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The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  777 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Cosmic Jackpot (also published under the title The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?) is Paul Davies's eagerly awaited return to cosmology, the successor to his critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind of God. Here he tackles all the "big questions," including the biggest of them all: Why does the universe seem so well adapted for life?
In his cha
Paperback, 350 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Penguin (first published 2006)
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Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Big Questions
I read Martin Rees's Before The Beginning a couple of weeks ago and found it remarkably interesting. But, as Nick said, it's also about 15 years old. I decided I needed something a little more modern, hence this book.

Well, if you're interested in Big Questions, there's no doubt that The Goldilocks Enigma is a fun read. The first half presents the core problem. When you look at the fundamental laws of the universe, a weird pattern emerges: everything is tuned exactly right for life to be possib
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it

This is a quite interesting, thought-provoking book by an author who is not scared of asking the Big Questions about the origins of what exists, about the meaning of life and consciousness in the Universe, about the bio-friendliness of the Universe, and its tendency to self-organize into increasing levels of complexity.

The first part of the book is the least interesting: it just looks like another of those popular science books, at beginner level, that describe the usual stuff: CMB, Inflation T
Nov 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not sure that this book is entirely successful in answering, or even trying to address, the question posed on the cover -- why is the universe just right for life? It talks a lot about how the universe may have formed, and what the laws of the universe are, and it seems like it does a lot of describing rather than explaining. Now, of course, that's because we don't really have an answer, but it does seem a little misleading.

Davies looks at a lot of different theories here, some of them more
Jan 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, thoughts
In the preface and acknowledgements Paul Davies cites his thanks to the John Templeton Foundation. This is the foundation that is responsible for supporting ‘pro god’ science (ahem) and trying to suppress what it considers ‘anti god’ science. This did not fill me with confidence with what was to come. The first half of the book was, however, very interesting. The latter stages went along with what you would expect from somebody who is supported by Templeton. Although Paul Davies does not support ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a fine book, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys pondering the imponderable. If you want to read about the most important existential question we humans have asked through the ages, written by one our most creative minds, this is a book for you. However I have several recommendations to make before you begin:

1.Do not read at night before you go to bed (I did for much of it, but it I didn’t understand what I was reading and I fell asleep before I could finish the page). I didn’t r
Apr 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Why is the universe just right for life? Forget all the evolution vs. creation debate. That’s been settled. Let’s even ignore the Intelligent Design biochemists who claim that the biochemical processes inside cells show “irreducible complexities” that cannot be explained by evolution based on natural selection. There are far more basic questions to ask regarding life. Like: why are the laws of physics such that they allow formation of galaxies and stars and planets? If you think that the bacteri ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In this book, Paul Davies, a well-known physicist and cosmologist, presents a detailed examination of the many ways in which the universe seems remarkably well-suited for the rise of intelligent life -- namely us. Davies goes far beyond the usual (and rather tired) examples of the earth being the right distance from the sun, etc, and instead looks at the fundamental laws and constants of physics. Why are they what they are? Could they have been different? How much different?

One of the most remar
Jan 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
When mind and cosmos will be one.

The primary purpose of Paul Davies in Goldilocks Enigma is to appeal to scientific inquiry and reason in order to address the big questions of existence.
Why does theoretical physics work?
Why is nature shadowed by the mathematical reality?
Is a theory of everything possible?
How did the universe begin?
And most the most important: Why is the universe fit for life?

