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Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe

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From the world-renowned physicist and bestselling author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, a captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose

In both time and space, the cosmos is astoundingly vast, and yet is governed by simple, elegant, universal mathematical laws.

On this cosmic timeline, our human era is spectacular but fleeting. Someday, we know, we will all die. And, we know, so too will the universe itself.

Until the End of Time is Brian Greene's breathtaking new exploration of the cosmos and our quest to understand it. Greene takes us on a journey across time, from our most refined understanding of the universe's beginning, to the closest science can take us to the very end. He explores how life and mind emerged from the initial chaos, and how our minds, in coming to understand their own impermanence, seek in different ways to give meaning to experience: in story, myth, religion, creative expression, science, the quest for truth, and our longing for the timeless, or eternal. Through a series of nested stories that explain distinct but interwoven layers of reality-from the quantum mechanics to consciousness to black holes-Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed.

Yet all this understanding, which arose with the emergence of life, will dissolve with its conclusion. Which leaves us with one realization: during our brief moment in the sun, we are tasked with the charge of finding our own meaning.

Let us embark.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published February 18, 2020

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About the author

Brian Greene

33 books3,407 followers
Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and one of the best-known string theorists. He has been a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University since 1996. He has become known to a wider audience through his books for the general public and a related PBS television special.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 596 reviews
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
742 reviews1,106 followers
April 7, 2020
"In the search for value and purpose, the only insights of relevance, the only answers of significance, are those of our own making. In the end, during our brief moment in the sun, we are tasked with the noble charge of finding our own meaning.

Well, this was a bit of a train wreck.  It started out interesting. I was really into the first 3 chapters, especially the third, "Origins and Entropy". After that, as another reviewer ironically noted, the book itself appears to suffer an increase in entropy.

Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist but in this book he veers off into philosophy and linguistics and sociology and other sciences. 'Round and around we go. It was all over the place. It seemed to me that Mr. Greene decided to write a book about the future of the universe using his speciality of physics, but then found he had only enough material for a few chapters.  Therefore, perhaps at the insistence of his publisher, he decided to add more chapters by discussing other scientific fields he has read up on. 

And he lost me. Perhaps it was simply that I was really wanting some cold hard facts, something that would require my brain to let go of every other thought and just focus on what I was reading. Something that would give my brain some structure for a time. Some people escape through reading with books that don't require any or much thought. That doesn't work for me. In order to escape reality (and who doesn't want to escape a little during a pandemic?!) I need a book that demands total attention. A book that engages my grey matter sufficiently that I let go of all my present worries. Books on this subject are often my ticket to escape. Unfortunately, this particular one just didn't do it. 

It meandered and so did my thoughts. Though it sometimes talked of complex physics, it more often talked about things that didn't require my full attention.  

I do appreciate that it doesn't require a background in complex mathematics as some physics books do.  It's easy to understand, though I found there to be far too many explanations and examples for just about everything.  I got it the first time, I kept thinking; now the additional examples just gives my brain cells room to think (obsess!) about teeny tiny viruses.

4-5 stars for the first 3 chapters. 2 for the filler chapters. 5 stars for the next to last chapter and 3 for the last. I'm no mathematician but I'll just do a rough estimate and average it out to 3 stars.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews67.8k followers
December 27, 2020
“I Think That I Think, Therefore I Think That I Am”
- Ambrose Bierce

I am reminded not only of Ambrose Bierce’s aphorism above (which is mentioned by Greene) but also of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s comment upon visiting a bridge under construction in the North of England. Hearing the almost incomprehensible Scots and Geordie banter among the workers, he remarked ‘Isn’t it amazing what people who talk like that can do?’

It is indeed almost miraculous what human beings can do with language. But many believe they can use language not just to build bridges but to tell the rest of us about ultimate reality. Descartes used language to prove the reality of his own existence in his famous Cogito Ergo Sum. Before him, Anselm of Canterbury used language to demonstrate what he thought was the reality of the divine by simply defining God as ‘that of which nothing greater can be thought’. Brian Green thinks we’ll eventually be able to explain everything about reality - ourselves and God included - if we just tell enough stories about it.

Greene considers himself a reformed reductionist - that is, someone who used to believe in one fundamental story about reality. He now believes that the scientific stories by chemists, physicists, and biologists are not the only stories that are meaningful. “There are many ways of understanding the world,” he says. A non-scientist who reads novels, biographies, and poetry can only agree. What matters for him is that the stories that are told are increasingly consistent and coherent with each other. It is unclear how he proposes to compare, say, Finnegans Wake and the second law of Thermodynamics for consistency and coherence. Nevertheless, this is his measure not just of scientific progress but also of human cultural development.

The story he likes best because of its inclusiveness is that of gravity and entropy. The way he tells it, gravity is the force which sparked the entire cosmos in the Big Bang. A small and statistically unlikely perturbation in the microscopic ball of proto-energy caused that extremely low entropy ball to expand in a billionth of a second to a universe billions of light years in size. The photons and other nuclear material contained in the original singularity are spread through newly existing high-entropy space virtually instantaneously. Ever since, gravity and entropy have been in a continuous battle, driving not just the creation and destruction of galaxies, stars and planets, but also the life that has emerged on the latter, including us. We are little islands of relatively low entropy, contributing the best we can to the eventual heat-death of the universe. Even without our industrial level carbon footprints, we can’t help but turn high quality energy into useless background radiation.

Great story. But here’s a layman’s problem: Gravity hasn’t been considered a force, much less the originary creative force, since Einstein formulated his theory of relativity. Gravity, as I understand it, is a perturbation of space-time. So when Greene states “According to the general theory of relativity, the gravitational force can be repulsive,” I start to get seriously confused. Did space-time exist before the Big Bang? If not, how can gravity be its motivating factor?

And Greene goes on to explain that critical moment of orgasmic cosmic release, “When a tiny speck of space finally makes the statistically unlikely leap to low entropy, repulsive gravity jumps into action and propels it into a rapidly expanding universe—the Big Bang,” I am left speechless as he treats this non-thing of entropy as a substance that colonises the newly formed world. Entropy is not a force or a substance but a descriptive condition. Having it do cosmic battle with another non-force/non-substance like gravity seems to me to be pushing a metaphor beyond its design tolerances.

Is he condescending to popular usage or just being sloppy? In any case, I’d really like to understand how a tiny nick in the constitution of the speck of initial energy could cause an apparent violation of quantum laws of movement wherein light and atomic particles can move millions of time faster than photons (not to mention matter) can travel. His cavalier treatment of time and alternative entropic ‘trials’ before the Big Bang seem to me just hand-waving. I felt like an eager adolescent searching for the dirty bits in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But just when things start to get really hot, Greene changes the subject.

According to this story, if the universe is expanding forever, entropy is the winner of the cosmic game and the universe is effectively eternal. On the other hand, if there is an ultimate cosmic collapse, gravity triumphs. But in the latter case, there would be a limit to gravity’s reign, just as there is in the formation of stars. When densities increase sufficiently, nuclear fusion kicks in, and gravity gets checked and the gravity/entropy “two-step” is ignited anew. So the whole process would start again - and crucially not from the same place as the Big Bang. But this too implies eternity.

Eternity bothers me because it points to something beyond language. It’s an indication, like the word ‘God’, of the ultimate inadequacy of language to describe reality (‘reality’ is also one of those words). I am encouraged that Greene doesn’t think that a single scientific or mathematical story is sufficient and that we must ‘sweep in’ as many accounts of existence as we can, including non-scientific ones. But I despair when someone like Greene thinks that this will improve our understanding of reality. It may help us to stop persecuting each other; it will certainly result in faster, more powerful, and more varied machines and products of all sorts. But it will get us no closer to reality, to that which is permanently beyond language.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books553 followers
May 21, 2022
A remarkable book. Did you ever wish you could sit down with one of the top theoretical physicists, someone that was responsible for groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory, and ask them about life, the universe, and everything? Well . . . wish granted.

