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Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,555 ratings  ·  156 reviews
One of our foremost thinkers and public intellectuals offers a radical new view of the nature of time and the cosmos.

The fact that time is real may seem obvious. You experience it passing every day when you watch clocks tick, bread toast, and children grow. But most physicists see things differently, from Newton to Einstein to today’s quantum theorists. For them, time isn’
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Big Questions
The sense of beauty leads us astray.
- James Joyce, Ulysses
Physics is in a strange state right now. On the surface, things may seem to be going well; the elusive Higgs particle was detected for the first time last year, and there are interesting signs that we may soon discover what dark matter is made of. But on the truly fundamental issues, there has been little progress. Three items in particular stand out. First, our two central theories, quantum mechanics and General Relativity, are each very
Manuel Antão
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Shitty Philosophy and Physics : “Time Reborn - From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe” by Lee Smolin

“I propose that time and its passage are fundamental and real and the hopes and beliefs about timeless truths and timeless realms are mythology.”

In “Time Reborn - From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe” by Lee Smolin
Impermanence, Buddhist style?
Buddhism seems to acknowledge the play of opposites I'
Brian Clegg
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As I write this we are a third of the way through 2013 (time is important here) and I can say with hand on heart this is the best popular science book I have read all year.

Lee Smolin’s book is largely accessible (more on this later) and simply mind-boggling in its scope. What he does here is take on time, and specifically the position of time in physics. Even taken as a simple book on time this is brilliant. The fact is, the majority of books that claim to be about time tell you nothing. It’s st
There is something essential about the Now which is just outside the realm of science.

Smolin argues that time is real, because he experiences it, as a sequence of moments. He claims this is evidence not accounted for in the standard Newtonian paradigm (i.e. Plato's timeless mathematical world). He lumps both Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity under this paradigm, and, as it happens, ALL mathematical models that have time written down as a coordinate system!

Throughout the book, Smolin e
Nick Wellings
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lee Smolin's 'Perimeter Institute' in Waterloo Canada sounds like a pretty happening place. Bright young things collaborate on foundational issues in a multimillion dollar purpose built building where the researchers demanded and got full length floor to ceiling blackboards*, glassboards, whiteboards, blackboards in the lounge areas, probably even on the coffee machines and in the toilet cubicles too, which is a good thing I suppose because physics is in trouble and these guys need all the scrib ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book was extremely tough for me to understand. I took almost 45 days to finish this one simply because I wanted to make sure I understand everything that Lee Smolin was talking about. Some of the concepts were too complex for me and took me few days of web research to process. But on the whole, this book was a philosophical experience for me.

Even though it sounds simple, the whole concept of doing 'Physics in a Box' was mind-boggling to me in the initial chapters. As the chapters went by,
Simon Mcleish
Annoyingly poorly argued book about moving beyond current ideas of time in physics, with some interesting ideas. Smolin spends most of the book discussing the "timelessness" of modern physics, both relativity and quantum mechanics, without ever properly defining what he means by the term. It's clearly not whether the theories have a time parameter in them, but it seems in some places to mean that time is treated as a whole, as it is in the "block universe" of relativity, and in others that the l ...more
Apr 23, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction, physics
An interesting talk by Smolin, apparently of the ideas outlined in this book, can be found in this link, with an equally interesting comment by Sean M. Carroll:
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
. . . on second thought, maybe Smolin is wrong and existing theories were right all along?

The book's not closed on this one yet.
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Controversy

Before I can even begin a review of the book, I do feel that a bit of background must be provided on the scientific context in which this book appears. Smolin is a prominent if controversial figure within the theoretical physics community, well known for work on the cutting edge of our knowledge and promoting that work directly to the general public well before it has become widely accepted within the physics community itself.

Back in the 1990's, he published a work that focused on
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-physics
Mystics, philosophers, poets and 20th century physicists all agree - time is an illusion. Newton’s laws work equally well with time going backwards, and Einstein showed that time is relative to the motion of the observer. In contrast, this book argues that time is not only real, it is the most fundamental property of the universe. It certainly provides a lot of new ideas to inspire fresh thinking about this subject.

He does a wonderful job of introducing subjects such as thermodynamics or quantum
I'm... not so sure about all this.

