Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
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Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,379 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The genesis of the universe elegantly explained in a simple theory based on just six numbers by one of the world's most renowned astrophysicists
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 3rd 2001 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...more
Riku Sayuj
Cosmology 101

[Strictly for Cosmology amateurs]

Syllabus as follows:

- Read Ress' 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...more
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...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...more
Aug 02, 2008 Jared rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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.
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...more
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...more
Moataz Harb
I never rate a book before finishing it, but this one is an exception.
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...more
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...more
Jun 30, 2012 Dolly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more
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...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
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.
A somewhat dated view of the fine tuning that lies behind the cosmos as we understand it. Rees makes the point that the six numbers discussed have little a iLife for variation if the universe as we know it were to exist. He goes through each in turn defining them and discussing the implications of larger or smaller variants of each. It was enjoyable but harder than I feel it should have been. A simple summary of what the six numbers were thought to be at the time of writing would have been usefu...more
Just six numbers, written and narrated by the author (k drive)

science (multiple universe theory, super strings)

Martin Rees has been Astronomer Royal since 1995.

You can't get away from the black and white of the situation, manouvered or evolved. You will find that there is no point in discussing this with anyone. Everyone believes, in the depths of their very being, one way or the other...

tweaked or not tweaked

You could not hope to convert by discussion so why bother trying...more
Bea Alden
Every once in a while, I feel like reading something more challenging than my preferred diet of fiction. The subtitle of this book is "The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe," and the author is a Royal Society Research Fellow at Cambridge University. So, it took concentration, with much highlighting and re-reading of portions of it, to get a vague grasp of the sense of it. But still, I really do think I came away with at least a small idea of the relationship between the macro universe and the...more
This book attempts to answer questions like:
What would happen to the universe if gravity were just a little stronger?
What if the electric forces between atoms were slightly weaker?

If you're curious at all, it's worth a read. I hadn't heard about most of the numbers/constants mentioned in the book, but the impact they have on the formation of atoms, planets, and the universe was more interesting to read about than I'd anticipated.

Recommended as a good introductory overview of physics and astr...more
A brief, fascinating look into the arbitrary properties of our universe that enable complex life. Six Numbers has some clumsiness to its writing: at some times addressing a lay audience, it elsewhere waxes technical. Sometimes bogging down in banalities, in other places it rushes past fascinating revelations. Overall, this is a strong entrée to follow A Short History of Nearly Everything 's early universe appetizer.
Good book that talks about the six numbers that have to be the way they are for our universe to exist.
Daniel Wright
Not quite as good as it promises to be. Rees puts far more confidence in the current state of physics than I am willing to. Some of the numbers are actually more than one number. The explanation of the concepts is not as clear as it might be. All the same, this is as good and readable an explanation of the fundamental constants of the universe as one can find at the moment, and Rees is fairly open about the intriguing philosophical implications thereof.
The idea was good, we live in an unbelievably fine tuned universe, but the writing was scattered and poorly organized. Some people can write in a clear and concise way, and some can't. Reese can't. Guidance from a good editor could have made this book outstanding. I probably should have given in 1 or 2 stars because of the disorganized writing, but there are some great ideas scattered throughout the book.
Paul David
Can we regard this new cosmological thinking as metaphysics? - which I mean in the agnostical sense of the term, before churches took a copyright out on the concept. Without
mentioning it, Rees did hint at an Anthropic Principle to the Universe. But, perhaps, if he did mention it that would have driven his argument into a whole new field where he probably didn't want to go.
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Dante Palombo 1 5 Oct 18, 2012 09:04PM  
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From Wikipedia:

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.
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