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Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe Hardcover – February 18, 2020
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“A splendid and invigorating read . . . [Greene] fans out the fabric of our present understanding, deftly untangling then interweaving the science of everything from black holes to quanta to DNA, tracing how matter made mind made imagination, probing the pull of eternity and storytelling and the sublime.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
“Until the End of Time is encyclopedic in its ambition and its erudition, often heartbreaking . . . A love letter to the ephemeral cosmic moment when everything is possible.”
—Dennis Overbye, The New York Times Book Review
“Ambitious and utterly readable . . . [Greene] weaves personal stories, scientific ideas, concepts and facts into a delightful tapestry . . . What is remarkable about Mr. Greene’s book is how he has delved into deep questions that not only have no simple answers but may never be settled at all.”
—Priyamvada Natarajan, The Wall Street Journal
"[Greene] says it all with such ebullience, such ingenuous enthusiasm, that if he told you the whole cold, amoral universe was ending tomorrow you'd roll with it the way he would—as just one more dramatic chapter in an extraordinary tale in which we all have a precious if fleeting role." —Time
"A cracking read. . . . The origins of matter, life and consciousness, and their grisly fate, are laid out here with elegant clarity. If you want to know how everything got here and where it's going, read this book." —The Sunday Times (London)
"Marvelous. . . . [Greene's] prose style is one that any novelist would envy. . . . [He] traces a tremendous arc through pretty well everything: a thrilling venture, at once frightening and consolatory." —The Irish Times
"Greene writes beautifully." —The Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
“There’s tremendous joy in witnessing a brilliant and curious mind wrestle with such profound issues. [Greene] takes readers on a remarkable journey.”
—John Keogh, Booklist
“Packed with ideas . . . There is an echo of philosopher Henry David Thoreau in Greene’s account of lying out at night, enraptured by the aurora borealis. And essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s declaration that the “sublime laws play indifferently through atoms and galaxies” could almost be this book’s epigraph. Such qualities lift this work above many accounts of the cosmic story.”
—Philip Ball, Nature
“[Greene] weaves a rich tapestry of theories and perspectives as he navigates space and time . . . Of course, Until the End of Time can’t provide all the answers. But you would be hard-pressed to find another book that seeks to do so with the same clarity and meaning.”
—Gege Li, New Scientist
"Brian Greene is a master at elucidating the laws of physics." —Journal Inquirer (Connecticut)
"As well as offering lucid, detailed accouns of the science behind the big bang, the development ofthe cosmos, the emergence of life and human conscoiusness, and the inevitable exeinction of the cosmos, Greene's treatise is motivated by a personal search for equanimity." —The Guardian
"Sentence by sentence, Greene is such a wonderful teacher. . . . When the current hour gets overhwleming . . . it's a joy to sweep back and forth through the eons. You remember how infinitesimal this moment actually is, and that every second we get to be alive on this planet is an utter gift." —Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Greene is an elegant, eloquent writer . . . beautifully written. . . . An energizing, fascinating exploration of origins and endings." —The Providence Journal
“Accessible and illuminating . . . Curious readers . . . will be richly rewarded by [Greene's] fascinating exploration.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Engaging . . . An insightful history of everything that simplifies its complex subject as much as possible but no further.”
About the Author
- Publisher : Knopf; First Edition (February 18, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1524731676
- ISBN-13 : 978-1524731670
- Item Weight : 1.65 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #41,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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I was excited to read this book. I liked its subtitle and description; they spoke to me. But the book didn’t. So much science! I found it largely inaccessible. It was not only a challenging read, it was slightly too challenging. I am not a science nerd, and explanations of scientific concepts frequently went sailing right over my head. Concepts seemed just beyond my understanding, just out of reach. As you might guess, eventually I gave up; I just wasn’t getting anything out of it.
Well written. Articulate. Erudite. Complex. Overwhelming.