Let’s start with a couple of warnings. If physics isn’t your thing, if you don’t find the double-slit experiment mind-blowing, or the relatively recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle shocking, you may find this book - a quantum leap too far. But, if you’ve ever wondered why there is something instead of nothing, or how life or consciousness may have started, you’ll find this book entirely readable, although you may have to clear headspace to fully digest it. IMHO, Greene breaks through in this book, from being an excellent communicator and making the insanely complex understandable (his prior books), to an author that is profound and a great storyteller (this book).

A second warning, this book contains some truths that are disturbing and may create extreme existential dread. His explanations of the relentless march of entropy, the case for predestination, and the various terminations of Earth, life, and reality itself, can be difficult to accept. If you have strong religious sensitivities, you also may want to think twice about reading this book. However, I will add that Greene wrote this work with humility and empathy. The book is meticulously researched, he never asks you to take his word. It has 74 pages of footnotes and references. In addition, he shows compassion for the reader, recognizing the moments that cause anxiety and softening them with his stories of his own prior bias and fears.

If you still want to continue, you will be richly rewarded. Green tells a cohesive story which begins with the lure of eternity, then follows with the origin of the universe, life, and consciousness, recognizes the special nature of belief, language, and stories, and ends with an examination of the end of all things. It’s a compelling tale, supported by math, facts, and the continuous progress of physics. You’ll dive into the big bang, black holes, evolution, DNA, and consciousness. His prose is often as good as any fiction novelist and the story arc of the universe is the most majestic of all tales.

A masterwork by a brilliant scientist that has taken the time to share his life’s work with us in a breathtaking and compassionate way. A grand journey through matter and time, revealing difficult truths, but leaving space to appreciate beauty and meaning in our existence. Five stars going supernova one by one.
Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 163 books2,469 followers
February 18, 2020
Things start well with this latest title from Brian Greene: after a bit of introductory woffle we get into an interesting introduction to entropy. As always with Greene's writing, this is readable, chatty and full of little side facts and stories. Unfortunately, for me, the book then suffers something of an increase in entropy itself as on the whole it then veers more into philosophy and the soft sciences than Greene's usual physics and cosmology.

So, we get chapters on consciousness, language, belief and religion, instinct and creativity, duration and impermanence, the ends of time and, most cringe-making as a title, 'the nobility of being'. Unlike the dazzling scientific presentation I expect, this mostly comes across as fairly shallow amateur philosophising.

Of course it's perfectly possible to write good science books on, say, consciousness or language - but though Greene touches on the science, there far too much that's more hand-waving. And good though he is at explaining physics, I'm not sure Greene is the right person for the job of dealing with these softer subjects.

Overall, despite the problems I had with it, it's a slick, well-written book, but it's not what I want from a popular science title - too subjective, too flowery and lacking the sense of wonder and fascination I want from good science writing. It may well appeal if touchy-feely is your thing, and Greene continues to add in little scientific asides as he goes, but I'm afraid I lost interest in a big way.

It often seems that science writers have to get one 'inner feelings' kind of book off their chest: hopefully Greene can now return to what he does best.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
77 reviews179 followers
December 13, 2022
Are you the type of person who gets teary eyed from thinking about a cosmos studded with stars that are constantly engaged in thermonuclear bickering with a relentless gravitational crush? Well, hold on, I’ve got something in my eye. Have you ever, after deliriously consuming grandma’s confections with your scalded bare hands, saw a remaining dollop of sugary goodness sitting squarely in the middle of the pie pan, the edges of which, if taken as points, all seemed perfectly equidistant from the remains? If you’re anything like me, that moment marked for you a turning point, in which the Schwarzschild Radius ceased to be a mere theoretical construct, and came to inform your taste in apple pie henceforth.

So, first things first. There’s an obvious comparison to be made here for anyone that’s read The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, and if you have, imagine that this book is basically that, but focused less on psychology, and more on The Second Law of Thermodynamics, and how life staves off entropic degradation on the molecular level. If you’re not familiar with that book, or if you think I’m invoking Aleister Crowley; let me summarize. Becker argued that much of the striving we do in life is motivated by the dichotomy between our ability to reach towards the divine while being creatures who go back into the dirt. This cognitive dissonance, he reasoned, causes us to muster our creative and industrious impulses in the face of this absurdity. In a similar fashion, this book covers key scientific insights in our ongoing quest to discover our place in the cosmos, and reconcile the knowledge of not only our own impermanence, but that of the universe as well.

Here’s some things you’ll learn about: The salience of entropy in our lives (The aforementioned Second Law not to be confused with a Crowley injunction). Evolution by natural selection. Speculation on the antecedents of DNA. The central importance of Redox Reactions in metabolizing pie, and Black Holes. After this, the book necessarily becomes more philosophical in nature, with examinations of epistemology, language, consciousness, free will, religion, and finally our raison d'être. Some people may be put off by this move into the speculative and poetic, and if you’re looking for a book that’s purely grounded in scientific reasoning, look elsewhere.

For me, as a person who, while not religious, does experience awe in the way that Einstein captured in his more deistic scribbling, I found it highly enjoyable, and would recommend it to anyone with a similar disposition. Greene, as usual, writes in a witty and accessible style, and adopts an appropriately humble and open minded position on the big questions of our existence.

Let’s close this review out with a couple of quotes.

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” — Carl Sagan.

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.” — Albert Einstein.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,297 reviews4,828 followers
October 16, 2020

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist who writes books about science for the general public.

Author Brian Greene

In this tome, Greene contemplates the universe, from it's inception to it's inevitable demise. Greene writes, "Planets and stars and solar systems and galaxies and even black holes are transitory. The end of each is driven by its own distinctive combination of physical processes, spanning quantum mechanics through general relativity, ultimately yielding a mist of particles drifting through a cold and quiet cosmos."

We don't need to worry much about the end of the universe because it probably won't happen for trillions and trillions of years. On the other hand, the end for an individual living creature - like a human being - is much closer.

Greene suggests that the knowledge of inevitable death drives people to leave a mark, to accomplish something that lasts beyond themselves. This may be the impetus that inspires scientists, scholars, artists, musicians, writers, etc.

In fact it's what drives Greene himself. He writes, "I've gone forward with an eye trained on the long view, on seeking to accomplish something that would last."

The decay of the universe is driven by the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the production of waste is unavoidable. Greene notes, "The second law describes a fundamental characteristic inherent in all matter and energy, regardless of structure or form, whether animate or inanimate. The law reveals (loosely) that everything in the universe has an overwhelming tendency to run down, to degrade, to wither." In other words, disorder is more likely than order.

Greene provides simple examples to demonstrate this. For instance, if you vigorously shake 100 coins and throw then down, it's a hundred billion billion billion times more likely that you'll get 50 heads and 50 tails (a high entropy, low order configuration) rather than all heads or all tails (a low entropy, high order configuration).

So going from the past to the future, entropy is overwhelmingly likely to increase.

You may ask, 'How then did organized things like stars, planets, bacteria, rhododendrons, dogs, humans, etc. come to be'?

Greene explains that (temporary) organization occurs via the entropic two-step, which is a "process in which the entropy of a system decreases because it shifts a more than compensating increase in entropy to the environment." To use humans as an example, we take in energy (food, air) to sustain our bodies, but we give off even more energy as waste products (heat).

A burning question for scientists, philosophers and much of the general public is 'How did life begin?' In the eyes of physicists like Greene, the 'molecular spark' that animated a collection of particles to 'come alive' is explainable by natural laws we haven't yet discovered. The particles themselves slowly formed after the Big Bang, eventually organizing into proto DNA-like molecules that could reproduce themselves....

