four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
By: 
Brian Greene
user_rating: 
0

Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality

A-FabricCosmosWhat is space? What is time? And, for that matter, what is reality? In exploring these questions, Fabric of the Cosmos offers a history of our understanding of the cosmos. Guiding us through Newton's experiments and Einstein's ideas about relativity and M-theory, Greene argues that our universe remains one big mystery. It's a world of superstrings: tiny membranes that vibrate in 10 different dimensions, link black matter, and suggest the existence of theoretically countless universes. Mind boggling? It should be. "We are," Greene concludes, "most definitely, still wandering in the jungle"Ă‘one where time and space may have little or no meaning, after all.
Knopf. 569 pages. $28.95.

Newsday 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Even compared with Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, Greene's book stands out for its sweeping ambition and for its populist commitment to stripping the mystery from difficult concepts without watering down the science. ... As pure intellectual adventure, this is about as good as it gets." Corey S. Powell

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Generous dollops of humor and deft use of analogies and characters from popular culture, Mulder and Scully from The X-Files make numerous appearances, delightfully leaven what could have been a ponderous treatise. Perhaps Greene's greatest gift is his ability to convey the sense that, for all their magnificent achievements, scientists still have a long way to go before they fully comprehend the nature of nature." James N. Gardner

San Diego Union-Trib 4 of 5 Stars
"...Greene tackles the questions of time, space and the meaning of reality with clarity, creativity and humor. ... [He] seems to realize that for most of his readers, the day's most compelling conundrum isn't the where the first lumps of matter came from or the meaning of decoherence, but what they'll have for lunch." Scott LaFee

NY Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As a popularizer of exquisitely abstract science, he is both a skilled and kindly explicator. ... The Fabric of the Cosmos is as dazzling as it is tough, and it beautifully reflects this theoretician's ardor for his work." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

If the idea that time may travel in more than one direction hurts your brain, there's hope for you yet. Greene, author of The Elegant Universe and professor at Columbia University, designed this dazzling overview of physical reality for general readers (and kindly gives ample notice when he's about to delve into physics-speak). Using humorous examples from everyday life, from Larry King and Homer Simpson to earthworms, Greene animates thorny questions of space, time, and reality. Although he stresses speculative physics, he often dismisses some of its implications. And the illustrations don't add much. But Greene's enthusiasm and "excitement for science on the threshold of vital breakthroughs," notes The New York Times, "is supremely contagious."