BOTTOM LINE: While the subject matter is broadly appealing, in reality this book is best read by those with a real affinity for science.
As an explainer of complex scientific theories, particularly physics, Greene is on a par with popularizing scientists like Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking. Of course, if you found a Brief History of Time incomprehensible then you are likely to find large parts of Until the End of Time similarly difficult. I had a bit of an edge as my undergraduate major was in physics.
Greene is also honest that many of the phenomena he tries to fashion as chapters in his story remain scientific enigma. He does a good job of reviewing competing theories of life’s origin, the evolutionary grounding of the arts, etc.
What I found hard to justify is the amount of space Greene devotes to speculations about the distant future of the universe. He seems to make the error in reasoning that since we’ve discovered laws of physics that seem to apply to objects billions of years old we can similarly apply these to what the universe will be like in billions of years.
The lacuna in this argument is that modern physics is only a century old. Most of the advances in cosmology are even more recent. Why should we think that a hundred year old discipline can make accurate predictions across uncountable eons in the future?
Astronomers like to point out that human civilization would be only a few seconds long if the history of the universe were condensed to a year. It seems rather myopic to not notice that modern physics is only tenths of a second long and that it will probably evolve in unfathomable ways in the next thousand years, let alone the next billion.
Because Greene spends so much of this book on this topic, even concluding the book with a call to create our own meanings because the universe will finally end in entropic coldness, this seems like a major flaw.
However, much of the book does communicate difficult scientific concepts to a lay audience in a way I could understand. I’m glad I read the book and recommend it to others. I merely think a little humility about the possible developments in a century old human enterprise would’ve made much of the book a little more realistic and less like the outpourings of a wild imagination.
Top reviews from other countries
The opening third or so of the book is well-written pop-sci exploring the familiar topics of how the universe, solar system, Earth and complex life came in to existence. The "entropic two-step", as Greene puts it, is the driving force here, coupled to evolution, and after careful and lucid introductions these two themes recur and are developed throughout the rest of the book. Although I knew the broad strokes from umpteen other popular accounts, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of important recent developments and discoveries cited here, such as zircon time capsules implying a wet early Earth.
The book then gets to grips with the nature of consciousness and free will, how human language and culture arose, and how we face the inevitability of our own demise. That's a lot, but Greene doesn't overplay his hand: he brings up competing theories even-handedly with the appropriate caveats, looks at how they relate to our finite lifespans, and explains his humanist perspective on it all. It's heady and thought-provoking, and if the idea of a deterministic universe fills you with existential ennui some of it may actually be quite comforting. The end-notes for this part of the book are incidentally well worth a read, full of strict epistemology and the philosophy of science.
The final section of the book melds the two tones, taking a sprint up in to the far future, considering whether the universe can support thought indefinitely, and discussing the implications for the human outlook if it can't. There are a lot of fun surprises here, and even Greene's takes on topics I already understood were thoroughly engaging. (The existential and intellectual befuddlement that drips off the page as he gets to Boltzmann brains is really relatable.) The news isn't necessarily great for those seeking any sort of immortality, but as Greene discusses in the final chapter, there is an inherent value in our internal lives that goes beyond their mark on the cosmos.
Cosmology and physics intrigue us because of their deep implications for our origins, nature, and fate. Weaving together the facts and the fascination, "Until the End of Time" offers us a chance to reflect deeply on how we respond to the universe as we discover ever more about it.
"But how does this relate to Russell's vision of the future, his prognostication of the universe crawling toward death? Good question. Hang tight. We're getting there. But we still have a couple of steps to go. " That's from page 22
I don't want someone having a chat with me; I want masterful scientific understanding related and made clear.
I nearly gave up after Chapter 1, but I then realised that Chapter 1 is meant as an introduction.
Maybe this is a book for those who haven't done school physics. Someone obviously likes it, because it's been reviewed with 5* by some.
I gave up after Chapter 2, but even then, I found myself skipping the cotton wool.