The Book of Universes

The Book of Universes - John D. Barrow The author considers how we have thought about our universe from Copernicus to various solutions to Einstein's equations up to different incarnations of the multiverse.

There are many solutions to Einsteins equations. Each solution provides a different kind of universe with possibly different characteristics. Most of the solutions are also possible just by solving Netwon's equation (I had not realized that). Some of the solutions give interesting phenomena. Godol's solution involving a non-expaning rotating universe would give us time travel in addition to a a coherent system. Everything Godol does seems interesting beyond belief. That's why it's so believable when Einstein is quoted in the book to have said he went to work at Princeton just to be able to walk home with Godol and talk about stuff.

The footnotes to the book (and the book is chock full of them) are as interesting as the text and I had to book mark both the text and the footnotes because I was constantly switching back and forth. Also, almost every other page had a figure of a graph or a chart with pictorial representation of what was being talked about in the text. DO NOT READ THIS IN KINDLE, IT WOULD BE TOO HARD TO FLIP BACK BETWEEN FOOTNOTES AND FIGURES! (Never mind, this doesn't seem to be available on Kindle).

I had bought the book in 2011 and only got around to reading it recently. The author is good at giving the metaphor and the details of what he is explaining. He doesn't delve into the long analogy that a Brian Greene would provide and therefore this book reads smoother. He's a very good writer and I would find myself rereading paragraphs because he explained it so well and I wanted to understand what he was saying.

There are two models that we use to understand reality. One the Corresponding Theory of Truth and the other Coherent Theory of Truth. The first is data dependent and the second is reason dependent. The author and the way he presents his universes seemed to appeal to the second way of understanding. He would use the systems coherence with its lack of contradictions to attest for the universes authenticity. String Theory (and he does speak of it in the end chapters) is a wonderfully coherent belief system, but it doesn't really (yet) correspond to actual data. Don't get me wrong, Ludwig Boltzman (and he and his Brains are also mentioned) had the coherence before he had the corresponding (atoms couldn't be seen in his days) and he let the nay sayers drive him to suicide.

I liked this book and can recommend it. But, I would first recommend the Copernicus Complex, it covers the same kind of thinking about the universe, but provided a more even approach to the topic. Because in the end, real advancement comes with a better tool of some kind (a microscope, a telescope, detector of some kind, etc.) not just pure reason alone.