......and finally into RNA, DNA, proteins, and other molecules that make up living things. Greene explains all this in detail, and - for me - was among the most interesting parts of the book.

As masses of particles that follow universal laws, do we have free will, unlike a rock for example? This is a question of great interest to many philosophers and scientists. Greene observes that, "as living creatures [our] particles are so spectacularly ordered, so breathtakingly configured, that they can undertake exquisitely choreographed motions that are not possible for [rocks]." So we can walk, cook, read, play computer games, go shopping, play sports, and so on. Though our particles ARE bound by physical laws, and we DON'T have free will, we apparently CAN control our behavior. Greene is a bit murky about this, and I would have liked a better explanation. 😏

Greene explains how Darwinian evolution drove the development of living things, from the simple to the complex. For instance, animal life advanced from single celled organisms,

to primitive creatures like sponges,

to more complex organisms like fish,

to land animals like salamanders,

and on and on to VERY intelligent primates (us).

It all happened because of Darwin's law of natural selection or 'survival of the fittest.'

For humans, natural selection favored physical traits - including our big brains - that allowed us to use tools; run from danger; kill prey; make fires; build shelters; etc. Greene posits that more nebulous human endeavors, like language; story-telling; art; religion; music; and so on ALSO helped us survive.

Greene's lengthy discussions about this are a little cloudy, but I got the jist....such behaviors cement us into communities, which are adaptive for survival. In any case, they fit into the 'survival of the fittest' scenario.

Getting back to the fate of the universe, Greene mentions various theories about the destiny of the cosmos. Scientists have observed that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. No one knows what will happen in the future, but various possibilities are suggested, such as: the rate of expansion will speed up even more and the universe will rip apart;

the expansion will slow down and the universe will collapse with a big crunch;

the universe will collapse and expand over and over again...like a sort of cosmic yoyo; and more.

These discussions include consideration of gravity, repulsive gravity; dark energy, electromagnetic and nuclear forces, the Higgs field, and other such things that physicists love. No matter what, however, the universe will ultimately disintegrate into widely separated teeny tiny particles that are randomly drifting around.

As for humanity, we won't be around forever. Greene writes, "The entire duration of human activity - whether we annihilate ourselves in the next few centuries, are wiped out by a natural disaster in the next few millennia, or somehow find a way to carry on until the death of the sun, the end of the Milky Way, or even the demise of complex matter - would be fleeting."

So, does human life matter. If we won't survive for eternity, should we sit back and do nothing? Greene doesn't think so. He writes "our moment is rare and extraordinary" and "it's utterly wondrous that a small collection of the universe's particles can rise up, examine themselves and the reality they inhabit, determine just how transitory they are, and with a flitting burst of activity create beauty, establish connection, and illuminate mystery."

So go on and do your thing. 😊

Greene includes the work and opinions of many scientists and philosophers in his discussions, and tells personal anecdotes to illustrate some points - like the time he blew up the oven at the age of ten; or was thrilled by the aurora borealis; or saw his daughter let go of a soaring swing and tumble to the ground.

Greene has the rare ability to make difficult concepts accessible to non-specialists, and for science and math nerds, there are extensive notes (and a few equations) at the end of the book. All in all, a book worth reading for people interested in the subject.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Ryan Boissonneault.
183 reviews1,941 followers
February 25, 2020
Problems with the physicalist approach to Big History

Big history is a specific approach to history that examines the universe and the human story at its largest possible scales, from the big bang to the present to the distant future. It seeks to unify all physical, biological, psychological, and historical events within a single explanatory framework, often reductionist in nature. Since everything in such a history is claimed to be ultimately reducible to the laws of physics (in the reductionist versions), such a narrative seems particularly suited for a theoretical physicist to tell.

Enter Brian Greene and his latest foray into the field of big history, Until the End of Time. There’s no question that Greene is well-suited for the task; in addition to his deep expertise in theoretical physics, he also has the unmatched ability to clearly explain complex scientific concepts. The beginning chapters are a testament to this, as Greene takes the reader through the origins of the universe to the present day by explaining, with a liberal dose of clever analogies, how the fundamental concepts of entropy, energy, and evolution guide the physical, chemical, and biological processes that make up our world.

While some may find this narrative approach (which is conspicuously devoid of anything “supernatural” or “divine”) depressing, others (like me) will find it utterly fascinating and even, in a sense, liberating. Greene shows us that by contemplating the universe at its largest scales—and by recognizing the impermanence of everything—we can come to more deeply appreciate our fleeting moments on this earth. And, even more importantly, we can learn to embrace the responsibility we all have to create our own meaning in our lives, while avoiding the somewhat childish view that meaning has to be imposed on us from above for life to have any value.

As the book progresses, however, things get murkier. Philosophically, one thing you can say about Green is that he is consistent in his reductionist stance. Greene believes that everything can be explained—at least theoretically—with reference only to the laws and motions of fundamental particles. He does admit, however, that the prospect of actually doing this is virtually impossible, as the human mind (and for that matter any computer) does not have the cognitive or computational capacity to make such calculations.

The eruption of a volcano, the causes of the second World War, and your inner experiences and emotions, for example, could be explained by physical laws, it’s just that we don’t have the capability of doing so. This is why we must study geological phenomena, history, and psychology at different, emergent levels, levels that we can cognitively handle. But this doesn’t mean that, in reality, it’s not “physics all the way down,” which Greene unabashadely believes.

This qualified reductionist approach, however persuasive it appears, runs into its biggest challenge in the chapter on consciousness. In fact, it is here that I believe Greene’s philosophy is most subject to criticism.

To say that consciousness is reducible to the motions of particles is to not fully appreciate the difference between scientific explanation and experience itself. Thomas Nagel, in his famous essay, What Is It Like to Be a Bat?, neatly elucidates the problem. As Greene wrote:

“Since our mode of engagement with the world is profoundly different [from the bat], there is just so far our imagination can take us into the bat’s inner world. Even if we had a complete accounting of all the underlying fundamental physics, chemistry, and biology that make a bat a bat, our description would still seem unable to get at the bat’s subjective “first-person” experience. However detailed our material understanding, the inner world of the bat seems beyond reach. What’s true for the bat is true for each of us.”

This demonstrates, at least to me, that there is another aspect to consciousness that is clearly not of a physical nature (also see the philosophical experiment Mary’s Room). What does it even mean to say that a thought, or the experience of the color red, is physical? Science advances by ignoring subjective experience and by quantifying the objects of experience. It is therefore a mistake to think that science can turn in on consciousness and quantify it in the same manner, without any major intellectual revolution in how we see the world.

Well, Brian Greene seems to think that all we need is more physics and neuroscience and we can finally understand, not only what it is like to be a bat, but our own consciousness. This, despite the fact that every advance in neuroscience gets us no closer to understanding consciousness than the ancient Greeks. I’m just not convinced that more of the same is going to make any difference (or how it even could make any difference).

In regard to possible intellectual revolutions, Greene mentions panpsychism but fails to mention the Interface Theory of Perception, which says that the relationship between our perceptions and reality is like the relationship between a desktop interface and a computer. According to this theory, we have for centuries been under the impression that science investigates the natural world when all it has been investigating is the “virtual desktop” of the brain, which tells us as much about the natural world as our computer interface tells us about the circuits of the computer. This, I believe, may be a promising line of research but will fundamentally alter the way we think about reality (see The Case Against Reality by cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman).

Next, Greene addresses free will, telling us, unsurprisingly, that it is an illusion. Since he already told us that consciousness is simply the physical arrangement of particles in our brain, then it follows that our thoughts and actions are entirely determined by physical laws. His physicalism forces him to this conclusion, but, as we saw, if he’s wrong about consciousness, he could also be wrong about free will.

The reader should keep in mind that if free will is bound up with consciousness—and if we don’t yet have a coherent scientific account of consciousness—then we don’t yet have a coherent scientific account of free will. Therefore, there is little compulsion for me to jettison my own belief in some form of free will—based on the totality of my experience—on the basis of a scientific explanation that doesn’t exist.

It’s also worth considering the implications of Greene’s position, if he is right and our behavior is entirely physically determined. If Greene is right, it means that the big bang set off a mathematically-defined, predetermined course for every particle in the universe, some of which would eventually coalesce into the solar system, earth, life, humans, minds, and eventually Brian Greene, who would write a book telling you, the reader, that your subjective experience of free will is actually an illusion that you can’t help but thinking due to this very sequence of events.

If he is right, of course, this is pretty amazing, especially since that would mean that the physical laws have conspired over billions of years so that he, Brain Greene, can serve as the messenger of such a profound insight. But I think you can forgive me for thinking that this may not be the case. Consciousness and free will are still open questions that we are nowhere near understanding.

There is one further point that no scientist or physicalist has ever, as far as I know, adequately addressed. It is this: If everything is determined, and free will doesn’t exist, and no conscious creatures could have acted otherwise than they did, then what function does consciousness serve? If everything is predetermined by the laws of physics, then what good does it do me (or any conscious creature) to have the illusion of choice?

Stated another way, if physical processes produce consciousness, but consciousness does not have a reciprocal effect on physical processes, then consciousness is entirely inept at impacting any outcome whatsoever. Therefore, if we follow Greene in his physicalism, consciousness completely loses its evolutionary rationale.
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
545 reviews120 followers
September 13, 2022
Review originally published January 22, 2021

“How utterly wonderous it is that a small collection of the universe’s particles can rise up, examine themselves and the reality they inhabit, determine just how transitory they are, and with a flitting burst of activity create beauty, establish connection, and illuminate mystery.”

As a child, I remember feeling this deep sadness when I looked out the window and into the sky lit up by the Sun and knew that billions of years into the future the Sun would die. I don’t exactly remember how I came to know this fact, whether through a book, my parents telling me, or via one of the many space shows and documentaries playing on the family TV. In any case, it was one of those moments that caused me to reflect on my own impermanence—if the Sun couldn’t burn forever, then what did that mean for my own prospects?

While scary because of the brief existential crisis this revelation caused, as I have grown and had more of those moments, it has stayed scary, but has increasingly become tempered with a sense of awe and wonder at the world around me.

I think that’s what physicist Brian Greene’s aim is with this book, Until the End of Time (2020), an exploration of the history and possible futures of the universe we inhabit as well as a journey into the past, present, and future of the equivalently vivid inner world that is the human mind.

Coming into this book, I did not expect it to be as philosophical as it is, even with the book’s full title being, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe. Emphasis on “search for meaning!” In my mind, science and philosophy were mutually exclusive.

However, the book’s dual approach—a unique meshing of logical science and philosophy—is exactly what made Until the End of Time such a compelling read. While I would be lying if I said I understood all of the physics behind our universe’s beginning, middle, and end, the fact that science points to sentient life beginning (and probably ending) in a cosmological blink of an eye is as clear of a statement on our transience as we can get. Not to mention that conditions conducive to life, self-aware or otherwise, appear to have emerged by chance, merely one out of many possibilities set into motion after the Big Bang, and overseen by immutable physical laws.

Whew! Yes, pretty heavy stuff, especially after the year 2020 turned out to be. The existential blow perhaps dealt by this book is softened somewhat by Greene’s accessible writing and his infectious wonder at the continued quest to answer the big questions, scientific or otherwise. It takes a certain humility to contemplate the mortality of humanity, and perhaps of the universe, and admit there’s still so much we don’t know and have yet to discover.

I would highly recommend this book. It does what all good books should do in changing your perspective on the world and all of its inhabitants.

See also: The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004), The Elegant Universe (2010), The Hidden Reality (2011), all by Brian Greene


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Profile Image for Susan.
200 reviews4 followers
February 17, 2020
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

“In the fullness of time all that lives will die.”

That is the first sentence of the first chapter of Brian Greene’s new book, Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe.

The first sentence pretty much sums up the whole thesis of the book—one day we will die. We all will, each as individuals. But also, one day, all of humanity and the world we reside in, will cease to be. Time will end.

I found this book to be more philosophical than Greene’s previous works, and he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

In Chapter One (The Lure of Eternity), Greene wonders about our ability to think. Is thought a physical process?

In Chapter Two (The Language of Time), he calls up the second law of thermodynamics, which states that all things deteriorate over time. He asks, Why is the future different from the past?

Chapter Three (Origins and Entropy) wonders, with the second law of thermodynamics “burden[ing] the universe with a relentless increase in disorder”, how do we come to have such organized structures such as atoms, nature, and our brains?

Chapter Four (Information and Vitality) moves into the question of: What is life? “If we could identify what animates a collection of particles, what molecular magic sparks the fires of life, we would take a significant step toward understanding life’s origin and the ubiquity or not, of life in the cosmos.”

Chapter Five (Particles and Consciousness) dives into the question of our conscious interior lives. This was one of the more interesting chapters as Greene seeks to understand where our conscious thought even comes from. “Can matter on its own, produce the sensations infusing conscious awareness? Can our conscious sense of autonomy be nothing more than the laws of physics acting themselves out on the matter constituting brain and body?” In this chapter, the author explores our concept of free will as well as acknowledges that our understanding of the physical brain is incomplete in that it cannot explain “subjective sensations.”

In Chapter Six (Language and Story), Greene wonders at how language has opened up the possibility of story-telling and imagination. The complexity of our language system and grammar structures is what sets us apart from all other animals. In this chapter, Greene explores this idea in depth, providing a history of linguistic thought.

Chapter Seven (Brains and Belief) discusses our inner world and the development of religious beliefs.

Chapter Eight (Instinct and Creativity) explores humanity’s creation of art and its seeming insignificance towards aiding the survival of our species. “[W]hen our perceptions blend thought and emotion, when we feel thoughts as well as think them, our experience steps yet farther beyond the bounds of mechanistic explanation. We gain access to worlds otherwise uncharted.”

Chapter Nine (Duration and Impermanence) explores the uncomfortable idea that our time (not just us as individuals, but the enduring ability to have thoughts and ideas) is finite. “Even those features of the cosmos that may present as enduring—the expanse of space, the distant galaxies, the stuff of matter—all lie within the reach of time.”

Chapter Ten (The Twilight of Time) discusses the inevitability that time as we know and experience it will eventually end.

The final chapter (The Nobility of Being) basically works to summarize the main ideas explored in the preceding chapters and to leave the reader with the still-unanswered big questions:
“Why is there something rather than nothing?”
“What sparked the onset of life?”
“How did conscious awareness emerge?”

Greene’s writing is enriched through his use of analogy and metaphor, which also makes the book approachable for the non-physicist. I first knew Greene through his appearances on NOVA and other PBS and Science Channel programming, so I continuously found myself imagining him narrate the book while graphics popped up to explain his analogies even further. He also provides a rich commentary on how the big questions presented in this book have been examined historically and who the big players were in asking and attempting to resolve the questions and paradoxes. As I read this book, I saw some parallels to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari’s historic account of humanity, but from the perspective of a physicist.

Overall, I found Until the End of Time to be an engaging, sincere, and thought-provoking examination of the past, present, and future of one of the most intriguing of all concepts: TIME.

Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,502 followers
December 3, 2021
Every chapter is interesting, but this book seems to go in circles. I just cannot figure out what the author intended for the overall theme. Brian Greene is a well-known author and physicist. He delved into so many different subjects--it was hard to keep track what he was ultimately driving at.