I'm going to preface this by saying I was completely whacked out on cough syrup thanks to a miserable month-long cold for almost the entire duration of my listening to the audiobook of "Time Reborn," and that may have colored my opinions a bit. Also, a major disclaimer: I am not a scientist by any measure, nor am I mathematically adept beyond a high school level. However, I spend most of my time being a general nerd and have decimated the popular science section
Ryan Curry
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics, cosmology
I had been meaning to read this book for quite a while before I finally picked it up. I can confidently say that Lee Smolin is one my favourite authors when it comes to popular topics in physics. He formulates his ideas in a way that I just can't seem to find elsewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed Time Reborn, and have a lengthy list of other books to investigate thanks to the endnotes and bibliography.

Throughout the book Smolin explores some novel concepts in cosmology and does a very good job bringin
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Time is one of the things that originally got me interested in physics:

"So, for many years now, I had been wondering, how can time be considered a dimension if, unlike the other dimensions, we cannot stop or go backwards in it (and therefore the t-axis is non-interchangeable with x- y- z- axes)?" A blog post of mine from October 10, 2009 (my original question dates back at least to 2000).

"Why is it that in the other three dimensions, we can move around more-or-less at will, but in time we seem t
Randal Samstag
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
From my blog post on time here:

Smolin’s 2013 book, Time Reborn, covers much the same ground as Adam Frank’s book, About Time, telling the story of why classical physics banished time and (unlike Frank) why it needs to be considered as real. He is in definite opposition to Newton and Einstein’s expulsion of time from physics in their absolute and block universes. He maintains that physics needs to embrace a cosmology that respects the apparent irreversibility of time, the so-called arrow of time
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in modern physics and cosmology
A brilliant contrarian argument against much of the ideology (meta-physics) of contemporary theoretical physics, especially computationalism: the notion that "reality is what math feels like," as Max Tegmark famously put it--the neo-Platonic idea that mathematics is the ultimate reality and that the universe is finally a vast computation from a few simple algorithms. Smolin's underlying argument is that by taking mathematical models derived from isolating physical systems under study from their ...more
David Dinaburg
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tossing off the word “crisis” is enough of a signifier to fulfill the burden of “shocking-subtitle” that most non-fiction carries. The remainder of the subtitle in Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe has the potential to be more egregiously hyperbolic but for the fact that most readers are unlikely to be current on the cosmological scuttlebutt. A theoretical physicist or cosmologist would not be having a first encounter these theories in a pop-sci book, so their ...more
Lee Smolin
Time Reborn

One of the books I am reading in order to gain a deeper understanding of time.

From what I gather, most physicist think that time does not exist. Lee Smolin, on the other hand, thinks this is wrong. “If you are one of the many who believe that time is an illusion, I aim to change your mind. If you already believe that time is real, I hope to give you better reasons for your belief.” I don’t think I fit in either category; I am not a physicist or a cosmologist, I am merely cu
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lee Smolin has an almost incredible knack for explaining profound and complicated things in a very clear manner, understandable even to dumbkopfs like myself. Furthermore, he seems to be a scientifically well-equipped person pondering truly deep issues in fundamental physics in a manner that seems to avoid some frequent pitfalls that even the smartest guys and gals working in the field seem to tumble into (e.g. assuming a background even in a background-independent theory, assuming a “view from ...more
Shane Hall
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Smolin is a very smart astrophysicist who has won many awards. He has published other books which are deemed influential by Newsweek magazine. Maybe that is why I could not follow his arguments fully.

In essence physics is in trouble. The 2 most successful theories in physics, quantum physics and relativity, have so far not been unproven in science, but they contradict each other. So a new way is needed. Smolin proposed the ‘time is real’ theory. He suggested that there is actually a global time
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Lee Smolin is a physicist who can write. Even better, he’s a physicist who understands the way that other fields (like philosophy and economics) actually work. I’ve become accustomed to how physicists regularly misunderstand other disciplines, but Smolin is thoughtful and careful. Best of all, he’s unafraid to make bold claims in a book intended for a non-speciallist audience.

This book makes a stark claim that physics has, since the era of the ancient Greeks, been gradually sidelining time in it
Feb 07, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
Okay Boomer, if you have difficulty with the double think of the lack of free will and your conscious experience, also, if you can't deal with the possibility of being inconsequential or a Boltzmann brain: read this book.

If you're looking for a clear explanation of anything: don't.

If you want a muddled and rambling view into the rumanations of a theoretical physics professor about anything and everything, from the concept of time to how this affects economy and climate change: this is your book.
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Smolin always has its own special assumption like everyone else but what he wants to achive in general seems more noble let's say.

Here he tries to show why time is real and a fundamental element to the reality of the universe and maybe the only one and not a concept which we preceive based on preconditioned illusion of us.
Allan Olley
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an extended exploration of time in physics especially cosmology with a to my mind somewhat controversial thesis. Time has been largely if not wholly excised from modern physics and this is an impediment to physics making progress in fields like cosmology that attempt to understand the universe as a whole.

The first part of the book explores how physics has removed most if not all of time from its description of the world. The innovations of Galileo and Newton described physical pheno
Jonathan Hockey
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book, a lot of important ideas in it, and always nice to see some attempts being made to get out of the consensus dogma in mainstream science. He criticises some of these perspectives, such as those who support the multiverse idea and those who are attached to string theory, with a combination of rightfully pointing out that these theories become too flexible to the point where there is no observation that could empirically falsify them, alongside referring to principles of reason and ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think Smolin has been hanging out with too many theoretical physicists and philosophers who say funny things like: time doesn’t exist, or, time is an illusion. For the rest of us mortals, a thinning hair is enough proof for the reality of time.

Smolin is not happy with the fact that, starting from Newton, time lost its centrality in physics. It simply doesn’t appear in many representations and formulations of the laws of physics. Even when it does, it doesn’t really do anything other than move
Joseph Schrock
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a non-physicist, I must say that I was quite intrigued by Lee Smolin’s considerably deep and abstruse discursion into highly speculative aspects of theoretical physics. This book, “Time Reborn”, as the title indicates, is mainly devoted to a discussion of time as a truly-existing phenomenon – not a mere illusion conjured up by human consciousness. I very much appreciate Smolin’s commitment to rendering time as an objective reality. Ever since I became aware that many of modern physicists, inc ...more
Troy Blackford
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it
This was an interesting book, but I feel like it makes it quite clear why concepts in physics the author doesn't endorse - namely string theory - are more popular with the public than the ideas expressed here: the ideas presented are frequently impenetrable and the writing seems to jump from topic to topic without making it very clear what is meant. I mean, it would probably help if I understood physics better, but that's precisely what I'm saying: it's been easier for me to at least feel like I ...more
keith koenigsberg
Dec 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Weak book. His writing is wandering and opaque; he often states as the plain-truth ideas which are actually far from obvious; he often states that he has shown you something ("We have seen") yet it is not clear that he has; and he could have used a good editor. The book is *way* too long with lots of fluff (he spends a lot of time telling you what he's going to tell you); although he thanks two dozen people for proofreading the book for him, I found several errors (errors of logic and errors of ...more
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Lee Smolin versus Richard Dawkins 3 18 May 28, 2015 01:58AM  
Science and Inquiry: Time Reborn - Lee Smolin 2 22 Aug 03, 2013 01:02AM  

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Lee Smolin is a theoretical physicist who has made influential contributions to the search for a unification of physics. He is a founding faculty member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His previous books include The Trouble with Physics, The Life of the Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.

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“Whatever is real in our universe is real in a moment of time, which is one of a succession of moments. The past was real but is no longer real. We can, however, interpret and analyze the past, because we find evidence of past processes in the present. The future does not yet exist and is therefore open. We can reasonably infer some predictions, but we cannot predict the future completely. Indeed, the future can produce phenomena that are genuinely novel, in the sense that no knowledge of the past could have anticipated them. Nothing transcends time, not even the laws of nature. Laws are not timeless. Like everything else, they are features of the present, and they can evolve over time.” 3 likes
“Without having navigated waters shallow enough for us to see bottom, we’ll be easy prey to mystifiers who want to sell us radical metaphysical fantasies in the guise of science.” 3 likes
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