Davies analyses the ideas and the developments of theoretical physics the last fifty years and and examin
Khalid Khan
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular, science
I was disappointed by the book. A lot of material in the book was too technical for the average reader; I found the going tough despite having taken college physics so I wonder how those who have not take physics will cope. The author explored ways in which the universe we life in and the one in which he wrote his book is perfect for life. But then he goes about exploring the ‘Why the Universe is just right” question and ends up creating more confusion then sense. I won’t recommend this book to ...more
G.R. Reader
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
You have to be extremely good to write about this subject without sounding like an idiot. Well Paul, you were brave to try.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very comprehensive and excellent book.
Arthur Sgalia
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I suspect this is about as readable a book as can be written on this excruciatingly complex subject. I needed about 15 more IQ points than are available to fully grasp it.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Paul Davies takes on some of the most complex, contoversial and (therefor) interesting topics with impeccable intellectualism, expansive curiosity and authentic sceptisism. In this book, he presents the captivating story of the universe and shows us why our existence is a curious state of affairs.
Johan Haneveld
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A couple of years ago a friend of mine told me about this book and some of the ideas involved in it. I was intrigued and my ideas about the universe and Gods purpose (this book is at best agnostic, but I am a theist) changed consequently. My friend explained that this book put forth the theory that (in accordance with quantum mechanics) the observer of the universe (a future universe wide intelligence?) by observing and understanding the universe, is responsible for the universe being a fit plac ...more
Robert C.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Why is my office just right for working in?

My favourite theory is that the definition of the office is not just confined to the walls, floor, ceiling, desks, chairs and computers, but also the people sitting on those chairs, at those desks, tap-tapping away at those computers.

Without light there would be no sight; without people there would be no office.

We are conscious beings and are in the office because the office needed to be conscious of itself.

Then there's all sorts of interesting stuff ab
Jun 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is the fourth book I've read by Paul Davies (as heard on Science Friday) and I think this, his latest work, is a fine synthesis of his previous works on physics, cosmology, and astrobiology. Roughly the first half of the book provides a highly readable back round on what the universe is made of, how it holds together, and the attempts to provide a unified theory of everything. Along the way many important bases are covered including particle physics, quantum physics, and recent discoveries ...more
Mar 27, 2009 added it
Of course Davies doesnt answer the question - but he does a good job of describing the current understanding of all the factors that need to line up to lead to a livable universe that managed to grow life and consciousness that can ponder this question. Starting from the Gravitational constant, carbon resonance (formation of heavy elements in first/second gen stars) etc - we have a large set of factors that seem like they are fine tuned to give this end result. The only way we can explain this r ...more
Alex Klimkewicz
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science

The Goldilocks Enigma by Paul Davies is an interesting look at how and potentially why the universe can support life. This is a big book that tackles all of the big questions facing physicists and cosmologists today, including the origin of the big bang, the possibility of a multiverse, the role of dark forces and dark matter, and the grand unification theory. Near the end of the book Davies looks at the role that intelligence may have played in the formation of the universe. But there is no the
Johnny Story
Oct 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: science geeks and people who question why they are alive
Recommended to Johnny by: some girl a the book store
The origin of everything, the biggest question ever, has never been tackled with such great scientific assembly. Yes, parts of the book evoke flashbacks to chemistry class and that's never too much fun, but Davies gets to a point. In the book he explores, The Big Bang, the big bounce, the grand unification theory vs. multi-verse, going as far as entertaining the idea we are in a Matrix type universe. Perhaps the more perplexing aspect to the book are the numbers behind the science. How Earth, or ...more
Jeffrey Jacobs
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book despite the religious overtones

My main concern is that the author seems to have set out trying to prove there is a God or some futuristic intelligence that influences and creates the world we currently live in. I grow weary of a book written by someone who has been awarded money from the Templeton foundation. I have no problem with someone who believes in one God, three Gods, many gods, or infinite Gods, or no God at all. I just don't see why anything at all is required to ju
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a non-scientist this was just about fathomable, but as the book progressed I was increasingly glad of the key points at the end of each chapter. I appreciate science books written for the interested general reader and this book managed to work through the theories and progress from creationism to big bang and multiverses (and slightly back again) without falling into the trap of totally rubbishing all that has been gleaned and learned before. Whilst some of the science started to make little ...more
Sai Nair
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the probably one of the best books explaining the bio-friendliness of Universe and it's context in explaining the ultimate question which man has tackled for centuries : why do we exist ? The author presented all the currently held views from physicist,mathematicians,theologians and philosophers.Throughout the book the author has maintained a neutral approach in explaining multiverse theory,string/M theory,the role of quantum mechanics in our existence and philosopher's /theologians argu ...more
Apr 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cosmology

