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The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Cosmology is in crisis. The more we discover, the more puzzling the universe appears to be. How and why are the laws of nature what they are? A philosopher and a physicist, world-renowned for their radical ideas in their fields, argue for a revolution. To keep cosmology scientific, we must replace the old view in which the universe is governed by immutable laws by a new on ...more
Hardcover, 566 pages
Published November 30th 2014 by Cambridge University Press (first published November 1st 2014)
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Michaelann Don't read unless you have a strong math/physics background. Yes, really over my head! But I've sloughed thru. I do understand the concepts: one unive…moreDon't read unless you have a strong math/physics background. Yes, really over my head! But I've sloughed thru. I do understand the concepts: one universe, an arrow of time, not timeless universe-- but couldn't understand the justification. Read because I've read other Smolin books going after string theeory, which I initially really liked-- but it can't be proved or falsified! Got way too complicated mathematically. Great idea that is not panning out. But I almost have to on on my instincts (!) on this one, because the math ands concepts are beyond me. HOWEVER: I have made note of a great many words I don't know the meaning of, and DO intend to look them all up!(less)
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As you can see from my reviews of his last two books, I am a fan of Lee Smolin, so it pains me to say that this one was a major disappointment. It pains me even more to explain why, but having started I suppose I have to continue. The book lists two authors on the cover, Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin, and it has an unusual structure. It starts with a co-written introduction of about 20 pages; then there is a section of about 350 pages, written by Unger; after that, a section of about 1 ...more
G.R. Reader
May 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
Roberto, why don't you come clean and admit what's as plain as day? You ran out of ideas; you tried to solve the problem by repeating yourself ad nauseam with minor stylistic variations; CUP refused to publish the result; Lee came in at the last minute and saved you by writing (more accurately, cutting and pasting) 150 pages in a couple of weeks; it was then accepted with very bad grace; the final product still stinks.

Okay, don't return my calls if you don't want to. But tell me I'm wrong on any
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
December 11: Finished, at last. True to expectation, Smolin's contribution was far more concise and compelling than Unger's. The last couple of chapters were heavier on theoretical physics than I was able to follow. But I got the general gist -- as I did that of the book's preceding monograph. A fascinating, sober, rigorous, and persuasively argued gist it is. In the end, I credit both authors for explicating a very deep set of ideas, but only one of them (Smolin) for doing so in a way that remo ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I am by no means qualified to give a thorough and comprehensive review on the subjects of cosmology and natural philosophy, but I am-as far as a layman can be-an avid reader of popular science and a particular fan of Lee Smolin.

Smolin had already cast doubt on much of the popular science mythology around big documentaries these days regarding multiverses, string theory, etc as unfalsifiable (in the Popperian sense) and more a symptom of hitting a brick wall then of a wide wonderful world of cons
Batuhan Erdogan
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Unger's long beginning section pretty much destroys the main argument Smolin had already attempted to get across in his previous works by suffocating the reader in an endless repetition of an already abstract and poorly developed idea that - to put it simply - the universe is singular and the multiverse interpretation of QED is scientifically unacceptable if not straight-up incorrect. Paraphrasing the same statements over and over again does not make it clearer or easier to understand unless a r ...more
John G
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: big-thoughts

So the universe is not a machine. It is not deterministic. There are not God like immutable principles outside of our reality. Cosmology ignores the pre-Bang to cooled-state transition because our physics makes no sense of this initial state and we don’t allow physics principles to change over time.

Mathematics/Physics has lost its way in trying to fudge/fine tune micro physics theories so they agree with our reality’s phenomena. Math is a tool to make sense of the world not an expression of uni
May 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Clearly a magnus opus of philosophical and scientific thought. Not only RMU and LS systematize the current dilemmas of the grand unification theories, but they suggest an optimist, realistic and spell-breaking solution. The agenda is quite simple:
1. There is only one universe (it just is and/or is within a succession)
2. Time is real (consequences for the relativity of simultaneity are analyzed)
3. Mathematics has limitations in describing nature

With this under their belt, scientists (that is, phy
Faust Mephisto
Nov 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Disappointing. The first part of the book, written by Unger, is an exercise of circular philosophy that leads to nothing except for some head scratches. In the last part of the book Smolin takes over with a view that is more grounded in physics. But even Smolin’s part includes a lot of hand waving.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, nature, science
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ray Gates
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Despite endless repetition by Unger, and some rather technical discussion by Smolin, this was very thought-provoking.
You can skip the Unger part
John J
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very difficult read

The book is divided into two parts. Part I was written by Unger and Part II by Smolin. Both authors say essentially the same thing and employ the same extremely dense prose to express their positions, which I found very hard to follow. They make several good arguments against the spatialization of time, insisting that general relativity could and should be reformulated in a manner that recognizes the reality of time. I think these are good arguments, but I would have preferr
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting contrarian view of cosmology

The Big Bang is close to settled science, but does raise questions. For example, what came before the Big Bang? Why are its design parameters very, very improbable? This has led some renowned scientists to postulate alternative universes, even an infinite number of them. This volume is a counter to such conjectures, hence the "singular" in the title.

The books consists of two sections, one written by a socialist philosopher, the other by a practicing physi
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Roberto Mangabeira Unger (born 24 March 1947) is a philosopher and politician. He has written notable works including Politics: A Work In Constructive Social Theory and The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time. He has developed his views and positions across many fields, including social, and political, and economic theory. In legal theory, he is best known for his work in the 1970s-1990s whi ...more

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25 likes · 31 comments
“The road back to reality, we suggest, begins by making two affirmations about nature: the uniqueness of the universe and the reality of time. These together have an immediate consequence which is the central hypothesis of our program: that the laws of nature evolve, and they do so through mechanisms that can be discovered and probed experimentally because they concern the past.” 1 likes
“there is nothing real or true that is timeless” 1 likes
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