Time Reborn

  • by Lee Smolin
  • Narrated by Sean Pratt
  • 10 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

What is time?
This deceptively simple question is the single most important problem facing science as we probe more deeply into the fundamentals of the universe. All of the mysteries physicists and cosmologists face - from the Big Bang to the future of the universe, from the puzzles of quantum physics to the unification of forces and particles - come down to the nature of time.
The fact that time is real may seem obvious. You experience it passing every day when you watch clocks tick, bread toast, and children grow. But most physicists, from Newton to Einstein to today's quantum theorists, have seen things differently. The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable. That is why the consequences of adopting the view that time is real are revolutionary.
Lee Smolin, author of the controversial best seller The Trouble with Physics, argues that a limited notion of time is holding physics back. It's time for a major revolution in scientific thought. The reality of time could be the key to the next big breakthrough in theoretical physics.
What if the laws of physics themselves were not timeless? What if they could evolve? Time Reborn offers a radical new approach to cosmology that embraces the reality of time and opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. There are few ideas that, like our notion of time, shape our thinking about literally everything, with huge implications for physics and beyond - from climate change to the economic crisis. Smolin explains in lively and lucid prose how the true nature of time impacts our world.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Probably the best Science book I've listened to

There is not a wasted concept in this book. The author explains everything you need to understand about time and why he thinks it is real and how modern physics has taken it out of the equation. He starts with defining mathematics as the study of the unchanging. Math (in the Platonic/Western Thought way) is how how we sneak timelessness into our way of thinking about the universe. The Newtonian paradigm adds to taking time out of the equation by the way we always must consider a subset of the universe as a whole and we are the observers and we create the time, but the part under study never covers the whole universe. Time is external to that which is under study.

The author explains "Boltzman's Brain" so that I finally understand what it means and why it's important, he explains entropy, entanglement, the standard model and Einstein's General relativity and how they relate to how we take time out of the model.

This book will forever change the way I think about time. I think it is probably the best of all the 50 or so astrophysics/cosmology/physics books I've read and reviewed over the last 2 years.

I highly recommend listening to this book. The narrator knew exactly when to have the mocking laugh, the inflection and so on. I suspect the author worked with the narrator to make the presentation that flawless.

(p.s. At the core of this book lurks the question "why is there something instead of nothing". I just listened to Holt's book "Why does the world exist". It's mostly a philosophical book, but both this book and that book do complement each other and would make and excellent summer read).


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- Gary

False Dichotomies

Smolin is brilliant and an excellent writer. I really enjoyed, appreciated, and mostly agreed with his hypotheses in his The Trouble with Physics. Time Reborn is a good book and well worth the read. The narration is expressive and excellent. The first half of Time Reborn is a particularly well written account of why Smolin feels Time should be reborn. The second half of the book is more technical, less well written, quite speculative, and has weak foundations that seems to render the main conclusions invalid.

I think the fundamental weakness is the author’s self-limitation by acceptance of quite a few false dichotomies. The most important of these false dichotomies is regarding Bell’s Theorem. Smolin says Bell’s Theorem proves quantum theory must be non-local. This is not so. Bell’s Theorem proves that no local theory can explain quantum correlations. There could be some novel theories that are neither local nor non-local and are able to explain quantum correlations without violation of Bell’s theorem. Accepting this false dichotomy leads Smolin down a chain of reasoning culminating in a rejection of the relativity of synchronicity.

The second dichotomy I found invalid is any theory without time must yield a deterministic world that would necessarily have fixed laws, fixed constants, fixed particles, would lack novelty, and would be a stranglehold upon thought. All this is ridiculous. It is quite easy to imagine non-Newtonian deterministic theories without time that allow constants and particles to evolve deterministically with causation as a time-like partial ordering. Such a universe would seem as open and novel to an observer as any open universe.

Smolin kind of explains why giving up the relativity of synchronicity is really not a good idea, then tosses it out anyway. This seems really unwise and weakens his ideas depending upon elimination of this well tested feature of special relativity.

I had a number of other minor nits with this book. Smolin, who should know better, called non-locally in QM an “effect”. There is no non-local quantum effect (that would transmit information from the cause), but instead there is a subtle influence, incapable of transmitting information of any kind.

Another nit, but still annoying, Smolin describes the path of a thrown object as a parabola. Not so, it is an elliptical segment; which becomes clear if one imagines what would happen if the path continued without hitting the Earth, going into orbit (not flying off parabolically into space.)

I agreed strongly with Smolin’s trouble with physics, and that trouble almost certainly involves a fundamental invalid assumption we are making. Dragging back the theory of universal time seems very unlikely resolve this invalid assumption issue, since that old theory, until recently, was held by almost everyone, and has been extremely well examined.

Smolin also seems to contend that questions like “Why is there something rather than nothing” are outside the scope of scientific questions. I instead like Hawking’s quote from In A Brief History of Time “if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."
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- Michael

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-03-2013
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio