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The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,818 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Time is an illusion. Although the laws of physics create a powerful impression that time is flowing, in fact there are only timeless `nows'. In The End of Time, the British theoretical physicist Julian Barbour describes the coming revolution in our understanding of the world: a quantum theory of the universe that brings together Einstein's general theory of relativity - wh ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 371 pages
Published September 1999 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  2,818 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Plato Rules OK?

I suspect that most of us have thought at some point about the mystery of time. But very few have considered seriously what it might be. And only a handful, perhaps, could explain in a comprehensible way how time is constructed. And, I’m sure, there are less than a handful who with any plausibility deny its existence entirely - Julian Barbour is one of these. And he makes an interesting case.

According to Barbour, time is a constructive illusion, a concept without any extra-linguis
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Big Questions
Recommended to Manny by: Robert
People who read pop science books will know by now that the physics world is rather like that of Star Wars. The dominant String Theorists are the Empire; led by the Vader-like Ed Witten, they control the corrupt funding agencies and rule science with an iron fist. Ranged against them, we have the eccentric and charismatic Rebels. Lee Smolin's Periphery Institute is clearly the main Rebel base, and Peter Woit comes across as a typical Han Solo figure. I rather fancy Roger Penrose as Obi-Wan Kenob ...more
Barry Cunningham
A fabulous book that really made me think about previously accepted concepts - everyone interested in this sort of science should read this book, they will be glad they did!
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: eggheads who are so nerdy that the other eggheads call them "nerd"
if you love Roger Penrose and Lee Smolin, and REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT, you might like this book. basically, the paradoxical incongruity between quantum theory and general relativity is attacked once more. i was blown away. the strongest argument, for me, that time does not really exist was this: if you look at any ISOLATED quantum system with CONSTANT ENERGY, you will expect it to be in a STATIONARY STATE. think of any isolated atom, with all its electrons sitting in orbita ...more
I got interested in this book after attending a seminar given by Barbour at the University of New Brunswick.


See the complete review here:
Aug 25, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Billy Pilgrim
I strongly suspect the main problem is that I was too stupid and distractable to do a good job reading this, but as far as I could glean:

This book contains, in order of most pages devoted to the least:
-Holding the reader's hand and reassuring them that it's not too hard to understand it
-Referring to what will be explained and made much clear later in the book
-Repeating or rephrasing minor points or peripheral frameworks in order to make the ideas easier to picture
-Brief summaries of or mere refe
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: old
This is absolutely one of my favourite science books. I picked it up initially because the premise fascinated me. The nonexistence (as an objective reality, mind you) of time was something I've always sort of intuited, and to see physics exploring the same conclusions immediately sparked my interest. Ironically, though, that is not the strongest part of this book.

I think any good science book should not only explain to you a theory and its application, but give you the context as well. A good sc
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Julian Barbour is the foremost representative of the Machian view of physics, epitomized by the idea that time disappears on the cosmological view replaced by the comparison of changes with changes within time. There is no time for the universe itself. Turns out he can defend that view with a timeless view of both GTR and of QM by way of the stationary state DeWitt-Wheeler equation. He also has an explanation of why there seems to be time in terms of traces and time-capsules which result from qu ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: physics
I was too far into this before it became a chore, and feeling unable to rescind the investment I'd made, I ploughed on.The problem for me was mainly one of clarity and lack of allegorical description when dealing with complex theories, which I felt should have been present in a work aimed at a lay readership a part of which I presumed myself to be. There seemed to be a lack in the consistency of the intellectual level of to whom the book is addressed. On the one hand you are reminded of Pythago ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
I mean the idea behind the book was really good. I was excited to read about a whole new way to excuse ourselves from this time like track forward we seem to find ourselves in. Some of the backing seemed pretty sound from my grasp of these issues. The problem is, I was left with kind of giant question mark at the end? The conclusion was frankly so poorly written that I found myself re reading the original entry chapters to kind of tie MYSELF back to the context since the author didn't do it for ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In an unnerving moment of synchronicity, as I battled through the muddy trenches of page 299 of this fascinating book, scrunched up in the mottled shade of a pine forest on the painfully idyllic island of Mljet, a kingfisher landed on a nearby branch. At least I think it was a kingfisher – a relatively small bird with a bright blue “cape”, it tweeted a few times, loudly, as if demanding that I pay attention to it, and then flittered away.

