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From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  5,644 ratings  ·  286 reviews
A rising star in theoretical physics offers his awesome vision of our universe and beyond, all beginning with a simple question: Why does time move forward?

Time moves forward, not backward, everyone knows you can’t unscramble an egg. In the hands of one of today’s hottest young physicists, that simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the
Hardcover, 447 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Dutton Adult (first published September 24th 2009)
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Juan Camilo I had the same feeling. I think that the author is not that good at explaining the concepts that he wants to explain. I had to read from other sources…moreI had the same feeling. I think that the author is not that good at explaining the concepts that he wants to explain. I had to read from other sources to understand some of his ideas.(less)
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Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in the nature of time

Read through the following dialogue between two people, A and B. Underline all the sentences which you can imagine saying yourself.

A: What are you thinking?

B: Have you ever wondered why the future is different from the past?

A: What do you mean, different?

B: Well, you can remember the past, but you can't remember the future. Why?

A: Like déjà vu?

B: No, not déjà vu. Really remembering the future.

A: But the futu
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is some very impressive stuff.

I've read a lot of nonfiction science books that sometimes had equations but mostly did not, but what I really wanted was a cohesive drive, an arrow to spear right through some of the biggest questions of our time... such as What Is Time.

Sean Carroll manages to keep things very sharp between what is perfectly understood and all of the theories that are somewhat understood, and the other Cosmology stuff that's mostly just baffling. :)

Any way you look at it, tho
In space, there should be no material difference between left and right, forward and backward, up and down. However, for us there is a substantive difference between up and down because we live in the spatial vicinity of a massive object - the earth - which exerts a gravitational pull on us.

And in spacetime, there should be no material difference between past and future. But for us there is a substantive difference because we live in the temporal vicinity of a massive event - the Big Bang - whi
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
This is a very well-written, and entertaining book on our understanding of the arrow of time. Entropy is a key concept, which deserves (and gets) lots of attention. The second law of thermodynamics states that, in a closed system, entropy can either stay the same or increase--it cannot decrease. Sean Carroll shows why the reversibility of physics at the particle level gives rise to a seeming paradox; if the physics of particles is just as correct with time switched backwards, why can't entropy d ...more
Mar 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: science geeks and hangers-on
If I could, I would give 5 stars to the first half of this book and 2 to the second. For the first 500 pages or so (in the iBook version), I was enthralled by Carroll's exceptional ability to lay down the fundamentals of physics and cosmology in clear, straightforward language with simple but highly effective illustrations. This book has by far the best description of general relativity (especially the equivalence principle) for the non-physicist that I have ever encountered. His explanation of ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a very good book about some fundamental modern physics concepts (such as arrow of time, entropy, symmetry, time-reversibility, complexity, theory of information) and their complex inter-relationships.
I found that this book has one of the best explanations of entropy for the layman, and the treatment of potentially complex areas such as symmetry, quantum mechanics and relativity, is very good - deeper than in most popular science books.
Overall, a very enjoyable read, which would appeal
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
Carroll offers a provocative explanation for the arrow of time. I found it fascinating, but those without a strong interest in physics may not. Most of the book is spent explaining the basic concepts he uses to make his case. I learned a great deal from these science lessons. In the last few chapters Carroll steps outside the mainstream. He carefully identifies what is speculative. His unconventional ideas true or not were thought provoking.

Carroll defines time through its use to label and loca
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating course in physics: from Newton and statistical mechanics to special and general relativity and, of course, quantum mechanics, black holes evaporating and the kitchen sink. The author is a master in explaining things intuitively, there's hardly an equation in sight. Especially quantum mechanics is presented in such a way that you 'grok' it without noticing. He makes a strong case that time points to states with more entropy and then comes up with a sketch of a theory that ingeniousl ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’ll be honest: this was a tough job. Sean Carroll really does his best to explain the basic issues of theoretical physics in a comprehensible and pleasant way. Certainly in the beginning he uses a lot of humour, nice literary references and a very patient style to successfully present the ins and outs of classical mechanics (from Newton to Einstein) and quantum mechanics (lots of cats involved).

But somewhere halfway through, he starts with what is the logical main part when it comes to time as
Mohamed al-Jamri
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: half-read
This book asks and attempts to solve several important questions such as what is time? Why is there an arrow of time? Was there time before the Big Bang? Why did our part of the universe start in a low entropy state? Is time eternal? Is time travel possible?

The author explains several cosmological and physical stuff such as the Big Bang, the Steady State model, special and general relativity. He does so using easy to understand language. However as I finished the first third, the book started to
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: abandoned
OK, I cry uncle! I've read 373 out of 470 pages and I am lost. Life's too short. It's not Sean Carroll's fault...I just cannot conceive of multiverses and quantum gravity... ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Figures such as Galileo, Newton, and Einstein are celebrated for proposing laws of physics that hadn’t previously been appreciated. But their accomplishments also share a common theme: They illuminate the universality of Nature. What happens here happens everywhere. Galileo showed that the heavens were messy and ever changing, just like conditions here on Earth; Newton understood that the same laws of gravity that accounted for falling apples could explain the motions of the planets; and Einstei ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Very, very impressed with the author’s treatment of his subject material. The book is about time. Not about what we do with our time, not about how to manage our time more efficiently, not even about the history of timekeeping, time-travel, or other things that we can do in time and with time. Ok, it is a bit about each of these subjects, but it is essentially about why we have this concept. Why do we perceive time in the way we do and why is time such a difficult concept to grasp.

Well it turns
Todd Martin
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Science and journalism are two very different disciplines and require a different set of skill sets. Those with skill in one area may or may not have talent in the other. I’m not sure about Sean Carroll’s skills as a scientist, but I have little praise for his talents as a writer.

Carroll seems incapable of explaining things clearly. He attempts to illustrate points throughout the book with convoluted examples that appear to be intended to confuse rather than illuminate. He even manages to make v
Tony Heyl
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Time is both a simple and yet complicated scientific question. I looked up books about time after seeing one of the Through the Wormhole shows on Science Channel. This is actually a really well put together book. Most of the book is about entropy and the evolution of the universe, so it makes sense that the content itself goes from the very simple to the very complicated, bring you along the way without making you feel like an idiot. The equations and explanations are also done in a way to reall ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it did not like it
In the realm of popular physics books, this one is a three-legged mule. It doesn't even have much to say about time, aside from an unbelievably long-winded explanation of entropy. The writing is simplistic in the extreme, yet manages to obscure more than it explains. Carroll obviously wishes he was Brian Greene. He is not. Had to skim the second half of it. ...more
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
Simply the best popular physics book I've ever read. Carroll is amazingly lucid, practical and totally excited about the subject while being conscious of the problems inherent in understanding something that is so fundamental to our existence that we take it for granted: time.

What is time? Does it exist naturally, or is it emergent from some other property of the universe? These are the grand questions that drive From Eternity to Here. In fact, the questions are so grand, and so monumental, Car
Jan 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Amateur cosmologists & people w/ "time" on their hands
Recommended to Terence by: Wired magazine article, interview on Coast to Coast AM
Unlike my usual practice since joining GoodReads, I very deliberately did not take notes while reading From Eternity to Here. I wanted to enjoy myself with an interesting topic (cosmology) and not be overly concerned with learning anything - the nonfiction analog of the fictional brain candy I read.

But this is the post-GoodReads era of my life so am compelled to offer some note to the interested reader. Thus:

The problem under discussion here is the "arrow of time" - why, unlike the physical prin
Jul 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Not for the faint of heart. This MIT professor is definitely guarding the tower. I made it through about 70% of the book before my brain exploded. I'm still picking up the pieces. ...more
Alex Zakharov
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great read, under proper expectations. The central theme is the puzzle of macroscopic irreversibility which we are all intuitively familiar with - eggs don’t spontaneously unbreak from the frying pan and the milk doesn’t unmix from your morning latte. The puzzle is that at the microscopic level the fundamental laws of physics are perfectly reversible, so why does the Second Law of thermodynamics hold in every situation that we know of? More specifically, Carroll seeks the explanation for why the ...more
Aug 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A good friend of mine, who recently got his PhD. in Quantum Physics, bought me this book as a present a couple of weeks ago. He told me it was very good to get a better understanding of the Universe and the role of (the arrow of) time in it.

