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From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,440 ratings  ·  162 reviews
A rising star in theoretical physics offers his awesome vision of our universe and beyond, all beginning with a simple question: Why does time move forward?

Time moves forward, not backward—everyone knows you can’t unscramble an egg. In the hands of one of today’s hottest young physicists, that simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the u
Hardcover, 447 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Dutton Adult (first published September 24th 2009)
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Dec 04, 2014 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in the nature of time

Read through the following dialogue between two people, A and B. Underline all the sentences which you can imagine saying yourself.

A: What are you thinking?

B: Have you ever wondered why the future is different from the past?

A: What do you mean, different?

B: Well, you can remember the past, but you can't remember the future. Why?

A: Like déjà vu?

B: No, not déjà vu. Really remembering the future.

A: But the futu
In space, there should be no material difference between left and right, forward and backward, up and down. However, for us there is a substantive difference between up and down because we live in the spatial vicinity of a massive object - the earth - which exerts a gravitational pull on us.

And in spacetime, there should be no material difference between past and future. But for us there is a substantive difference because we live in the temporal vicinity of a massive event - the Big Bang - whic
This is a very well-written, and entertaining book on our understanding of the arrow of time. Entropy is a key concept, which deserves (and gets) lots of attention. The second law of thermodynamics states that, in a closed system, entropy can either stay the same or increase--it cannot decrease. Sean Carroll shows why the reversibility of physics at the particle level gives rise to a seeming paradox; if the physics of particles is just as correct with time switched backwards, why can't entropy d ...more
Jun 07, 2010 Kristin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: science geeks and hangers-on
If I could, I would give 5 stars to the first half of this book and 2 to the second. For the first 500 pages or so (in the iBook version), I was enthralled by Carroll's exceptional ability to lay down the fundamentals of physics and cosmology in clear, straightforward language with simple but highly effective illustrations. This book has by far the best description of general relativity (especially the equivalence principle) for the non-physicist that I have ever encountered. His explanation of ...more
This is a very good book about some fundamental modern physics concepts (such as arrow of time, entropy, symmetry, time-reversibility, complexity, theory of information) and their complex inter-relationships.
I found that this book has one of the best explanations of entropy for the layman, and the treatment of potentially complex areas such as symmetry, quantum mechanics and relativity, is very good - deeper than in most popular science books.
Overall, a very enjoyable read, which would appeal
Tony Heyl
Time is both a simple and yet complicated scientific question. I looked up books about time after seeing one of the Through the Wormhole shows on Science Channel. This is actually a really well put together book. Most of the book is about entropy and the evolution of the universe, so it makes sense that the content itself goes from the very simple to the very complicated, bring you along the way without making you feel like an idiot. The equations and explanations are also done in a way to reall ...more
OK, I cry uncle! I've read 373 out of 470 pages and I am lost. Life's too short. It's not Sean Carroll's fault...I just cannot conceive of multiverses and quantum gravity...
Mar 11, 2010 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Amateur cosmologists & people w/ "time" on their hands
Recommended to Terence by: Wired magazine article, interview on Coast to Coast AM
Unlike my usual practice since joining GoodReads, I very deliberately did not take notes while reading From Eternity to Here. I wanted to enjoy myself with an interesting topic (cosmology) and not be overly concerned with learning anything - the nonfiction analog of the fictional brain candy I read.

But this is the post-GoodReads era of my life so am compelled to offer some note to the interested reader. Thus:

The problem under discussion here is the "arrow of time" - why, unlike the physical prin
Brilliant. Challenging. Enormously thought-provoking. A bit repetitive? In places. A model of clarity? For the most part. But come on, low star reviewers. What do you expect from a discursive (i.e., non mathematical) treatment of so complex a topic? The author makes heavy use of metaphor? How the hell else is he to make abstruse and -- let's face it -- oftentimes pretty bizarre ideas accessible to a non-specialist readership? You were bored? Again, my low-star confreres, why the #%^* did you bot ...more
Todd Martin
Science and journalism are two very different disciplines and require a different set of skill sets. Those with skill in one area may or may not have talent in the other. I’m not sure about Sean Carroll’s skills as a scientist, but I have little praise for his talents as a writer.

