Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review: Equations of Eternity

Any aspiring physicist should devote as much time to reading popular books as they do studying math and quantum textbooks. One of the best I've come across in recent memory is Equations of Eternity by astronomy trained David Darling. I love books that tie together science and philosophy and keep you awake at night with deep thoughts-and this book delivers on that in spades. Like many popular books on modern science, it ties together quantum physics, relativity, and consciousness.

The first part of the book is titled "Man". In four very interesting chapters, Darling discusses the emergence of the brain and consciousness and how this fits in with the universe at large. I found these first four chapters completely engrossing. I could hardly put the book down and actually read the first part twice. Its full of memorable passages that kept me awake at night thinking about science, such as:

"Whatever a newborn child does, the universe at large does also, because a human baby--like everything else--is an intrinsic part of the cosmos....A factory in which cars are made is a car-making factory. A planet on which there is life is a living planet because the life-forms are a part and a product of the world's substance. And, on the grandest of all scales, if there is sentience within the cosmos then the cosmos itself is sentient. So we may reasonably view an infant's dawning awareness on two levels: as a consciousness arising in the individual and, simultaneously, in the universe as a whole."

In the second part of the book, Darling enters a very interesting discussion of quantum theory and how mathematics relates to reality. This includes a discussion of the foundations of quantum mechanics and the viewpoints of aritstotle/plato, as well as the debate on how real or fundamental mathematics is as a part of the universe.

The book closes with a four chapter section titled "Mind". The last four chapters were not as satisfying as the early part of the book. That being said, the opening and mid-sections of the book were so powerful I can only give this book 5 stars. Highly recommended for anyone interested in quantum theory, the mind, and how the mind relates to the universe as a whole.

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