Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos": Book Review

I wanted to applaud Michael Pritchard's avuncular, assured audiobook reading. I listened to all 19 discs, more than a day and a night's total recital, over a long summer commute. A poet-friend of mine who shared my hankering for a "physics for poets" version of cosmology recommended this. I figured hearing it would prevent me from flipping pages too rapidly when daunting concepts arose.

So, hearing this massive book word by word helped my slower pace. I had to rewind it often, as of course many ideas are challenging to the most brilliant of minds. That's the whole message of this book, beginning with the history of how we've figured out our place in the universe, and then how we have come to progress from Newton to Einstein to quantum mechanics, string-theory, and multiverses as models of refinement and amazement.

I note that the book has lots of line-drawings. I may therefore have missed out on some refinement of the principles as conveyed elegantly by an affable Greene--he shares a welcome sense of humor with his colleague in popularizing such theories, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (See my review of Dion Graham's perky reading of Tyson's "Death by Black Hole" from earlier this year, as I tackled that soon after "Fabric of the Cosmos.")

All the same, this compendium cannot be faulted. I learned more from its analysis of quantum entanglement and multiple dimensions than Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's primer on M-theory, "The Grand Design" (see my July 2012 review). For depth combined with insight, despite or because of the effort this scholar takes to elaborate at such length on such complex material, as a foray into deep space and in-depth investigation, Greene prepared the way well for me. I recommend this, as a deservedly popular introduction, and as a fine tribute to a masterful audiobook presentation. (A short one, after 274 earlier reviews 7-31-12 on Amazon US, the first mentioning the audiobook.)

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