Carroll seems incapable of explaining things clearly. He attempts to illustrate points throughout the book with convoluted examples that appear to be intended to confuse rather than illuminate. He even manages to make v
Daniel Shawen
I really like Sean's newer book, 'Particle at the end of the universe', which I read first, and also Sean's blogs, videos and many public debates on various topics.

'From Ethernity to Here' is a thorough treatment of time as viewed from a quantum mechanical and relativistic perspective, but missing is any discussion of time after the July 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson.

The Higgs boson, an excitation of the Higgs field that permeates all of space, and the Higgs mechanism which gives inertial ma
შონ ქეროლის "მარადისობიდან დღემდე" ერთ-ერთი იმ იშვიათთაგანი წიგნია რომელიც სამყაროს ენტროპიის და დროის ისარის (მიმართულების) პრობლემას ეხება. ქეროლის თქმით თუ თქვენ მოხვდებით რომელიმე წამყვანი ინსტიტუტის ბიბლიოთეკაში და დაათვალიერებთ თაროს სადაც ფიზიკის სახელმძღვანელოები და ლიტერატურა აწყვია, ძალიან გაგიჭირდებათ მოძებნოთ წიგნი რომელიც ეხება ენტროპიის და დროის პრობლემას კოსმოლოგიურ კონტექსტში. თერმოდინამიკა როგორც წესი რჩება ლაბორატორიაში, სამზარეულოში და მექანიკაში. აქ სიტუაცია სხვგავარია, ავტორ ...more
John Nelson
What is time? Most people never give the question much thought, except to say that it is something we never have enough of. Physicists are starting to consider the question, and the author of this book asserts that time essentially is a by-product of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of a closed system never decreases, and can only increase or stay the same.

This theory does not seem sufficient to me. It implies that if one were to occupy a region of space where ent
Laura Cowan
Wow, what a big book! Covers everything from the nature of entropy to the possibilities and challenges of creating time loops, the implications about the structure of the universe that are encoded in the fact that time seems to only flow one way, and all the theories in between. Written for the layperson, so I got a lot out of it, but plan to set aside a hefty chunk of time to read this. Unfortunately I got my one and only aha moment for the purposes of my research for my next novel from the fir ...more
Daniel R.
This book is a through and frequently tedious exploration for a theory of time. Pay close attention to the word "Quest" in the subtitle. This books poses many questions that don't have answers yet and instead focuses on the various theories that currently exist. The book starts with an introduction to possible definitions of what time is, the role of entropy, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. With that foundation it dives into microscopic constituents, macroscopic systems, and quantum mechan ...more
Simply the best popular physics book I've ever read. Carroll is amazingly lucid, practical and totally excited about the subject while being conscious of the problems inherent in understanding something that is so fundamental to our existence that we take it for granted: time.

What is time? Does it exist naturally, or is it emergent from some other property of the universe? These are the grand questions that drive From Eternity to Here. In fact, the questions are so grand, and so monumental, Car
Hands down the best cosmology book I've read. The book contains very clear summaries of general relativity and quantum physics, but the real agenda here is entropy. I've been able to identify and answer entropic questions in everyday experience while reading this book, and his discussion of both Boltzmann Brains and the information-based solution to Maxwell's Demon thoroughly cleared away the fuzziness in my understanding of those concepts (for now, at least). Carroll is also refreshingly transp ...more
Bennett Coles
This is a big book that covers a lot of subject matter. It's looking for an ultimate theory of time and it makes big promises at the beginning, but despite hundreds of pages of very detailed explorations of entropy, relativity, quantum mechanics and cosmology, it ultimately falls flat when the author admits that we really don't know enough to answer with certainty the questions of time. This was disappointing mainly because Carroll states rather brazenly at the beginning of the book that all our ...more
A comprehensive treatise on the origins of the arrow of time. Deep science is here, along with an exemplary demonstration of Carroll's scientific ability. This is not an easy book; on the contrary it is satisfyingly difficult and will challenge anyone who takes the time to follow along with the author, in and out of theories amass in uncertainties and with little experimental evidence. Whether Carroll's prediction of the true origin of time, presented in the final chapter, is ultimately correct ...more
Actually, yeah, I think I'm done with this one--I just can't seem to get interested, even though it's definitely a fascinating topic. I feel like maybe it's bogged down by too many examples or something, and thus I'm finding it really, really tedious. I can see how it might be a great book for folks that haven't really read anything about the basics of physics before, because I do feel like he's explaining things pretty clearly, but I'm not really getting anything out of it, other than annoyed. ...more
A very good survey of statistical mechanics, entropy, and the arrow of time.
The ending chapter is foolishly preachy. The author has a distorted and incorrect sense of the philosophy of science.

