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Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe

(The Science Masters Series)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,594 ratings  ·  184 reviews
How did a single "genesis event" create billions of galaxies, black holes, stars and planets? How did atoms assemble -- here on earth, and perhaps on other worlds -- into living beings intricate enough to ponder their origins? What fundamental laws govern our universe?This book describes new discoveries and offers remarkable insights into these fundamental questions. There ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 3rd 2001 by Basic Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  4,594 ratings  ·  184 reviews

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Start your review of Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
[Original review, November 2008]

This book blew me away... I hadn't been paying attention, and had missed a scientific revolution that had happened right under my nose! To cut to the chase: either someone created the Universe expressly to make it suitable for living beings, or there are lots of universes, and we just happen to be in one of the rare ones that support life. Right now, there don't seem to be many other serious alternatives.

If you have trouble believing this, get Rees's excellent bo
Feb 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Rees is an interesting man - I went to a lecture by him years ago where he explained his theory of the six numbers. Essentially he says that if you were to change a few numbers - the force of gravity, say, or the electric charge - the universe would be completely different. It is interesting that the universe seems to be pretty nicely set up for life to evolve and even little changes in these fundamental numbers would make life as we know it impossible.

I always have problems with this sort of ar
Manuel Antão
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2000
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

My Cat Ilsa Went to Heaven: "Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe" by Martin Rees

(original review, 2000)

If there was an infinite number of universes wouldn't there be a universe in which a mad scientist had discovered how to destroy all the universes and pressed the button, so there would be nothing at all? But then there would also be a good scientist who devised a plan to stop the mad scientist from pressing the
Riku Sayuj
Cosmology 101

[Strictly for Cosmology amateurs]

Syllabus as follows:

- Read Rees' book thoroughly.
- Write an essay in appreciation that elucidates the crucial importance of physical constants.
- Submit three reports on the current state of understanding and how they have evolved in any of the major constants touched upon in the book
- Bonus assignment: Search out one popular science book that has managed to cover in 100s of pages what Rees covers with lucidity in a few scores.
- Extra Bonus Assig
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it

This four-star rating is actually a compromise between the intrinsic value and merits of this book (5 star) and how much I personally enjoyed reading it (3 star).
This is a cute, very readable and superbly well written introductory book at beginners level. A fine example of popular science book, encapsulating several interesting concepts in just a little over 170 pages, with little oversimplification.
Had I come across this book 15 years ago, I would have appreciated it immensely more. Reading it
Maru Kun
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
After we've had a few drinks my fundamentalist friends will often bring the talk round to The Creation just to have some fun at my expense.

They laugh at my belief in a "big bang", make ribald jokes about my "sudden, enormous inflation" and tell me I don't have much energy at all these days let alone any "dark energy". I've only myself to blame for not keeping up with the latest in cosmology. I tend to end up mumbling something about micro-wave background radiation before heading off quickly to t
Jose Moa
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book about cosmology but mainly about anthropic cosmolgical principle,weak and strong,the book develops the importance of fine tuning of six,mainly of cosmic significance ,numbers.
This numbers are:
N the relation between the strenht of electrical with regard to the gavitational forcé.

Epsilon the los of mass or energetic efficiency in the nuclear fussion of protons.

Omega the mass density of our universe.

Lamda the value of cosmic repulsion that acelerates the universe expansión.

Q the ripples or a
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: skeptical thinkers
Recommended to Zork by: my father
I don't hold much respect for "fine-tuning" arguments in relation to cosmology, but the book was a gift, so I felt obligated to give it a try. Also, if one wants to be knowledgeable about this kind of thing, one has to read more than just the stuff that supports one's own ideas.

In his attempt to be accessible to the public, the author does what I consider to be a lot of hand-waving and emphatic gestures rather than actually explaining anything. He also fails at what I think is a basic level of i
Mohamed al-Jamri
This book might be short, but it is full of information that are presented in an easy-to-understand style. Unlike many of popular science books, this one is to the point and there are very few diversions. The main thesis is one of the greatest discoveries in physics that was made in the 1970s and 1980s; it tells us that there are these six numbers, which are extremely fine-tuned and what would happen if any of them is only slightly modified.

