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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  4,560 Ratings  ·  229 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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Community Reviews

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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 - whic
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
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: džep-toalet-bus
Šon Kerol je jedno veliko dete zaglavljeno u odelu teoretskog fizičara – a ima li šta bolje od entuzijastičnog prvoklasnog naučnika?

Ovo je jedna divna, fascinantna knjiga koja služi istovremeno kao polemika o značenju „strele vremena“ ali i kao podsetnik na trojstvo oba relativiteta i kvantne (i kao bonus i statističke) mehanike. Entropija kao čekić, vreme kao ekser, drvo kao uni, ili možda pre multiverzum. Dosta je spekulativna, mora se priznati, ali to ni ne krije, već to nosi ponosno i izraz
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...
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
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
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.
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.
შონ ქეროლის "მარადისობიდან დღემდე" ერთ-ერთი იმ იშვიათთაგანი წიგნია რომელიც სამყაროს ენტროპიის და დროის ისარის (მიმართულების) პრობლემას ეხება. ქეროლის თქმით თუ თქვენ მოხვდებით რომელიმე წამყვანი ინსტიტუტის ბიბლიოთეკაში და დაათვალიერებთ თაროს სადაც ფიზიკის სახელმძღვანელოები და ლიტერატურა აწყვია, ძალიან გაგიჭირდებათ მოძებნოთ წიგნი რომელიც ეხება ენტროპიის და დროის პრობლემას კოსმოლოგიურ კონტექსტში. თერმოდინამიკა როგორც წესი რჩება ლაბორატორიაში, სამზარეულოში და მექანიკაში. აქ სიტუაცია სხვგავარია, ავტორ ...more
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
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.
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
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.
Bob Nichols
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
If I am tracking his argument accurately, Carroll is saying in this book that change, as time, is eternal.

The so-called arrow of time flows one way as energy dissipates from low entropy to high entropy states. The problem in physics that Carroll needs to address is the big bang theory which states that time (space-time) begins with the initial 'bang' and is expanding space-time outward (i.e., not moving into pre-existent space-time; "the universe expands into nothing"). At this point, the curren
Daniel Shawen
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really like Sean's newer book, 'Particle at the end of the universe', which I read first, and also Sean's blogs, videos and many public debates on various topics.

'From Ethernity to Here' is a thorough treatment of time as viewed from a quantum mechanical and relativistic perspective, but missing is any discussion of time after the July 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson.

The Higgs boson, an excitation of the Higgs field that permeates all of space, and the Higgs mechanism which gives inertial ma
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Sean Carroll’s book is not for the faint of heart. It is a dense, complex tour of physics over the past century and a half. While the book is nominally called “The quest for the ultimate theory of time,” it is really about entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (that things go from order to disorder — entropy — and not the opposite way). That law essentially defines the direction of time, and thus, to Carroll, time. (You can make eggs into omelets, but you can't make omelets into eggs.)

I m
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 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Confession: I didn't read the entire book. I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn't get through portions. I started out fine but began to lose momentum when I reached quantum theory, and I was totally lost when I entered "Bekenstein's Entropy Conjecture," "Magnetic Monopoles," and "A String Theory Surprise." So there were sections where I read the words and didn't understand and even some places where I did not read the words.

The fault, if blame is in order, is almost all with me as a reade
Jan Strnad
Mainly what I learned from From Eternity to Here is that I will probably never understand Einstein's theory of general relativity or the concept of spacetime or much of anything at all about quantum mechanics.

Sean Carroll does an admirable job of writing about space, time, the universe and everything in a style that is clear and lively. Unfortunately, I still couldn't get my mind around the concepts and claim that they brought me any real understanding.

I learned tidbits such as the fact that GPS
John Nelson
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
What is time? Most people never give the question much thought, except to say that it is something we never have enough of. Physicists are starting to consider the question, and the author of this book asserts that time essentially is a by-product of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of a closed system never decreases, and can only increase or stay the same.

This theory does not seem sufficient to me. It implies that if one were to occupy a region of space where ent
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
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Science and Inquiry: November 2011 - From Eternity to Here. . . 26 73 Dec 05, 2011 11:11AM  
  • Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles
  • Absolutely Small: How Quantum Theory Explains Our Everyday World
  • The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
  • The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of Modern Physics
  • Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World
  • The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
  • Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe
  • Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
  • Neutrino
  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
  • The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces
  • Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law
  • The Day We Found the Universe
  • The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet
  • Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
  • The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications
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.
More about Sean Carroll

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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.” 5 likes
“The ancient Greeks, according to Pirsig, “saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs, with the past receding away before their eyes.” 2 likes
More quotes…