time_reborn

Book Review: Time Reborn

Article Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

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Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe is one of those books intended to provoke discussion. Right from the first pages, author Lee Smolin — a Canadian theoretical physicist who also teaches philosophy — puts forward a position: time is real, and not an illusion of the human experience (as other physicists try to argue).

Smolin, in fact, uses that concept of time as a basis for human free will. If time is real, he writes, this is the result: “Novelty is real. We can create, with our imagination, outcomes not computable from knowledge of the present.”

Physics as philosophy. A powerful statement to make in the opening parts of the book.  The only challenge is understanding the rest of it.

Smolin advertises his book as open to the general reader who has no background in physics or mathematics, promising that there aren’t even equations to worry about. He also breaks up the involved explanations with wry observations of fatherhood, or by bringing up anecdotes from his past.

Artist concept of Gravity Probe B orbiting the Earth to measure space-time, a four-dimensional description of the universe including height, width, length, and time.  Image credit: NASA

Artist concept of Gravity Probe B orbiting the Earth to measure space-time, a four-dimensional description of the universe including height, width, length, and time. Image credit: NASA

It works, but you need to be patient. Theoretical physics is so far outside of the everyday that at times it took me (with education focusing on journalism and space policy, admittedly) two or three readings of the same passage to understand what was going on.

But as I took my time, a whole world opened up to me.

I found myself understanding more about Einstein’s special and general relativity than I did in readings during high school and university. The book also made me think differently about cosmology (the nature of the universe), especially in relation to biological laws.

While the book is enjoyable, it is probably best not to read it in isolation as it is a positional one — a book that gathers information scientifically and analytically, to be sure, but one that does not have a neutral point of view to the conclusions.

We’d recommend picking up other books such as the classic A Brief History of Time (by physicist Stephen Hawking) to learn more about the universe, and how other scientists see time work.

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Coacervate
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Coacervate
May 31, 2013 8:15 PM

How would you compare/contrast it to A BHoT?

Jihm
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Jihm
June 1, 2013 4:14 PM

Groan! I’m sorry that I signed up to enter the give-away before learning what the book is about.

Andrew Jaremko
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Andrew Jaremko
June 1, 2013 10:00 PM

CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks has an interview with Dr. Smolin about the book at http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2013/04/20/april-20-2013/#5 . You can hear Dr. Smolin’s lecture at http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/videos/time-reborn .

Gorka Eleizalde
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Gorka Eleizalde
June 3, 2013 6:57 AM

I will read it… Time (self opinion) is one of the great inductions of matter in this 4D universe that we can sense. Thank you!

Prism2Spectrum
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Prism2Spectrum
June 9, 2013 3:37 PM
– “[T]ime is real, and not an illusion of the human experience…” If some physicists assert time is not revolving measures through, rotating units within, the energy-matter Universe – expanding-out future horizon, winding-down past beginning, no wonder physics may be fallen into “crisis”. Pardon my mechanical, clockwork train of thought. – “[W]e can create, with our imagination, outcomes…” If meaning understood: Man is a creator. Humans, conscious of intellect, imagine, dream, envision. From intelligent mind (through gifted hand), experiment, design and build. Over Planet of wealth, by intelligent dominion, he supremely stands. Above his Homeworld, and teeming animal kingdom, the dreamer Man. From Earth “subdued”, he reaches for the stars, the maker man. On the anvil of imagination,… Read more »
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