teoría o conjetura de un grado de universalidad mayor. No puede haber una explicación que no necesite una explicación posterior..."(K. Popper)Así que no estoy muy convencido sobre eso de la teoría final...

Otra cosa, que siempre me ha parecido sorprendente y parece que a Weimberg tambi
...more
Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
s.m. k.
I read this several years ago. An interesting book that focuses on the quest for the so-called 'theory of everything.' Weinberg believes (or at least did when this book was written) that the laws of physics will eventually be able to explain human consciousness. I recently watched a television special based on Hawking's newest book, The Grand Design, and he states the same. It may well be true...and they spend one episode (there are several episodes based on the book) discussing the implications ...more
David Dube
Sep 09, 2016 David Dube rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theoretical physicists stay up at night pondering stuff like this? I'm going to bed.
Mohamed al-Jamri
Mar 10, 2016 Mohamed al-Jamri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
عنوان الكتاب: الأحلام عن النظرية الأخيرة
المؤلف: ستيفين واينبيرج
عدد الصفحات: ثلاث ساعات ككتاب مسموع
سنة النشر:
التقييم: ثلاث نجوم ونصف

يتحدث لنا الفيزيائي الكبير ستيفين واينبيرج حول الطموح الذي يسعى له العلماء للوصول لنظرية تفسر كل القوى والجزيئات الكونية وحول الصعوبات التي تواجه هذا الطموح

يطرح كذلك عدداً من المواضيع الشيقة مثل معيار جمالية النظريات العلمية، دقة الثابت الكوني واحتمال الحاجة لتفسيره بالمبدأ الانثروبولوجي، ظهور ظواهر جديدة من أمور أكثر بساطة مثل الحياة من مجموعة من الذرات، النظرة الفل
...more
G
Feb 24, 2014 G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Weinberg's work is one more prove we'er barely scratching our realm. There's a weak force, there is electromagnetism, there's nuclear force and there is a gravity, and then we think there are just fields, we see particles as just disturbances in the fields, then the world of quantum...but to make all into one theory that explains everything, well, Nature is still to command "not so fast Ladies and Gents!".
A bit autobiography of a scientist who is admitting I wrote above. I liked this book, a
...more
Heather Denkmire
Feb 03, 2011 Heather Denkmire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
My brain hurt listening to this book. Typically that's not a big problem, I just have to work harder to understand. What I realized after just a few chapters, though, is not only was it very challenging but it was only about every third or fourth idea that I found myself interested. The author says it's for people without scientific backgrounds but I suspect he's so involved in the world of science he doesn't really know what it's like to know next to nothing.

The concepts are obviously really in
...more
Luca Campobasso
Sep 12, 2015 Luca Campobasso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
I have benefited a lot from this book, mainly because I'm a student of Physics/Engineering, and here dr. Weinberg explains step by step everything, leaving to your knowledge very few things. If you enojoy reading Physics as an amateur or you study the subject, this book will be a real pleasure, it's easy to go through also because it employs a simple English, not making your brain hurt to recall all the "vintage" words that some authors use - and though I love English in all its forms, sometimes ...more
Cristina
Mr. Weinberg’s book addresses a number of interesting issues. Reading this book makes us reflect on some questions that the author brings up, questions like: what would the consequences of a final theory be? What would such a theory look like, which are the ways of reaching this final theory? etc. The book is not an easy reading. It assumes a good knowledge in physics. For the problems that it approaches the book is worth reading.
Attila
Nov 12, 2015 Attila rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, science
The "final theory" or "theory of everything" is a hypothetical framework that links together all physical aspects of the universe. This book is an introduction in the topic, presenting humanity's struggles to find an all-encompassing theory from Antiquity to today. However, it does not really read well - Weinberg may be a great scientist, but his writing is dull. There are also factual errors (e.g. he claims that Gauss discovered non-Euclidean geometry), and some parts are outdated by now.
Phil Mullen
May 30, 2010 Phil Mullen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This too I used as bus-reading for about a year. Weinberg is clear (though often, the material itself is of such difficulty that I can only guess at the real meaning).

I just now finished it off. What is so for me is that *often* I have a low-level but pleasant sense, when I've read such a book (above my comprehension level) -- that I've done a layman's duty in trying to have a dim idea of what is being done among scientists.
That is a mild thrill, actually.
Todd Martin
Dreams of a Final Theory by Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg is look at the attempt to developed a single unified theory, what such a theory might look like and its implications. In the process, Weinberg reviews the major developments in our current understanding of physics and their limitations.

Though the writing is fairly dry, Weinberg has some interesting insights into the current state of physics, the elegance of its theories and where the field is headed.
Folkert Wierda
Jun 21, 2016 Folkert Wierda rated it really liked it
Weinberg is always nice to read. Accessible, with clearly themed chapters and accessible argumentation. This book is about science. It discusses the author's point regarding the ambition of science (the ultimate theory). It amazes me in how many fields this man is at home. Like true geniuses not monomatic, he touches upon philosophy, religion, politics, biology, all in order to clarify his point regarding science.
cecelia
Apr 25, 2007 cecelia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science geeks like me
Shelves: recommend
The search for a final theory that explains everything in the universe is a real life long quest for many fundamental scientists. Where Physics and Math intersect with philosophy and religon is what really fascinates me. This book will take some effort getting through since it is quite technical at parts.
Steven
Jan 16, 2013 Steven rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, american
The weird thing about physicists is that they think you can write down a few equations and describe the entire universe, ignoring the emergent complexity of living beings that are at once part of the universe but can have 2 pound brains capable of understanding the totality of the universe. It's almost like they've never been on a date with a real person ... oh wait ...
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Zoubir Belaib 1 2 May 04, 2015 09:36AM  
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“All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically” 80 likes
“The dream of a final theory inspires much of today’s work in high-energy physics, and though we do not know what the final laws might be or how many years will pass before they are discovered, already in today’s theories we think we are beginning to catch glimpses of the outlines of a final theory. The” 0 likes
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