The beginning of the book was about the beginning of time, about the laws of thermodynamics and entropy, and the structure of DNA. So far so good. Then the book diverges into religion, philosophy, consciousness, and all sorts of other subjects. The final chapters return to physics and what will happen in the very very very distant future.

Perhaps the book could have been improved by just making it into a collection of essays. Then there would be less need to try to make it into a coherent story.

I didn't read this book--I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author. Brian Greene reads his book rather well, and his voice, at least, is not distracting.
Profile Image for Radiantflux.
411 reviews403 followers
March 7, 2020
26th book for 2020.

This came across as an interesting, but somewhat poorly constructed book.

The early chapters on the physics of entropy were interesting, but then we suddenly had chapters on language and consciousness, which felt somewhat randomly tacked on; and while Greene is clearly very smart, the chapters were not particularly deep—just what you could expect from someone smart who had read up a bit a topic that interested them. And then we had some deep-time ultimate fate of the Universe stuff tacked on at the end.

Profile Image for Alex.
103 reviews9 followers
June 3, 2020
My interest in books on epistemology and cosmology is a personal and emotional one as much as an intellectual one. Why do I have my particular perspective on the universe given a world with almost ten billion other similar brains? Faced with a finite lifespan, what sort of mark do I leave on existence? In a universe as vast as this, what impression, if any, will the human race have as a whole?

There are plenty of popular science books that have provoked these thoughts, but it's been a while since I found one that also explored the personal and subjective terrain as effectively as this. Greene's book is a humanist exploration of how thought came to exist in the cosmos, what we do with it, and where it's ultimately going to go. Although it has a strong focus on the physics and is very good at elucidating the principles involved - the "entropic two-step" and evolution act as the backbones of the whole story - it constantly returns to the personal and subjective implications of the results, often in relation to the author's personal experience.

Greene is a witty and conversational writer even with technical material, and shows an intellectual modesty and openness that really makes the book accessible and thought-provoking even as it gets in to the difficult terrain of the nature of thought and free will. Despite the substantial subject matter and the large page count, this was a fun and uplifting read, as well as mentally stimulating one. Recommended.

(If you want more technical treatments of the themes, be sure to check Greene's extensive endnotes.)
Profile Image for Kevin Lopez (on sabbatical).
84 reviews22 followers
May 8, 2021
The point then, is that when evaluating free will there is much to be gained by shifting attention from a narrow focus on ultimate cause to a broader perusal of human response. Our freedom is not from physical laws that are beyond our ability to affect, our freedom is to exhibit behaviors—leaping, thinking, imagining, observing, deliberating, explaining, and so on—that are not available to most other collections of particles.Human freedom is not about willed choice, everything science has so far revealed has only strengthened the case that such volitional intercession in the unfolding of reality does not exist. Instead, human freedom is about being released from the bondage of an impoverished range of responses that has long constrained the behavior of the inanimate world.

Thoughts, responses, and actions matter, they yield consequences, they are the links in the chain of physical unfolding. What’s unexpected, based on our experiences and intuitions, is that such thoughts, responses, and actions emerge from antecedent causes funneled through the laws of physics.
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews484 followers
March 5, 2020
"It is likely that you don't consider yourself to be a steam engine or perhaps even a physical contraption. I, too, only rarely use those terms to describe myself." ~ Brian Greene

The above quote and so many others make me swoon over Brain Greene books. This book was filled with such phrases from beginning to end.

From the perspective of the entropic universe, Greene tries to understand the evolution of living things and, in particular, the evolution of human brains, which are capable of contemplating this vast universe in which we live. He makes some nice connections between the buildup of energy and the release of entropy when discussing human brains and when discussing sleep. Energy is taken in, it builds up, and it must be released (entropy) to its surroundings in order to take in more energy. He contemplated how much thought the universe could absorb, which was an interesting question even if it was not answered.

Greene has a style of writing that conveys a deep sense of awe. However, despite how much I love Greene and his awe, I cannot say I love discussions of Frank Jackson's Mary seeing the color red for the first time (the qualia/knowledge argument). If Mary never actually saw red, then of course she did not have all the physical information. If Mary had been taught every single physical thing there is about the color red, but she was color blind, she could *not* have known every *physical* thing about the color red. When she has the surgery, that is a physical change* to her eyesight. She physically can see red after the surgery. So, despite having been taught *almost* every physical thing, she only learns something new because a *new physical thing* has been added to her experience. If she had all the knowledge about the color red, including all the neuroscience that was relevant to seeing the color red, she would not be color blind. She would not need surgery. If she did need surgery, it would involve a physical change, and would not result in an epiphenomenal/ unexplainable experience where there is something non-physical about seeing the color red. Though I have not enjoyed Nagel's later work, do still I think it's very helpful to think about what it's like to be a bat. That is a far more helpful discussion than Mary seeing the color red. I am also not that fond, anymore, of thinking about Boltzmann brains. One day we will understand the underlying laws that give rise to emergence and complexity and we will stop talking about Boltzmann brains. I would like to be alive then and listen to discussions that move way beyond this, but I think those talks will take place long after my life is extinguished.

Overall, despite my crabbiness about the philosophical debates discussed in this book (debates I used to love just about as much as I love life itself but am now less enamored with) reading Greene ignites so much wonder and curiosity in my soul (which is itself a physical thing). I highly recommend this book if you love thinking about the universe, consciousness, AI consciousness, entropy, and evolution.
Profile Image for John.
402 reviews28 followers
February 19, 2020
An End of Time Best Deferred

A long, long time ago in college, I was the sole skeptic and “evolutionist” in the Brown University chapter of the Campus Crusade for Christ. One night I attended a meeting featuring the California college chairman of Campus Crusade, who recommended strongly that I might consider reading Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible, since Jefferson removed all references to the supernatural in his extensively edited edition, and one I am certain was well received by fellow Enlightenment skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic. This is exactly how I feel after reading Brian Greene’s “Until The End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe”. Buried within his latest expansive tome is a superb physics book on describing the first two laws of thermodynamics and the law of gravity (the first four chapters) comparable in quality to what fans of Greene’s earlier writings have come to expect, along with a very good concluding section (Chapters 9 to 11) on the fate of the universe itself, drawing upon current cosmological research. What lurks between two halves of a fine physics book, unfortunately, is a humanist manifesto on humanity’s future, relying extensively on the very evolutionary psychology criticized repeatedly by paleobiologist Stephen Jay Gould, population geneticist Richard Lewontin and cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller; the latter, most notably, in his superb “The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will”.

It is perhaps ironic that Greene refers to Gould and Lewontin’s legendary “Spandrels of San Marco” paper, recognizing that it refers to “[a} given behavioral disposition may be the mere by-product of other evolutionary developments – developments that did enhance survival and thus did evolve in the usual way by natural selection”. Bur Greene misses the point, since he believes that “Darwinian selection” is responsible for humanity’s capacity for storytelling, without recognizing – as Gould, Lewontin and Miller have – that this capacity may be the unexpected consequence of Natural Selection acting on one or more traits.

It is worth noting what I wrote nearly two years ago in my very favorable review of Miller’s book – in the interest of full disclosure I was one of those Campus Crusade students who had organized his very first debate against a creationist – since nothing remotely like Miller’s writing exists within Greene’s humanist manifesto that is at the core of “Until The End of Time”.:

Miller’s book is especially noteworthy in its criticism of the strict adaptationist view of Natural Selection and biological evolution and in implying that human consciousness is an emergent property of human evolution; one that may not have been directly selected via Natural Selection. Much of his harshest criticism of evolutionary psychology is stated in Chapter Four (“Explaining It All”), tracing its origins to E. O. Wilson’s work on ant systematics and sociobiology, noting that evolutionary psychology’s greatest accomplishment may be in generating newsworthy headlines such as discerning the biological reason why women enjoy shopping. He also delves into questionable research explaining why rape has an “adaptive value” as well as Marc Hauser’s fraudulent research in relating human social behavior to similar behavior observed in other primates. And yet, despite its ample failings, Miller acknowledges that evolutionary psychology – when done in a sufficiently rigorous manner – may shed light on some aspects of human behavior, noting an important study on infanticide in Indian monkeys by behavioral ecologist and anthropologist Sarah Hrdy, that may support some recent studies of human infanticide.

Much to his credit, Miller mentions paleobiologist Stephen Jay Gould and geneticist Richard Lewontin’s 1979 “Spandrels of San Marco” paper in Chapter Five (“The Mind of a Primate”), hailing it as a major critique of the adaptationist view of Natural Selection prevalent in current evolutionary theory and especially, its recognition that other evolutionary processes, not only Natural Selection, are responsible for the history of life on our planet. Gould and Lewontin were responding to the “just so” tales of evolutionary adaptations in organisms, noting that such “adaptations” may be unintended consequences of evolution, in a manner consistent with the existence of spandrels within the domes of cathedrals like the one in San Marco, Italy that appear – and Miller notes this in italics - “whether you want them or not.” It is this expansionist view of evolution that underscores his subsequent discussion of the emergence of reason, human consciousness and free will.

What Greene offers readers instead, is a surprisingly reductionist view of evolution, not recognizing that Natural Selection – or as he more often refers to it, “Darwinian selection”- is not purely random, but instead, as both Gould and Miller have noted repeatedly in their writings, is constrained by both the environment and the prior phylogenetic – in plain English, genealogical – history of the population undergoing selection. One that doesn’t consider the possibility that humanity’s capacity for storytelling may be an unanticipated emergent property of underlying natural processes like Natural Selection, as well as more likely, the direct consequence of human cultural influences – not evolution – at work throughout humanity’s history, most likely starting as early as the time – approximately 600,000 years ago – that the lineage leading to us, Homo sapiens, split from our closest relatives, the Neandertals. The same is true for Greene’s contention that humanity is predisposed because of evolution to embrace religion, claiming that it is due to “Darwinian selection”, which even a religiously devout scientist like Miller has never once asserted.

On a more optimistic, and positive, note, I share too Greene’s passion for Beethoven and Brahms. Every time I hear the opening notes of Beethoven’s Third “Eroica” Symphony, I can’t help but remain in awe of the beauty and grandeur behind Beethoven’s revolutionary musical vision for this most remarkable symphony. But unlike Greene, I am unwilling – and this may be due to my training as an evolutionary biologist specializing in invertebrate paleobiology and evolutionary ecology – to ascribe an evolutionary reason for the very acts of creation by Beethoven and of performance by world-class symphony orchestras like the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. These should be recognized as the cultural artifacts that they are, divorced from any explanations based upon evolutionary psychology. They should be compelling reasons why Greene’s latest tome should be a reading experience best deferred, especially when it repeats the very mistakes noted by Miller in his exceptional “The Human Instinct”, erroneously concluding that human behavior has been driven solely via the process of Natural Selection. What Greene has offered us is one long argument in favor of nature in the never ending controversy of whether it is “nature or nurture” that is ultimately responsible for human behavior; an argument which others, most notably, Gould and Miller, have argued persuasively for its rejection.
Profile Image for Rama Rao.
712 reviews99 followers
June 17, 2020

There is not much to learn from this book if you are interested to understand physical reality. The book starts well with the second law of thermodynamics and the concept of entropy, but the key aspects of information processing and the role of non-equilibrium thermodynamics is very briefly discussed. Chapters 6-11 did not make significant additions to the general discussions. It merely diluted the discussion relevant for the organization of matter (atoms and molecules) to form a living cell (organized system). Life seem to defy the concept of entropy and laws of physics because of the existence of free will, mind and consciousness. In addition, the idea that the past determines the future challenges the traditional ideas of classical and quantum physics.

The second law of thermodynamics; entropy and the flow of time, from past to future, and the available energy to perform useful work are some of the highlights of this book. Nature has provided a universal mechanism for coaxing certain molecular systems to get up and dance the entropic two-step. A living cell take in high-quality energy, use it, and then return low-quality energy in the form of heat and other wastes thus increasing the entropy of the universe. But internally it creates a high degree of order. This type of dissipative adaptation may be essential to the origin of life. The replication of biomolecules is a tool of dissipative adaptation: if a small collection of particles would become adept at absorbing, using, and dispensing energy. Then molecules that can replicate in larger numbers will be responsible for system-wide dissipative adaptation that is a key in the Darwinian evolution.

Despite the author’s other successful books and popular TV documentaries about cosmos, he has not lived up to his reputation as a good narrator of physics stories. Chapters 6-9 does not offer a path for intellectual stimulation.
1 review
February 17, 2020
This was one of the most meaningful books I have ever read. At first I was skeptical that anyone could, in a single volume, do justice to not only cosmological history but find a means for convincingly incorporating human activities from storytelling to myth-making to religious practice and also creative expression. But by blending the core principles of entropy and evolution, in their most general forms, Greene weaves a tight tapestry that pulls together an enormous body of insight. I don't know of any other book that draws on such a broad base of research to tell a deeply felt human story within the rubric of cosmological development. The book tells the whole story. Really, really wonderful. And the ultimate message, that we need to make our own meaning, and that by doing so we undertake the most noble of tasks, is totally uplifting even though the full story of the cosmos can generate some angst. Overall, an incredible accomplishment that is nothing short of thrilling.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
669 reviews382 followers
September 8, 2020
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

“We revere the absolute but are bound to the transitory.”

Not bad, not great, interesting for sure.
Profile Image for Halima.
23 reviews
March 28, 2022
Leider gar nicht das, was man sonst von Brian Greene kennt. Das Buch hat für mich überhaupt keinen roten Faden und konnte mich nicht abholen. Hier und da gibt es immer mal wieder interessante Fakten, aber um an diese Erkenntnisse zu gelangen, gibt es (auch von Greene selber) bessere Bücher. Auch die Verbindung zur Philosophie herzustellen, ist ihm meiner Meinung nach leider nicht gelungen, schade!
Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books313 followers
September 15, 2020
Greene's ode to eternity is mostly a reductionist rehash.

I want to make something clear, I REALLY like Brian Greene. I've read all previous books that he's written and was absorbed the entire time. He truly has brought conceptual theoretical physics to the masses and I will forever be grateful to him.

Until the End of Time is a departure from his previous works. He spends significantly less time with the math and physics that help to explain the fabric of our existence and delves into more humanistic and spiritualistic realms. Greene starts with discussing the opposing forces of gravity and entropy and how the interplay between these two forces has allowed the conditions for matter and life. I was along for the ride during this discussion.

However, he takes a pretty hard right turn into consciousness, religion, spirituality, music and language that have, in my opinion, very little connection to the composition to the fabric of the cosmos. He makes pretty big leaps from one section to the next and lands somewhere near a Boltzman brain and in between solipsism and nihilism, I couldn't be sure.

The essence of everything Greene says in the book is reductionism. It is clear that Greene is a staunch reductionist. While he tries to delicately guide the reader down a path of innocent objectivism, he clearly is trying to argue a singular point: everything is only matter. There is nothing else beyond the matter of your brain and the universe. I found myself rather annoyed at the end of this book as Greene leaves little question in the air if there is anything besides just particles. It is a forgone conclusion in his mind which he doesn't even leave open to speculation. I found this... arrogant. I get annoyed when physicists (like Hawking) translate their experiences with theoretical physics into being authorities on spirituality and religion. I'm afraid to say that Greene is guilty of this conceit in Until the End of Time. Greene may be a brilliant physicist but he doesn't know EVERYTHING. Sorry.

In the end, I learned very little from this book. I found myself asking "Did we really need this book from you?" If you are going to read Brian Greene, make this book the last one you read.
Profile Image for Sato.
36 reviews11 followers
April 18, 2020
Brian Greene Takes us through an engaging journey powered by science, given significance by humanity, and the source of a vigorous and enriching adventure. Brian Greene fundamentally changed my view of Entropy and his elaboration over the entropic two-step concept and the dance between order and disorder in this universal tendency toward higher Entropy and disorder.

It is a journey that takes us from the beginning of time to something akin to the end, and through the journey explore the breathtaking ways in which restless and inventive minds have illuminated and responded to the fundamental transience of everything.

We will journey across time, from our most refined understanding of the beginning to the closest science can take us to the very end. We will explore how life and mind emerge from the initial chaos, and we will dwell on what a collection of curious, passionate, anxious, self-reflective, inventive, and skeptical minds do, especially when they notice their own mortality. We will examine the rise of religion, the urge for creative expression, the ascent of science, the quest for truth, and the longing for the timeless. The deep-seated affinity for something permanent, for what Franz Kafka identified as our need for “something indestructible,” will then propel our continued march toward the distant future, allowing us to assess the prospects for everything we hold dear, everything constituting reality as we know it, from planets and stars, galaxies.
Profile Image for Cassandra Kay Silva.
704 reviews277 followers
May 17, 2020
I have read most of Brain Greens works. I am a layman of physics and perhaps not the best to comment on the mathematical side of anything but I guess I fit the typical pop science consumer market. Generally, our "types" love the cold hard facts sprinkled with the way those facts could relate to grand ideas. I suppose that this is what we look for in this genre. If that is what you are after this is not what you will find with this book. I find this book fascinating because it really shows the author has tried to take an exploratory approach to life and wonderment without making conclusions other than to be in awe and to try to dance with the lyrical side of literature. This would be off-putting for a lot of people who would pick up a book like this. But I found it rather charming and human. Whether you are a particle physicist or a neuroscientist or someone who works in the farm industry I think we all have a deep longing for understanding connectivity and meaning in our lives. This is just a single person's attempt at the meaning when viewed through more than a decade of research in cosmology. Having a different lens to view such things I think is beautiful and intriguing. To me, it shows the author changing as he grows throughout life and I find that human element fascinating. If you are looking for more cosmology based/string theory/ parallel dimensions type subjects I would suggest his earlier works.
Profile Image for Martin.
25 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2020
If you’ve ever lain awake at night contemplating the creation of the universe, or wondered how life came into existence out of nothingness, or questioned the existence of other intelligent life in the universe then this is the book for you. Brian Greene returns with a captivating reflection on human life and our purpose in the cosmos.

I really enjoyed this one and had a hard time putting it down. It’s smart and full of well researched topics but also not too overwhelming with scientific jargon. You don’t need a degree in quantum physics to understand the concepts. It’s broken down in a way where anyone can understand. Some concepts can be challenging but there are a ton of end notes to further explain the idea or give reference to a source where one could dive deeper into the subject. What I found most enjoyable is that it pushes forward complex questions about the cosmos with a philosopher’s creativity and then attempts to answer them with a physicist’s rigidity. Greene does everything he can to bring in the reality of physics to our understanding of life and it makes for a fun, thought provoking read.
13 reviews
February 3, 2020
As an occasional New Scientist reader, I expected the content to be reasonably familiar to me, but Brian Greene introduces a mix of mathematics, physics, biology and philosophy that requires real concentration. The payback is the nearest thing yet to the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything”
The writing style is accessible, given the topics under discussion. As a professor of physics and mathematics Greene obviously has great experience in knowledge sharing and in this latest book he talks his readers through current theories of creation, entropy, and evolution. He includes an explanation of why water is chemically so valuable for life to exist. He explains how quantum theory plays into thermodynamics, and encompasses topics like how consciousness appeared, before moving on to the big question of “how will it all end?” At some points the reader is offered the opportunity to skip the more detailed explanations, but I found the result well worth the effort of following his elegant and enlightening prose.
Brian Greene was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize with “The Elegant Universe” and I can see this latest work gaining similar accolades
Profile Image for Raj.
9 reviews
July 8, 2020
Dear Fellow Readers

It is not everyday we come across books that are able to cover science and philosophy together. This book does that, and for me it does that in a very majestic way. Brian Greene starts with exploring scientific discovery from the very beginning of the universe until the very end (or the many versions of the end). This book is a quintessential example of the importance of looking at things from different perspectives in order to be able to grasp the basic thread for unraveling the truth.

We start with the basic unfolding of the universe from the role of repulsive gravity and entropy to formation/birth of particles and end with the noble responsibility of finding our own meaning in this vast universe. I suggest anyone who decides to read it, to read it with patience, make notes if required.
In my view this is a journey most should take. It gives perspective.

Happy reading. Cheers.
Profile Image for DarkHeraldMage.
177 reviews53 followers
May 29, 2021
This was a funny buddy read in the book club and I really had a fun time learning a lot about our universe and how it has looked billions of years in the past as well as how it might look billions and trillions of years in the future. Greene was really good at giving examples via metaphors that made things feel more easily grasped by a layperson, something I very much appreciated since I'm not a physics major.

I did feel like a much larger than necessary amount of the book was spent quoting other scientists and philosophers than was really warranted, but I also acknowledge that so much of science is built on the back of science that has come before, so it's important to credit that was which found out and detailed previously.

This was one of the few non-fiction books I've read in the past couple years, and I'm glad I picked it up. Will I be able to remember everything I just read in a month or even a week? Probably not. But I might remember tidbits conversationally, or understand a science themed joke if I hear one, and that's good enough for me.
Profile Image for Hamid.
130 reviews9 followers
April 21, 2020
This is one of the best popular science books that I have read in a while. Brian Greene takes you to a fascinating journey which involves not only cosmology and particle physics, but also deeper questions like the meaning of life or why religion has lasted so long despite its irrational ideas. In one chapter he deals with the second law of thermodynamics and entropy. The way he illuminated the ideas behind the second law was so lucid. And even though I already knew briefly as a non-expert what the law meant, I still learned so much and now I got new perspectives on it. He gives a brief account of the steam engine and how it inspired scientists to try come up with ways to reduce energy waste. The result of many years of arduous studies and grueling tests was the second law. Then we go to the origin of the universe and how space was inflated by repulsive gravity and how inflationary cosmology describes the emergence of order in patches of space in otherwise chaotic disordered universe. When inflationary expansion rapidly stretches minute quantum energy variations, they spread across space making the temperature a touch hotter over here and a touch cooler over there. The result was the creation of matter, the stars, planets and entire galaxies that we observe. Then he takes a turn to describe the evolution of life on our planet and explains why life on Earth does not defy the second law. He praises Shrodinger's book on life which I have not read. Schrödinger’s goal was not to reveal life hovering within a single atom but to build upon the understanding of atoms to construct a physicist’s explanation of how a large collection might assemble into something that lives. The next stop was the hard problem of consciousness. The fact that we know almost nothing about consciousness is staggering. That being said, new discoveries in neuroscience has shed some light on the brain function and how consciousness is actually associated with the activity of some parts. However, the large picture is still fuzzy. He talks a bit about language and how without language our capacity for certain kinds of mental maneuvers would diminish. Words not only express reasoning, they vitalize it. Darwin speculated that language emerged from song and imagined that those endowed with Elvis-like talents would more readily attract mates and thus more abundantly seed subsequent generations of gifted crooners. Given enough time, their melodious sounds would gradually transform into words. Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s lesser-feted codiscoverer of evolution by natural selection, saw things differently. He was convinced that natural selection could not shed light on the human capacities for music, art, and, in particular, language. When Darwin read Wallace’s article, he was aghast, responding with a heavily emphasized “no” noting to Wallace: “I hope you have not murdered too completely your own & my child. Why do we have language? Did evolution directly select for language because it provides a survival advantage, or is language a by-product of other evolutionary developments like larger brain size? Noam Chomsky, among the most influential of all modern linguists, has argued that the human capacity to acquire language relies on us each possessing a hardwired universal grammar. universal grammar proposes that there is something in our innate neurobiological makeup that provides a language primer, a species-wide brain boost that propels us all to listen, to understand, and to speak. Cognitive psychologists Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, pioneers of a Darwinian approach to language, suggest a less bespoke history, one in which language emerged and developed through the familiar pattern of a gradual buildup of incremental changes that each conferred a degree of survival advantage. Then we move to religion. We can trace our ancestors' beliefs in archeological sites. Caves were far from just ‘canvases.’ They were places in which rituals were conducted, where people communicated with spirits and ancestors dwelling in another realm, they were places loaded with meaning and resonance. This reciprocal variety of altruism may be the source of the transactional nature of the relationship adherents typically have with the supernatural beings that populate religious traditions: I’ll sacrifice, I’ll pray, I’ll do good, but come tomorrow’s combat, you’ve got my back. Religion is story, enhanced by doctrines, rituals, customs, symbols, art, and behavioral standards. By conferring an aura of the sacred upon collections of such activities and by establishing an emotional allegiance among those who practice them, religion extends the club of kinship. Religion provides membership to unrelated individuals who thus feel part of a strongly bound group. Then we have Doomsday scenarios on how the world will actually end. Will it end in a big rip where the acceleration of the universe is so fast that even the atoms on your body will disintegrate?
There's so much more insight you can get from this book. If you're a science enthusiast like I am, I highly recommend it. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It will open your mind.
Profile Image for Dan Graser.
Author 3 books99 followers
February 22, 2020
Brian Greene is many people's favorite expositor of the more fascinating yet impenetrable topics in modern physics and his previous volumes have done so in very readable prose while at the same time maintaining a sense of wonder for the topic. This latest volume is much more meditative and much more reflective than any of his other works. Also, there is not a new way of thinking or a new theory presented here, rather what is examined are the necessary notions of time that are a by product of study of physics and cosmology.

Given that this work is primarily focused on time, at the universal scale, he starts with the big bang theory and the concept of entropy. Again, those who are already familiar with these concepts won't find much that is new here. One of the more potent examinations is the various means by which self-replicating life could have began, and where current research stands on that issue. This is a necessary link to the following chapters which feature the dual role of entropy and evolution. Once humans arrive on the cosmological scene, the discussion shifts to the, "search for meaning," portion of the text. Various creative endeavors, our need for myth, the creation of religions, and many others are discussed along with how these elements of our humanity could have served a useful evolutionary purpose, and how perhaps they tagged along with other more beneficial traits.

We then proceed to how it all ends, cheery I know, but once again fascinating especially if you're unaware of how physics shows the universe is progressing and ultimately how it may cease to be. As such, this area gives us cheery notions such as, "The entropic two-step and the evolutionary forces of selection enrich the pathway from order to disorder with prodigious structure, but whether stars or black holes, planets or people, molecules or atoms, things ultimately fall apart. Longevity varies widely. Yet the fact that we will all die, and the fact that the human species will die, and the fact that life and mind, at least in this universe, are virtually certain to die are expected, run-of-the-mill, long-term outcomes of physical law. The only novelty is that we notice."

A fine book to accompany your own musings on the notions of time on the broadest scale and also on our own, individual, fleeting amount of time as conscious beings within the universe. However if you are looking for similar, revelatory exposition as found in his many other writings you may wish to bypass this one.
Profile Image for Doa'a Ali.
137 reviews31 followers
October 14, 2021
يستطيع الكل تأليف قصة كاملة عن الكون من بدايته وحتى نهايته، انها آلية عمل المخ بالأساس، ملئ الفراغات المعرفية بأي وصلات تجعل من حبكة القصة مثيرة ومقنعة للغاية..
لكنني اتصور انه حين يتحدث فيزيائي، يصمت الجميع، تبدو قصصهم طفولية هشة ومضحكة، ان الشخص القادر على رؤية الكون بلغة الرياضيات لا يمكن أن يتحمس كثيرا لقصصه السردية..

براين غرين اقل ما أقوله عنه انه عظيم، أفكاره تتسم بالجلال لا الجمال فقط، هو قادر على طرح الحديث العقلي ومداعبة العاطفة بما يتناسب مع الإطار المعرفي الحديث، هو ليس اصوليا ولا يتحمس ولا يدافع عن شيء ينت��ي له، ليس إلا العقل والمنهج العلمي، ولكن ليس بصورة صارمة ايضًا..

أعتقد أنه لا يمكننا الفكاك من تحت وطئة والحاح السؤال، ان للفضول قوة طاغية، ما ان يستولي علينا، حتى نتبعه وان كنا معصوبي الأعين؛ نتحسس وجوده بأقل الآثار التي ينثرها او يدثرها...
إن هذا الكون الفسيح، المتناهي ولكن اللاحدودي، يحتلّ عقولنا التي تشبهه، إننا أبنائه المخلصين الذين وان لم نكن على صورته، ولكننا انعجنّا من غبار ذراته الأولى، بأدمغتنا المتناهية ووعينا اللاحدودي، نجوب الزمان والمكان، نفكر في تكوّن المجرات والكواركات على حدّ سواء، ثم نتخطاهما، ونطيل التأمل بعظمة الحياة بجلال الوعي الذي حملناه لنكون بذلك عقل الكون وكلمته...
اننا نسرد حكاية العالم كي نتجاوز أنفسنا، ولكننا نُسقِط تفاصيلنا عليها سهوًا، نكتب اعماقنا ونعبر عن أسمى المعاني وارذل الرغبات...
ان القراءة تتيح لنا التجول عبر حكايا الآخرين، نراهم، نُثار بروعة ما يمتلكون، نتمثلهم، ثم نضفي صبغتهم على  حكايتنا..
لقد تماهيت مع هذا الكتاب بشكل لا يوصف، أن هذا العالم الذي بناه هذا العقل العظيم، برشاقة، يشبهه إلى حد بعيد.. عالم هادئ وحكيم ومستنير، يلملم أعظم الأفكار، والقصص، ثم يدمجها مع دقة الرياضيات وحرص الفيزياء، كي يقدم نفسه سؤالًا على صفحة العلوم البشرية، وقطعة نثرية بمتاهة الأدب والشعر..
Profile Image for Howard P.
45 reviews4 followers
April 19, 2020
Brian Greene’s latest book Until the End of Time is a fascinating scientific journey from the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang, through a step by step analysis taking us trillions and trillions of years into the future, when the universe will disappear. Fortunately, or maybe not, the species of human beings will vanish trillions of years before the universe ends.

Greene lays out a logical and intriguing timeline, based on many scientific theories and a lot of mathematical constructs, to explain how one thing leads to another. What I found amazing is the range of topics that the author discusses. For example, cosmology, the early universe, quantum physics, development of hominids, the human race, the brain, mind, consciousness, language, etc. He covers every scale, from the smallest, quantum mechanics, to the largest - the universe itself.

I love science, physics and cosmology and have studied these topics for decades. But, there’s always more to learn and this book is one of the most comprehensive. I’ve read. The one caveat, that might make this book a difficult read for some, is the amount of physics and mathematics that (I think) the reader should know prior to reading. I even found myself rereading some sections to really understand the concepts. But, if one is willing to skim past some of the more complex topics there’s still a lot of knowledge to be gained.

I listened to the Audible version narrated by the author. Brian Greene is an excellent reader, more like I was listening to a friend rather than to one of the worlds greatest physicists of our time.
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