“This means something”, I thought to myself, echoing Clos
Jonathan Hockey
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't fundamentally agree with this notion of timelessness. I think, if anything what is shown is that the present is pregnant with the structure of its potential future and the memory of its past, and that we are in a perpetual state of becoming in the present, guided by all this structure. With that proviso in mind, I find a lot to agree with and to ponder in this book. A unique perspective and insight on some deep and current problems in theoretical physics. No conforming with standard appr ...more
Oct 15, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I have since long been open to the idea that time is only an illusion, a static extension in a complex multi-dimensional form. Barbour's book does no good job in promoting that idea, even though it wants to. All his babble about Platonia (Barbour's name for the static multiverse) and the existence of 'time capsules' (micro-sized qualities of atoms that allow observers to distinguish between past and future), is too far-fetched. Instead of opening readers' eyes to the possibility that all events ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Not very convincing. Argument is that space-time doesn’t exist. It is an illusion. Like the sun seeming to orbit the earth. States of the universe exist and seem to order themselves in a temporal sequence. Life may really be more like an event simulation than like a continuous simulation. States move from one quantum state to another quantum state in a quantum “time”. States of existence may be probabilistic (like quantum physics) where the uncertainty is not in knowing what state the system is ...more
Roger Blakesley
Mar 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Julian made a good effort. He sees the problem: that the next big leap will require a leap in mathematics (or some reality-describing language) akin to Newton/Leibniz.

Instead the book gets rambly with descriptions of red or green multidimensional mists.

I am sure Julian could see it in his mind, but he failed to communicate.

It was pretty readable, but taught nothing.
Jul 17, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
My x-wife gave me this book in 2002, and I have not had the chance to really read it. Right now I am putting a potential Theory of Everything, and this book was mentioned in the last book I read because it contains a clear idea about how construct a background-independent theory.
W. Grey
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very important and a very difficult book: important because it aims to persuade us to question the way we perceive reality; difficult because it uses the language of mathematics to do so. If you are not a mathematician or a physicist, therefore, you would at least do well to review your school books. In The End of Time, Julian Barbour, a British mathematician and theoretical physicist, puts forth his theory that it does not exist. He takes pains to assure the lay reader that the math i ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting concept of timelessness dissected from physics. Barbour thesis is similar to Bergsonian qualitative multiplicity in time. However, the book is dry and repetitive in describing the notion that time does not exist, which according to Barbour what we call time is a simply complex of rules that govern the change (which again, similar to the critique raised by Bergson, what he called quantitative multiplicity).
Richard Thompson
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: physics
My math stops at second year college calculus and linear algebra, with a smattering of group theory, and I never took a college level physics course, though I have read a lot of popular books on physics, including several that push my math to its edge and bit beyond, so I am not qualified to judge Barbour in a rigorous way. But I have long been fascinated by the theory of the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides that motion and time are illusisons, so I was immediately drawn to the idea of a seri ...more
Sep 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I am very interested in sorting out the nature of "time" - is time a fundamental dimension? was there an absolute time=0? will it go on to infinity? The idea that time will go to infinity, that the universe will plod on forever really bothers me. It seriously makes me sick to my stomach. This is regardless of my thoughts on bothers me whether I'll be relaxing in heaven or my spirit ceases to exist or I enjoy becoming parts of future trees and animals. I'm not sure that the world "endi ...more
Jul 17, 2008 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. His idea that there is no such thing as time and that this insight will unify physics is really, really impressive. It makes sense once you wrap your brain around it and can really change world outlook. However, he has a huge problem getting where he's going. He makes these incredibly intuitive leaps without explaining why until later and then by then we've forgotten exactly where he was going. I like what he had to say, I wish it had been better structured ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sceince/physics enthusiasts.
The author puts forth the theory that time is just an illusion and does not exist. According to this idea, all events
are just a series of "nows" that our minds string together as a movie, giving us the illusion of time moving forward.
As I understand it, each "now" is like a parallel/different world (or analogous to a different/parallel world) along the
lines of Everett's 'many-worlds hypothesis'.

Getting into a little more (technical) detail, Barbour seems to believe that the universe is govern
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A shattering work that challenges the key discovery of the 20th century: whether time is a hard function in the theory of relativity. if not then time itself is relative. unearthing less commonly known theories discovered in parallel to einstein, barbour dissects his arguments carefully then speculates madly. both gestures not only appear valid, but probably more scientifically stable than relativity's highly unstable spawn: quantum dynamics. barbour makes the case for restating the quantum as s ...more
Stephen Dranger
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very instructive in teaching the reader about the many different ways one can view time in physics as well as the notion of an absolute and relative universe. Barbour gives us the basics of what we need to know to understand the basics of his theory that time is really an illusion. If that sounds like nebulous hippie-dippie nonsense to you, reading this book will convince you otherwise, because there's nothing like that in there -- Barbour supports his theory with sound logic, which is what make ...more
Roger Booth
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was 19, this question occurred to me:
If a tree falls in the woods, and there are no conscious beings in the universe, does it fall quickly, or does it fall slowly?
This book answers that question.
I am too lazy to read the book in it's entirety, so I found an excellent summary.

If you read that correctly, you come away with the sense that every moment experienced is a miracle.
And it is only 5% bullshit :) That's less than my daily recommended allowance
Nov 28, 2009 marked it as to-read
Does time exist ? a good summary of Barbour's book is at - refers to the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence (cf., section on the "relational theory"). See also for more references on the question of time in philosophy of physics.
A link is to be made with Izutsu's "Creation and the Timeless Order of Things: Essays in Islamic Mystical Philosophy", also with atomist theory in Islami
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I don't know how credible the ideas advanced in this book are; I don't suppose more than a few hundred people in the world are actually qualified to give an opinion on that. Dr. Barbour writes very well (his education has clearly ranged far beyond his speciality), and though I did not always agree with him, I enjoyed reading his book and learnt a lot from it, particularly about working with configuration spaces and fun things you can do with the Schrödinger wave equation.

I remain unconvinced of
Gordon Gatiss
Sep 19, 2013 rated it liked it
A good read. This book is very readable and worth the knowledge that the 335 pages of narrative uncover. Barbour clearly knows his stuff, and although I was not able to completely understand everything he says, I did get an appreciation of his reasons and arguments. This book will certainly give you a better understanding and appreciation of science. It is long, but if you persist and keep reading, your reward will come with more knowledge and understand about life and this wonderful universe we ...more
Jeremy Lovelock
Because I am interested in popular science and entertain the idea that time really is illusion, I figured this title would be a good read. But it turned out to be more a specialist text-book. You'd have to be from another planet to catch the gist of what Barbour is saying. Dry, uber-abstract, misty mathematical meandering. I couldn't understand much of it and probably gave up half-way through. For me a disappointing and forgettable tome. Science writers need to excite us lay folk with their theo ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is an excellent description as to how time is not "real" and the author's efforts to generate Relativity theory and the laws of physics without referring to time.
I have read this twice and both times found greater understanding. While some concepts seemed to be push my bounds of believability, it was still quite convincing. "One" thing I got out of this book is that the past exists only in our head, the future is really just the next "Now." The answer to what time is it is "right now."
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Since receiving his PhD degree on the foundations of Einstein's general theory of relativity at the University of Cologne in 1968, Barbour has supported himself and his family without an academic position, working part-time as a translator. He has research interests in quantum gravity and the history of science. ...more

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