Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene

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If you don’t read at least three books on physics during your life, you’re truly missing out. Let one of them be The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, a well-written overview of the mysteries of the universe by Brian Greene.

Read it to gain an understanding of some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries ever made (black holes! quantum physics!) and for the joy of pondering your place in it all.

Key Takeaways

  • This book focuses on revisions to our understanding of space and time, from Aristotle to Einstein.
  • Despite not understanding every aspect of the universe, we have an understanding of its broad strokes.
  • Our experiences shape our perception of reality.
  • Scientific inquiry has shown that human experience is often not an accurate reflection of reality.
  • The work of scientists has revealed a universe that is surprising, unfamiliar, and unlike what was expected.
  • Modern physics has shown that assessing life through everyday experience is limited.
  • Einstein’s theories of relativity toppled Newton’s conception of reality.
  • Classical physics (Newtonian physics) is limited in its depiction of reality, which is actually relativistic.
  • According to quantum mechanics, the future and past are not etched into the present and the universe participates in a game of chance.
  • Quantum mechanics describes a reality in which things are sometimes uncertain until observed.
  • Superstring theory unifies general relativity and quantum mechanics, has the potential to explain all of nature’s forces and matter, and suggests the existence of extra dimensions beyond what we can see.
  • If superstring theory is proven correct, our current understanding of reality would be limited to a small slice of a richly textured cosmic fabric.

Key Quotes

  • “The overarching lesson that has emerged from scientific inquiry over the last century is that human experience is often a misleading guide to the true nature of reality.”
  • “A core feature of classical physics is that if you know the positions and velocities of all objects at a particular moment, Newton’s equations, together with their Maxwellian updating, can tell you their positions and velocities at any other moment, past or future. Without equivocation, classical physics declares that the past and future are etched into the present … But according to the quantum laws, even if you make the most perfect measurements possible of how things are today, the best you can ever hope to do is predict the probability that things will be one way or another at some chosen time in the future, or that things were one way or another at some chosen time in the past.”
  • “The universe, according to quantum mechanics, is not etched into the present; the universe, according to quantum mechanics, participates in a game of chance.”
  • “If superstring theory is proven correct, we will be forced to accept that the reality we have known is but a delicate chiffon draped over a thick and richly textured cosmic fabric.”

About the Author

Brian Greene is a theoretical physicist and mathematician, best known for his contributions to our understanding of string theory and the concept of parallel universes. He is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University and a co-founder of the World Science Festival. Greene is also an award-winning author, with books including The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and Icarus at the Edge of Time. He has been featured in numerous television programs, including the documentary series The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe, both of which were based on his books.


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