Don't buy into that "it's OK to not be falsifiable" bull-poop!

I wouldn't read this until you get a good sound grounding in the philosophy of science, first.
Read some Feynman, Sagan, Smolin, etc. first.

I am now reading Seth Lloyd's Programming The Universe, and it sheds some light on some points that seem t
Confession: I didn't read the entire book. I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn't get through portions. I started out fine but began to lose momentum when I reached quantum theory, and I was totally lost when I entered "Bekenstein's Entropy Conjecture," "Magnetic Monopoles," and "A String Theory Surprise." So there were sections where I read the words and didn't understand and even some places where I did not read the words.

The fault, if blame is in order, is almost all with me as a reade
Atoms (and other particles/waves/fields) bounce against each other everywhere in this universe.

If they started out from random places, there would be no way to tell if a description of their motion is being narrated in reverse.

Atoms don't start out moving from random places. They start their motion from some places more than others e.g. centers of stars. Because of this it is easy to tell whether their motion is being described in reverse. Just look at the part of the narrative where they were i
The physical reality of time

The behavior of matter (or energy) in space and time is described by the laws of physics, but the puzzling thing about physical reality is that space and time behave differently. Space is the same in all directions and it never changes, but time has preferred direction; past to future and the cause-effect relationship runs parallel to this. There is no such thing as special place (space) in the universe but there is a special time. This is a mystery because physical l
The writing is just not interesting enough. This is a survey book, not a scientific study, and I guess I have been spoiled by all of the great humor, wit, and presentation that modern science survey writers have brought to bear on this type of work. The material here is not new to me, though, to be sure, some of the concepts I have never fully wrapped my head around. Nevertheless, if I'm going to read a survey book like this I want the material within to be presented in an entertaining manner.
In the realm of popular physics books, this one is a three-legged mule. It doesn't even have much to say about time, aside from an unbelievably long-winded explanation of entropy. The writing is simplistic in the extreme, yet manages to obscure more than it explains. Carroll obviously wishes he was Brian Greene. He is not. Had to skim the second half of it.
Matt Heavner
Overall, I'd say this was too verbose and a bit of a re-tread of other popular science physics books. A breadth of thermo/stat mech, relativity, and a bit of defensive multi-verse (it isn't a real theory, so you can't criticize it as if it were). A decent read, but many better books out there.. A did I say it was a bit verbose?
Sean Carroll writes for Discover blog and is one of my favorite writers on there. So I snatched this book up when I heard about how he was also going to run a book discussion. The book itself, which discusses spacetime, is really well written. But, so much of it went well over my head. And maybe that was my mistake, in reading this knowing that I'm no scientist. However, the language was loose enough that I feel like Carroll was writing for the everyman as well as spacetime nerds.

Still, there w
Fred P
This large tome covers the complete history of research into the physics of time. All of the major developments in physics are explained in detail, with arguments and counter-arguments. The facts are laid out clearly and although the author clearly identifies his positions, he allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. Wave function collapse, or "many worlds?" Is the arrow of time defined by entropy, or is entropy just a by-product of spacetime fluctuations? The physics of Boltzmann, ...more
Hamidur Rahman
This book tries to understand why time moves only in one direction. Why is it that we can remember the past but not the future? That's a stupid question, you say. But the laws of physics make no distinction between past and the future. But here's an answer: it's because entropy always increases.

But, what is this entropy now, you ask? For our purposes, let's call it disorder. This is inaccurate, as the book shows but it's good enough for a rudimentary understanding of entropy. You know how you ca
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Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993. His research focuses on issues in cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. He blogs at Cosmic Variance, one of the most popular science blogs on the Web. Carroll lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette."
More about Sean Carroll...
The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe (The Great Courses) 36 big ideas

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“This is not a universe that is advancing toward a goal; it is one that is caught in the grip of an unbreakable pattern.” 4 likes
“the interaction of gravity with other forces seems to be able to create order while still making the entropy go up—temporarily, anyway. That is a deep clue to something important about how the universe works; sadly, we aren’t yet sure what that clue is telling us.” 0 likes
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