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Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe (2020)

por Brian Greene

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5521143,561 (3.91)4
"From the world-renowned physicist, co-founder of the World Science Festival, and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes this utterly captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose. Brian Greene takes readers on a breathtaking journey from the big bang to the end of time and invites us to ponder meaning in the face of this unimaginable expanse. He shows us how, from its original orderly state the universe has been moving inexorably toward chaos, and, still, remarkable structures have continually formed: the planets, stars, and galaxies that provide islands in a sea of disorder; biochemical mechanisms, including mutation and selection, animate life; neurons, information, and thought developed into complex consciousness which in turn gave rise to cultures and their timeless myths and creativity. And he describes, as well, how, in the deep reaches of the future, the nature of the universe will threaten the existence of matter itself. Through a series of nested stories Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. Taken together, it is a completely new perspective on our place in the universe and on what it means to be human"--… (mais)
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Anybody who has driven down the Richmond Street ramp diving into Downtown Toronto from the Don Valley Parkway will remember this: a huge sign on top of an evangelical church proclaiming: “The End is Coming. Call Jim” with a telephone number following.

“Until the End of Time” by Brian Greene fleshes out what Jim might have told me if I had taken the time to call the phone number.

I went into reading this book with a firm idea of what I was looking for: is there an answer to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and entropy or are we doomed to a collapsing Universe?

Dr. Greene was pretty firm in his answer: Doomed. With a capital ‘D’.

The obvious successes of evolution and the proliferation of information in the universe notwithstanding, eventually, in a billion billion billion years our Universe will go quiet with the disappearance of the final pockets of low entropy space.

And if there was any doubt about this turn of events, the confirmation of the Higgs Field not long ago showed us that all protons in the Universe will decay and take the physical world as we know it along with them.

The math confirms it.

The news was not enough to discourage Greene. He feels there is so much more to learn about us and our world, so much to appreciate about the accident we call life, that we should awaken each day to celebrate what’s here and what’s all around us.

Because I am reading this in the fall I kinda know what he’s talking about. The giant red maples on my street are so beautiful this time of the year I hardly know where to look first.

“Until the End of Time” is a nausea-inducing read not because of the message, and certainly not because of the quality of the writing because the writing is for the most part excellent.

Greene loses me a little in the discussion of religion and human kind’s frailties.

He moves beautifully from the tiniest particles in matter to the giant spaces between solar systems, and even galaxies; from today to the distant future. It’s the going back and forth that made me a little nauseous and actually happy to finally put the book down.

I think it didn’t help that he used the metaphor of the Empire State Building in New York to demonstrate how little we have gone on the eventual voyage of the universe from the Big Bang to the Big End.

Constantly looking up at the heights above and then looking down from the top — the end of the story — made this a vertigo-inducing affair.

I knew about the eventual demise of our solar system. I did not know what physicists believe to be the end game. How unlikely they believe Mind will survive even in a disembodied form.

When you meet Greene in person he is a very amiable scientist. We were lucky to have heard him interviewed at a theatre in Toronto just days before the city was locked down to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the population.

And wasn’t there a touch of irony? ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Not my favorite by him. DNF ( )
  JessiAdams | Feb 9, 2023 |
Enjoyed learning about physics, atomic particles, cosmology, etc. I’ve always had a hard time grasping entropy, this helped a bit. Didn’t like the last two or three chapters as much as the earlier ones. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
Covers a lot, from sub-atomic particles, to biology, to evolution, to the origin of language, to the death of the universe, to Boltzmann brains. The presentation was entirely understandable by a layman such as myself. The limits to stellar fusion limits, why stars generally only create elements up to iron, and the special bipolar H2O geometry were explained especially well. ( )
  Castinet | Dec 11, 2022 |
A remarkable book. Did you ever wish you could sit down with one of the top theoretical physicists, someone that was responsible for groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory, and ask them about life, the universe, and everything? Well . . . wish granted.

Let’s start with a couple of warnings. If physics isn’t your thing, if you don’t find the double-slit experiment mind-blowing, or the relatively recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle shocking, you may find this book - a bridge too far. But, if you’ve ever wondered why there is something instead of nothing, or how life or consciousness may have started, you’ll find this book entirely readable, although you may have to clear headspace to fully digest it. IMHO, Greene breaks through in this book, from being an excellent communicator and making the insanely complex understandable (his prior books), to an author that is profound and a great storyteller (this book).

A second warning, this book contains some truths that are disturbing and may create extreme existential dread. His explanations of the relentless march of entropy, the case for predestination, and the various terminations of Earth, life, and reality itself, can be difficult to accept. If you have strong religious sensitivities, you also may want to think twice about reading this book. However, I will add that Greene wrote this work with humility and empathy. The book is meticulously researched, he never asks you to take his word. It has 74 pages of footnotes and references. In addition, he shows compassion for the reader, recognizing the moments that cause anxiety and softening them with his stories of his own prior bias and fears.

If you still want to continue, you will be richly rewarded. Green tells a cohesive story which begins with the lure of eternity, then follows with the origin of the universe, life, and consciousness, recognizes the special nature of belief, language, and stories, and ends with an examination of the end of all things. It’s a compelling tale, supported by math, facts, and the continuous progress of physics. You’ll dive into the big bang, black holes, evolution, DNA, and consciousness. His prose is often as good as any master novelist and the story arc of the universe is the most majestic of all tales.

A masterwork by a brilliant scientist that has taken the time to share his life’s work with us in a breathtaking and compassionate way. A grand journey through matter and time, revealing difficult truths, but leaving space to appreciate beauty and meaning in our existence. Five stars going supernova one by one. ( )
1 vote Kevin_A_Kuhn | May 16, 2022 |
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"From the world-renowned physicist, co-founder of the World Science Festival, and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes this utterly captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose. Brian Greene takes readers on a breathtaking journey from the big bang to the end of time and invites us to ponder meaning in the face of this unimaginable expanse. He shows us how, from its original orderly state the universe has been moving inexorably toward chaos, and, still, remarkable structures have continually formed: the planets, stars, and galaxies that provide islands in a sea of disorder; biochemical mechanisms, including mutation and selection, animate life; neurons, information, and thought developed into complex consciousness which in turn gave rise to cultures and their timeless myths and creativity. And he describes, as well, how, in the deep reaches of the future, the nature of the universe will threaten the existence of matter itself. Through a series of nested stories Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. Taken together, it is a completely new perspective on our place in the universe and on what it means to be human"--

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