What makes this book more interesting is the fact that
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just six numbers, written and narrated by the author (k drive)

science (multiple universe theory, super strings)

Martin Rees has been Astronomer Royal since 1995.

You can't get away from the black and white of the situation, manouvered or evolved. You will find that there is no point in discussing this with anyone. Everyone believes, in the depths of their very being, one way or the other...

tweaked or not tweaked

You could not hope to convert by discussion so why bother trying
Cassandra Kay Silva
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I gobbled this one up in a heartbeat. Brilliant, wonderful, insightful. I loved it. I plan on reading it again before taking it back to the library. Maybe I will get a copy for the house too. I don't have anything to add to what the author said. Bravo and thank you for letting the reader make his own conclusion or choose not to make any at that point. I was worried there for a bit that he was going to pounce an agenda on me. Nope. It looks like the author is just genuinely interested in as he ca ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
My gut? After reading this and the books on the big issues at the heart of quantum physics, it seems likely that something key is missing from our theories. Maybe some physicist trapped in covid lockdown will have a flash of boredom-triggered-brilliance and solve it...
Jimmy Ele
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I appreciate it for familiarizing me with these 6 important numbers. However, the reason for the loss of 1.5 stars was due to the book's seeming lack of inspiration. There doesn't seem to be any excitement throughout. Very bland at times for such an interesting topic. ...more
Tom Adams
Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain (since 1995) and is a skilled writer on matters astronomical for the general public. In this book he describes six numerical constants that lie at the heart of knowledge about the universe at the turn of the millennium (the book was published in 1999). His subjects range from fundamental particle forces to the mysterious "dark energy" as represented by lambda, the force believed responsible for the accelerating expansion of the universe. At on ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
A terse survey of cosmology. Covers a wide breadth without going into satisfactory depth.
For example, the author sometimes mentions only one of several interesting points of view.
Still, a fine read, especially valuable to the novice, but not boring to the expert.

Embarrassingly, the author predicts the discovery of dark matter particles by 2005.
Moataz Harb
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: god
I never rate a book before finishing it, but this one is an exception.
Alfaniel Aldavan
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alfaniel by: Manny
Shelves: science

Six numbers: if any was altered in a very small degree, the universe would not have permitted life to develop.
For example, if gravity wasn't exactly this weak comparing to other forces in the atom, but not weaker, the universe either would have collapsed right after Big Bang, or would have expanded so fast that no stars, galaxies, planetary systems could've formed.
Thus, no potential for life.

Writing and readability
Rees makes his case of fine tuning with regard to life very convincing. The book i
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a little out of date now, and some of the predictions are almost adorably wrong at this point — that we would understand dark matter and dark energy, and that we’d have a unified Theory of Everything explaining how all the forces we know of are tied together. But this book is still useful in explaining, in clear and simple terms, why exactly people say the universe has been “fine-tuned”. It’s not the most in-depth treatment out there, but I think it’d be very good for getting to grips wi ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Science. Not much to review here, trying to understand physics is hard enough as it is.
Jan 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As its title suggests, this 1999 book by Martin Rees, the UK's Astronomer Royal, addresses six numbers that determine whether a universe can support life as we know it. The first number Rees calls N, which is the ratio of the gravitational force to the electromagnetic force and is about 10^36. He explains how, if this ratio were less, and therefore gravity was relatively stronger, stars would be much smaller and would burn much quicker. There would not be sufficient time for life to evolve.

The s
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Meh. That about sums up my feelings on this book.

When I finally got my hands on this book I was so excited. I expected to be blown away by the 6 numbers and the perfection to which they were tuned to allow life to emerge in our universe. Instead I was bored at times, and definitely not blown away. There is a show on the History channel called 'The Universe', which at times is over the top, but in this case they have done a better job of getting the point across then Rees has. This book is basica
Mar 20, 2011 rated it liked it
If any of six numbers were slightly altered, the universe as we know it – including ourselves – would not exist. Small changes to any one of six numbers – the strength of electrical forces, the amount of matter in the universe, antigravity, etc – and everything would be different. So how did the universe become so finely tuned to support our existence and the existence of the stars?

Was it Providence? A cosmic coincidence?

Neither, says Martin Rees. He postulates that our universe is one of many
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtitled The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe, this pop science book, written by the astronomer royal, discusses six cosmological constants that define the size, shape and structure of the universe.

An interesting book, but one that didn't really teach me that much that I didn't already know. The most interesting thing was the stress on how if any of these numbers were very slightly different, they would have resulted in a universe that would be unsuitable for life. Rees deliberately avoids t
Feb 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun
Sort of like Hawking's "A Brief History Of Time" only shorter and more readable. I really like the description of the Big Bang theory and of how all the elements in the periodic table are created by stars. ...more
Mohammed Algarawi
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
A very good summary of pretty much everything about what happened after the Big Bang.

I recommend reading this along with Neil deGrasse Tyson's Origins.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Tiffany by: Brandon
Reading _Just Six Numbers_ from the library, about numbers that explain the universe/represent forces in the universe, and a previous reader seems to have a problem with evolution: everything to do with the Big Bang, changes to the universe, etc. is scratched out or has snarky comments or scare quotes written around it. For example, the sentence "We know that there are planets orbiting other stars..." has scare quotes around "know." Ditto to chemistry terms.

At first it was funny, but now it's re
Ramon van Dam
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Via a number of chapters revolving around specific properties of our universe, Martin Rees works up to his last chapter where he invokes his favourite theory of the multiverse. One can clearly see where he is going at several occasions, making it a bit disappointing for me to see that he never really goes deep into these subjects.

Each of the numbers mentioned in the title are discussed by just scratching the surface, leaving the reader to simply assume that what he or she sees on the page is app
Ryan Smith
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The contents of this book fascinated me. It was not a leisurely read, and took a dedicated concentration to grasp the concepts spanning the quantum and cosmic worlds. I enjoyed Rees’s speculative take on the theory of a multiverse, and the only disappointment is that the nearly 20 years since the book’s publication have failed to produce discoveries or theories that would merit edits and a reprint (such as an understanding of quantum gravity, or a grand unified theory).
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cosmology
Rees explains the miracle of six universal parameters (the force of gravity, the strength of atomic nuclei bound, the strength of cosmic antigravity, etc.) being set just at the right level so that our universe could form and life could emerge therein. If we wanted to start to tinker with any of these parameters, we would quickly arrive at an alternative universe which, unlike ours, does not have the required chemistry, cannot support formation of galaxies, stars and planets - in short, could no ...more
Jana Light
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
In _Just Six Numbers_, Martin Rees examines six numbers describing our universe, six numbers that are unique in that they cannot be derived from any theory. He uses those numbers to show both that our universe seems to be "finely-tuned" for diversity and life, and that we can use the fine-tuning aspect to think about why or how the universe as we know it began and is situated in the whole of reality.

I vascillated between 3 and 4 stars for this book. It is a fantastic look into some of the forces
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Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, PRS (born June 23, 1942 in York) is an English cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995, and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004. He became President of the Royal Society on December 1, 2005.

Other books in the series

The Science Masters Series (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • One Renegade Cell: The Quest For The Origin Of Cancer
  • River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
  • Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (Science Masters)
  • The Last Three Minutes: Conjectures About The Ultimate Fate Of The Universe
  • Nature's Numbers: The Unreal Reality Of Mathematics
  • The Origin Of The Universe
  • The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas that Make Computers Work
  • Kinds of Minds: Towards an Understanding of Consciousness
  • The Origin Of Humankind
  • The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of the Chemical Elements

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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
105 likes · 22 comments
“Our universe, extending immensely far beyond our present horizon, may itself be just one member of a possibly infinite ensemble. This ‘multiverse’ concept, though speculative, is a natural extension of current cosmological theories, which gain credence because they account for things that we do observe. The physical laws and geometry could be different in other universes, and this offers a new perspective on the seemingly special values that the six numbers take in ours.” 3 likes
“More energy is needed to rise a millimetre above a neutron star's surface than to break completely free of Earth's gravity. A pen dropped from a height of one metre would impact with the energy of a ton of TNT (although the intense gravity on a neutron star's surface would actually, of course, squash any such objects instantly). A projectile would need to attain half the speed of light to escape its gravity; conversely, anything that fell freely onto a neutron star from a great height would impact at more than half the speed of light.” 3 likes
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