He was right, and I have enjoyed Sean Carroll's From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time very much. I have learnt greatly about the origin of the Universe and its potential fate (view spoiler)
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Challenging. Enormously thought-provoking. A bit repetitive? In places. A model of clarity? For the most part. But come on, low star reviewers. What do you expect from a discursive (i.e., non mathematical) treatment of so complex a topic? The author makes heavy use of metaphor? How the hell else is he to make abstruse and -- let's face it -- oftentimes pretty bizarre ideas accessible to a non-specialist readership? You were bored? Again, my low-star confreres, why the #%^* did you bot ...more
Daniel R.
May 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mos
This book is a through and frequently tedious exploration for a theory of time. Pay close attention to the word "Quest" in the subtitle. This books poses many questions that don't have answers yet and instead focuses on the various theories that currently exist. The book starts with an introduction to possible definitions of what time is, the role of entropy, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. With that foundation it dives into microscopic constituents, macroscopic systems, and quantum mechan ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An honest, fascinating and surprisingly engaging book about the enigmatic concept of time and its relationship with other equally perplexing concepts of Entropy and Big Bang. The best feature of the book was the honest admission by the author of ideas that have been robustly tested and verified, as well as those which are yet to be accepted by scientists. In the process, Mr. Carroll conveys the excitement and uncertainty around the development of new ideas in Science.
The book is richly sprinkled
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
The writing is just not interesting enough. This is a survey book, not a scientific study, and I guess I have been spoiled by all of the great humor, wit, and presentation that modern science survey writers have brought to bear on this type of work. The material here is not new to me, though, to be sure, some of the concepts I have never fully wrapped my head around. Nevertheless, if I'm going to read a survey book like this I want the material within to be presented in an entertaining manner. ...more
Actually, yeah, I think I'm done with this one--I just can't seem to get interested, even though it's definitely a fascinating topic. I feel like maybe it's bogged down by too many examples or something, and thus I'm finding it really, really tedious. I can see how it might be a great book for folks that haven't really read anything about the basics of physics before, because I do feel like he's explaining things pretty clearly, but I'm not really getting anything out of it, other than annoyed. ...more
Ramon van Dam
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very impressive. Carroll isn't afraid to dive into the unknown and speculate wildly, but he makes sure to acknowledge it when that is the case. I have to admit several sections went a bit over my head (even after reading a lot of relatively similar books), but the author kept me hooked with lots of examples and analogies.

Highly recommended for everybody that is interested in astrophysics, but it's probably not suited as a first entry into the subject.
Per André
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
It started out really interesting and to the point about the essence of time, and how time relates to relativity and quantum mechanics. Gradually, it morphed into a book about the author's favorite topic: Entropy. The book never really recovered.

It's well written, but I'm still in search of a great book on time.
Roman Faminou
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is extremely good but is definitely not popular science the way I imagine it. It's tough to get through for someone without a background in physics, and I found myself going much slower than with most other books and still not getting everything. Part of me wishes I knew more about the subject before reading as I would have appreciated the information much more. ...more
William Schram
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From Eternity To Here by Sean Carroll is an excellent book on the nature of time itself. The book is for the layman and is quite well-written, with its focus being on the Arrow of Time and why it exists. Through his musings, we find content on Information Theory, Statistical Thermodynamics and so on. This book touches on a great many subjects in Physics.

The book doesn’t have many equations but it does take some understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That is the law that states that t
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Science and Inquiry: November 2011 - From Eternity to Here. . . 26 73 Dec 05, 2011 11:11AM  

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Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993. His research focuses on issues in cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His book The Particle at the End of the Universe won the prestigious Winton Prize for Science Books in 2013. Carroll lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Jennifer Ouellette.

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“This is not a universe that is advancing toward a goal; it is one that is caught in the grip of an unbreakable pattern.” 7 likes
“If everything in the universe evolves toward increasing disorder, it must have started out in an exquisitely ordered arrangement. This whole chain of logic, purporting to explain why you can't turn an omelet into an egg, apparently rests on a deep assumption about the very beginning of the universe. It was in a state of very low entropy, very high order. Why did our part of the universe pass though a period of such low entropy?” 6 likes
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