The Lightness of Being

  • by Frank Wilczek
  • Narrated by Walter Dixon
  • 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Our understanding of nature's deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past 25 years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. He calls it "The Lightness of Being." Space is no mere container, empty and passive. It is a dynamic grid, modern ether, and its spontaneous activity creates and destroys particles. This new understanding of mass explains the puzzling feebleness of gravity, and a gorgeous unification of all the forces comes sharply into focus. The Lightness of Being is the first book to explore the implications of these revolutionary ideas about mass, energy, and the nature of empty space. In it, Wilczek masterfully presents new perspectives on our incredible universe and envisions a new golden age of fundamental physics.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I like this topic a lot—This book covers many great concepts in cosmology and theoretical physics, and they're beautifully presented. It's a significant contribution to that class of books which helps the listener piece together a consistent view of dark energy, dark matter, and the underlying structure of space itself.
One of the most interesting discussions is on the history of the ether, and how the fashion of this concept has ebbed and flowed over the past one hundred and twenty years. Wary of this antiquated term, we're left with a description of space as some kind of soup of particle pairs that spontaneously appear and annihilate, due to the basic uncertainty of quantum fluctuations.
However, what I found strange about this book was what it did NOT discuss. The fact that there was so much about spontaneously created and annihilated particle pairs begs the question—why is there no name given to this phenomenon? If the idea is truly distinct from John Wheeler's 1955 Quantum Foam proposal, then why is there no comparison drawn? And if space is full of this phenomenon, what is the possible extent of it, relative to the visible matter in the universe? Is the author purposefully avoiding questions to which he has no good answer? That doesn't seem scientific at all.
Furthermore, the predominant view of this book is from a particle-based perspective,
although there are many tantalizing references to quantum field theory—but no in-depth discussion of the specific nature of bosons vs. their associated fields.
Overall, it feels like there are so many opportunities lost in this presentation of a truly fascinating subject.

Now for the worst of it. The narration is intolerable. Walter Dixon narrates with a strange, affected whisper that's both distracting and demeaning. His unyielding, emotionally-charged tone is the kind of voice you'd expect of a dramatic fairy story told to a five-year-old. I've listened to more than three hundred audiobooks, and this reading is one of the worst. This is a book on SCIENCE, Folks—so what's with the reader's continual high-drama, hush-hush inflections? I only survived by continually mocking this ridiculous, over-the-top narration. Not that that's the whole of it—you've got to admire how Mr. Dixon can plow through a long, complicated sentence without taking a breath—but making a complex sentence go by quickly is NOT the best way to make it clear to a listener. Furthermore, at random intervals, his tone becomes strangely strident, making the listening experience both continuously frustrating and occasionally uncomfortable. You have to wonder—doesn't Gildan Media have a director to help wayward narrators match their tone appropriately to the source material?
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- Scott "No B.S. reviews. I'll never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration."

We are part of the cosmic dance.

This book is crystal clear . The best cosmology book that I have found.Under standing understanding : I believe that it plays off of the human minds ability to integrate information, , to the highest level,in the parallel and probablistic. Space time GPS grid, in our brain. The human brain uses this process to create consciousness but probably tries out many juxtapositions prior to determining what Will become conscious. Even the very best non-algorithmic computer programs can't yetdo this. The brain creates A virtual reality based on this, for survival.
According to Ludwig Boltzman, sensory impressions are based at best on statistical estimates and scientific research is ,at neither precise nor accurate.Complex Scietific investigations, demand statistical analysis.
In special relativity, momentum is closely related to energy. Under boosts, energy and momentum mix with one another, just as time and space do. The total momentum of an isolated system is conserved. Space-time and matter and energy interact on Einstein's reality- metric grid and the brain creates-responds with a virtual reality based on historical survival. A dance,history does”nt repeat itself, but it rhymes.
What's fundamental, is the interpretation of quantum field theory as the grid. The reality grid like the neuronal consciousness grid is semi continuous ,with fermions ,photons and other bosons ,being simultaneously destroyed and created along the way to create motion just like our neurological consciousness grid creates and destroys ionic flow , integrating to the highest level. Space Time matter energy events don't repeat , but they do rhyme .Events may start out random, at the quantum level, but in a complex manner, they end up as a song ,and we and our consciousness ,are part of of the cosmic dance.

Paraphrased after Wilczek, Frank (2009-03-25). The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces
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- robert "I have a science background and I am fascinated with epistemology."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-10-2014
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC