Our Mathematical Universe

  • by Max Tegmark
  • Narrated by Rob Shapiro
  • 15 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy, and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist. Fascinating from first to last - this is a book that has already prompted the attention and admiration of some of the most prominent scientists and mathematicians.


What the Critics Say

“Tegmark offers a fascinating exploration of multiverse theories, each one offering new ways to explain ‘quantum weirdness’ and other mysteries that have plagued physicists, culminating in the idea that our physical world is ‘a giant mathematical object’ shaped by geometry and symmetry. Tegmark’s writing is lucid, enthusiastic, and outright entertaining, a thoroughly accessible discussion leavened with anecdotes and the pure joy of a scientist at work.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lively and lucid, the narrative invites general readers into debates over computer models for brain function, over scientific explanations of consciousness, and over prospects for finding advanced life in other galaxies. Though he reflects soberly on the perils of nuclear war and of hostile artificial intelligence, Tegmark concludes with a bracingly upbeat call for scientifically minded activists who recognize a rare opportunity to make our special planet a force for cosmic progress. An exhilarating adventure for bold readers.” —Bryce Cristensen, Booklist (starred review)

“Our Mathematical Universe boldly confronts one of the deepest questions at the fertile interface of physics and philosophy: why is mathematics so spectacularly successful at describing the cosmos? Through lively writing and wonderfully accessible explanations, Max Tegmark—one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists—guides the reader to a possible answer, and reveals how, if it’s right, our understanding of reality itself would be radically altered.” —Brian Greene, physicist, author of The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality

“Daring, Radical. Innovative. A game changer. If Dr. Tegmark is correct, this represents a paradigm shift in the relationship between physics and mathematics, forcing us to rewrite our textbooks. A must read for anyone deeply concerned about our universe.” —Michio Kaku, author of Physics of the Future 

“Tegmark offers a fresh and fascinating perspective on the fabric of physical reality and life itself. He helps us see ourselves in a cosmic context that highlights the grand opportunities for the future of life in our universe.” —Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near

“Readers of varied backgrounds will enjoy this book. Almost anyone will find something to learn here, much to ponder, and perhaps something to disagree with.” —Prof. Edward Witten, physicist, Fields Medalist & Milner Laureate

“This inspirational book written by a true expert presents an explosive mixture of physics, mathematics and philosophy which may alter your views on reality.” —Prof. Andrei Linde, physicist, Gruber & Milner Laureate for development of inflationary cosmology
“Galileo famously said that the universe is written in the language of mathematics. Now Max Tegmark says that the universe IS mathematics. You don’t have to necessarily agree, to enjoy this fascinating journey into the nature of reality.” —Prof. Mario Livio, astrophysicist, author of Brilliant Blunders and Is God a Mathematician?

“Scientists and lay aficionados alike will find Tegmark’s book packed with information and very thought provoking. You may recoil from his thesis, but nearly every page will make you wish you could debate the issues face-to-face with him.” —Prof. Julian Barbour, physicist, author of The End of Time

“In Our Mathematical Universe, renowned cosmologist Max Tegmark takes us on a whirlwind tour of the universe, past, present—and other.  With lucid language and clear examples, Tegmark provides us with the master measure of not only of our cosmos, but of all possible universes.  The universe may be lonely, but it is not alone.” —Prof. Seth Lloyd, Professor of quantum mechanical engineering, MIT, author of Programming the Universe
“A lucid, engaging account of the various many-universes theories of fundamental physics that are currently being considered, from the multiverse of quantum theory to Tegmark’s own grand vision.” —Prof. David Deutsch, physicist, Dirac Laureate for pioneering quantum computing


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Great ideas and great narration makes this a great audio book. The last quarter of this book has some of the most interesting ideas in physics I have heard. I think these ideas are, by far, the most likely to lead to progress in physics. The first three-quarters is good, but is just a nice rehash similar to a bunch of other speculative physics books covering a brief history of cosmology leading to the theory of inflation and various levels of multiple universes, Boltzmann brains and such, finally culminating in the Measure Problem (one cannot assign consistent probabilities to infinite sets). Then the book gets really interesting! The author proposes that math does not model the universe, but that math IS the universe. The relations defined by a mathematical structure is all that is needed for us to believe all we see and feel is real. Nothing physical is needed. I really thought I was alone in being a strong proponent of this Mathematical Universe idea, so I have quite pleasantly surprised to find this excellent presentation. I was led to my conclusions by a much different path (Bell’s Theorem & Bell Test Experiments) and take these ideas to even greater extremes than Tegmark, but this is the best (the only?) popular presentations of these ideas I have seen.

It may just be awkward editing or just these ideas are heady stuff, but by the end of the book Tegmark seems a bit schizophrenic. He seems to reject continuums and infinities and randomness as unreal (which is what I think), but then he continues to refer to, and use, these as if they were real. Also a good new model in fundamental physics should address multiple issues in physics, but Tegmark does not use his ideas of the Mathematical Universe to clarify the understanding of quantum mechanics (particularly Bell’s Theorem) and the problem linking General Relativity and Quantum mechanics. I think Tegmark underestimated the depth of the Measure Problem. The underlying problem is in any reality, it is simply not possible to take a random sample from an infinite set. Thus any assignment of probability to such constructs is nonsense. Tegmark seems to still be hoping for a resolution of the Measure Problem.

The author has a really pleasant way of covering the history of cosmology, making the story like a mystery novel, using detective work to explain one mystery after another. Yet what makes this book really worth reading is the last quarter where the ideas about the Mathematical Universe are explored. I suspect that in a few hundred years the conception of the Mathematical Universe will be considered the great turning point leading to a final, simple and beautiful, Theory of Everything.
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- Michael "I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read."

Main points are off the mark

The author really explains science very well. In the first half of the book when he's providing background and context he excels. He steps the listener through how we progressed through history from a village perspective to a multiverse. The author states elegantly, the reality of the multiverse is not a theory in of itself since it comes out of the best theory we have to describe our universe, Inflation Theory. If you accept that inflation describes the universe at a fundamental level, but don't like multiverses you need to first come up with a theory that can explain everything inflation does but take out the part where inflation creates other universes not an easy thing to do. Also, the book works well when he's explaining everything you every wanted to know about the Cosmic Microwave Background but were afraid to ask. It really does give good answers about flat space and dark energy and why it's so important to understand the CMB.

But, the author really didn't write the book to tell us those things. He wrote it for two main reasons. He wants to tell you why the Many World Hypothesis (Hugh Everett III) is the best explanation for the mysterious of physics and then goes on to tell you how our universe is mathematics.

I love math at least as much as the next geek and wish the universe was math, but I gave up those kind of thoughts a long time ago. As Confucius said (no, really he did!), he looked for truth in mathematics and studied it for five years before he realized truth laid elsewhere.

I'm not against using the Many World Hypothesis to explain the measurement problem but the approach the author used just was not convincing. I would strongly recommend the David Deutsch book, "The Beginning of Infinity" it covers the same kind of science but is much more coherent. I'll give a shout out to Tegmark, he quotes people like Deutsch and many others I have read and gives them kudos even though he doesn't agree with him throughout the book.

Another book, I would recommend instead is a science fiction book called "Thrice Upon a Time", by James P Hogan, he covers the Many World Hypothesis in a more consistent way than this book does. (Yes, it's fiction but uses science and speculation to explain).

Overall, the reason the author really wrote the book is the reasons I can't fully recommend this book.
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- Gary "l'enfer c'est les autres"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-07-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio