This is an outstanding book that explains some of the most mind-bending features of cosmological physics in a way that is understandable (if not alwayThis is an outstanding book that explains some of the most mind-bending features of cosmological physics in a way that is understandable (if not always completely believable) to the average scientifically-literate lay person. I am a professional scientist myself, but a biologist, not a physicist, and my education in physics does not go beyond a basic 1-year college course (and that was more than 2 decades ago!). And yet I understood most of what Greene wrote about in this book.
This is not to say that I necessarily am convinced that the stuff thought up by theoretical physicists is actually true -- that the constituents of the universe are strings, or that the universe is a hologram. I think in many cases although these may be interpretations of highly elegant mathematics, physicists sometimes become so caught up in mathematical convenience that what they are modeling loses touch with reality. (This is not an uncommon phenomenon in other sciences, such as theoretical population biology, an area much closer to my wheel house.) However, regardless of my general unwillingness to believe certain features (such as the idea that an electron is a wave whose probability of location technically extends across the entire universe), Greene describes them well, and makes a good case for why these interpretation are logical (if hard to picture to the human brain).
I find his writing accessible and interesting. He manages to walk the tightrope between technical writing and a conversational tone, and does it very well throughout the sixteen chapters. Although it may seem as though I had a "hard time" getting through this book (it took me roughly a month to read the thing!), that's not the case. His book is beefy, and the concepts discussed are weighty, and so I found that after reading each chapter, I had to take a day or two to think about it before moving on to the next one.
Greene has written two other books, and I enjoyed this one enough that I plan to read the others... eventually. But for now I think my brain needs a vacation from all of this mind-pretzelizing cosmology.
Overall, if you are interested in the origins of the universe, in how space and time are interconnected, or in how modern physics understands the nature of "existence," this is an excellent place to start. ...more