The first 3/4 of the book is essential reading for any budding cosmologist. Paul is a leading thinker in the realm of the cosmos and philosophy. I like the way each chapter was partitioned into segments. Each chapter's theme is broken into a number of short easy to read sections. Moving through each section helps one move through the ideas and concepts in a nice orderly fashion. Paul then builds each subsequent chapter upon the last.

I was not so much into the philosophical meanderings in the l
Patrick Lueck
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. About the book? Great, intriguing, puzzling explanation of an interesting topic...

2. About the "enigma;" the possibility of a universe tailored just for (our) life? Kind a stupid idea. I walked along the shore of a Montana stream...and a trout, jumping for an insect hovering over the water...flops onto the bank. Was everything -- (air, water, wind, temperature, slight myopia of fish, my pausing at the last bend of the trail, the amount of snow pack feeding the stream, the number of fingerling
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
A rather intrigiung discussion of various metaphysical attempts to answer John Archibald Wheeler's proverbial question "How come existence?"

While Davies doesn't hesitate to dwell on eccentric theorems like the self-replicating universe, he never succumbs to being cocksure of a theory and maintains a sensible distance to all proposed mechanisms. His explanations are rich in detail and he always provides the reader with adequate sources.

Of course, this book won't solve the puzzling existential my
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
I wouldn't say this book is anti-theist but there are atheist undertones. I felt that it went into a bit of a ramble towards the end, certain issues were repeated, there were no real arguments or views fully formulated and it felt like there were a lot of assertions. But he makes some interesting points, I was particularly fascinated by his explanation of the laws of physics being frozen in at the beginnings of a universe, he uses an analogy of what happens to an iron bar when heated, this is, h ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This was a marvellous book! I loved every bit of it! Though I most definitely disagreed with Davies when he ventures to comment on Christianity or theism. I enjoyed the sections on forces and particles and found it all to be very informative. You'll learn tons from reading this book. Moreover, Davies is a good writer and pleasure to read. I'm little moved by his arguments to persuade me of the validity of the mulitverse theory. His sections on string theory are a real primer to get you intereste ...more
Rod Davies
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent first half, laying out the ideas and physics at work for a scientifically illiterate reader to get a grasp on the basics. Lost me slightly in his overview of other ideas and theories in the final chapters. He is up front about where his personal opinion and suspicions lie but does consider all options in a fairly even handed way. This was 2005 though so I'd be curious to see what the view is post Higgs LHC discovery.
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic, science
While claiming to answer the question of why is the Universe just right for life, it actually touches the subject only marginally, and fails to mention lots of interesting facts that show the special nature of the Universe (such as the number of dimensions... if there would be anything other than 3 spatial dimensions, planetary systems could never be stable). Instead, it goes off various tangents which, while interesting, are patchy and unrelated to the topic. It's not what I expected.
Henry Sturcke
Edel's review: Such cool stuff! Not that I understand everything Paul Davies writes in “The Goldilocks Enigma”, but the universe is fascinating and awe-inspiring. To me, the science of the tiniest stuff (quantum mechanics) and the biggest stuff (cosmology) show a mind-boggling grandeur. It all makes me ask some fundamental questions for which I don’t know any pat answers. Yet just wondering is stimulating! [April 2016]
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Paul Charles William Davies AM is a British-born physicist, writer and broadcaster, currently a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University of London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His re ...more
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“A really big question is why the universe is fit for life; it looks like it has been ‘fixed up’.” 2 likes
“One of the confusions surrounding the Intelligent Design movement’s propaganda is a failure to distinguish between the fact of evolution and the mechanism of evolution.” 1 likes
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