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The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew (Vintage) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Alan Lightman

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Dieser Artikel erscheint am 7. Oktober 2014.
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7. Oktober 2014 Vintage

“Alan Lightman brings a light touch to heavy questions. Here is a book about nesting ospreys, multiple universes, atheism, spiritualism, and the arrow of time. Throughout, Lightman takes us back and forth between ordinary occurrences—old shoes and entropy, sailing far out at sea and the infinite expanse of space.
“In this slight volume, Lightman looks toward the universe and captures aspects of it in a series of beautifully written essays, each offering a glimpse at the whole from a different perspective: here time, there symmetry, not least God. It is a meditation by a remarkable humanist-physicist, a book worth reading by anyone entranced by big ideas grounded in the physical world.”
—Peter L. Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

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“Lightman is one of the few physicists who can name-check the Dalai Lama, astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, Dostoevsky, and dark energy in the same work, while deftly guiding readers through discussions of modern physics and philosophy. Here he has composed a thoughtful, straightforward collection of essays that invite readers to think deeply about the world around them.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Theoretical physicist and novelist Lightman presents seven elegantly provocative ‘universe’ essays that elucidate complex scientific thought in the context of everyday experiences and concerns. . . . Ranging from ancient intuitions and calculations to today’s high-tech inquiries, Lightman celebrates our grand quest for knowledge and takes measures of the challenges our discoveries deliver.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Regardless of outstanding interests in science or religion, any reader will enjoy pondering, through well-organized and graceful prose, what can be objectively proven about the world in which we live and what remains a mystery.” —Emily Rapp, Boston Globe

“Alan Lightman might be the only writer who can dance through not just one but seven universes in a book not much larger than a human hand. . . . Above all, Lightman has an appealing humility and affection for the mysterious, and an even more attractive compassion for humans, with their short lives and big questions.” —Margaret Quamme, Columbus Dispatch

“All of the essays in this collection are rewarding, but the most intriguing for popular science lovers will be the first, which gives the book its title.” —Laura Miller, Salon

“Humanity’s resistance to change is a recurrent theme in The Accidental Universe. We accept that the universe is in a state of decay but yet, we deny our mortality. As an atheist, Lightman denies the consolation of religion yet bravely confesses that he too cannot accept his death, inevitable though it may be. Life, Lightman offers, may be more precious and beautiful because of its fleeting nature—not in spite of it. Science and religion both share a sense of wonder, Lightman observes, and it is this sense of wonder that can sustain us in a universe both beautiful and strange.” —Matt Staggs, Everyday eBook
“As he’s demonstrated in highly original novels like Einstein’s Dreams and Mr. g, Alan Lightman possesses the mind of a theoretical physicist and the soul of an artist. . . . While Lightman hopes ‘there will always be an edge between the known and the unknown,’ he offers intriguing glimpses of how the gulf we too often perceive between science and the rest of life might be bridged.” —Shelf Awareness

“Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman—who also in this book shows himself to be a gifted essayist—has written not so much about cosmology as his title might imply but about our direct, subjective experience with it. . . . We are not observers on the outside looking in. We are on the inside too.” —New York Journal of Books

“In The Accidental Universe, Alan Lightman tackles big questions of life and death, morality and human consciousness—in a universe that may be far bigger and much stranger than we thought.  It’s a universe that also may be fundamentally unknowable, as if God is making other universes where we can't see them and will never know them. There is no writer quite like Alan Lightman, and his calm, humane, and always intelligent voice guides us along strange paths into nature and our human selves.” —Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone
“Science is changing the way we think, especially about ourselves. As a guide to the multiple identities that science now offers, you'll want this beautiful book—poetic, humanistic, personal, inspiring. As a physicist, novelist, observer of coastal birds and the stars, Alan Lightman covers a lot of ground. Among so many other things, Lightman asks his reader to consider immortality, multiple universes, the possibility of a cyborg world and those who might resist its seductions. I couldn't put it down; a thrilling read.” —Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, MIT, and author of Alone Together
“A Walden for our digital, cosmological, and quantum age from a modern-day Thoreau. Not since Fred Hoyle in another era (and universe) has anyone dared to cover such a sweeping domain, and no one so elegantly, so parsimoniously, and so personally.” —Jon Kabat Zinn, professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts, author of Full Catastrophe Living 
“Alan Lightman is one of the all-too-few scientists whose writings achieve genuine literary quality. Anyone, with or without a scientific background, will be stimulated and inspired by these essays.” —Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, Cambridge University, and Astronomer Royal of England, author of Our Final Hour
“Alan Lightman brings a light touch to heavy questions. Here is a book about nesting ospreys, multiple universes, atheism, spiritualism, and the arrow of time. Throughout, Lightman takes us back and forth between ordinary occurrences—old shoes and entropy, sailing far out at sea and the infinite expanse of space. In this slight volume, Lightman looks toward the universe, and captures aspects of it in a series of beautifully written essays, each offering a glimpse at the whole from a different perspective: here time, there symmetry, not least God. It is a meditation by a remarkable humanist-physicist, a book worth reading by anyone entranced by big ideas grounded in the physical world.” —Peter Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

“Lightman is that rare and wonderful creature: a theoretical physicist who has taught at Harvard and MIT and also written six novels . . . so demand among smart readers should be high.” —Library Journal

“All of the essays in The Accidental Universe are carefully argued, and there is not a shrill or dogmatic line in any of them. They’re enlivened by Lightman’s precise, graceful prose and a novelist’s skill for conjuring scenes and characters. . . . Readers will almost certainly come away with more questions than conclusions, as well as with a fresh curiosity about theoretical physics. No doubt that’s just what Lightman would hope for.” —Maria Browning, Chapter 16

“Is our universe merely a statistical fluke, a rare accident that we happen to be able to observe? In The Accidental Universe, Alan Lightman introduces readers to physicists' latest grapplings with the vastness of space, the ineluctable march of time, and the origin of mass. Vivid, personal, and often moving, Lightman's reflections illuminate scientists' zeal for lawfulness, symmetry, and order, as well as their arresting sense of wonder.” —David Kaiser, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival

“Alan Lightman is not only a graceful writer, he is a juggler of scales and perspectives, an informed questioner who works his way in deeper with each exertion. The Accidental Universe disassembles our theoretical surround, cleans and tests all arguments and assumptions, and then, dexterously, puts it all back together. Voila! A book born of stimulating discussions, it will now provoke them.” —Sven Birkerts, author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

“This essay collection could have only been penned by Lightman, that rare hybrid of physicist and storyteller. By shining the beam of his intellect on the cosmos, he illuminates our personal lives in the reflections.” —David Eagleman, Neuroscientist, author of Sum and Incognito

“A sublime reminder of the mysteries behind and beyond the familiar—a call to wonder.” —Brian Christian, author of The Most Human Human

“Alan Lightman deftly weaves the contradictions and mystery of our experience with the awe of exploring the vast physical universe. His graceful book inspires conversation about the wonder of our existence. It invites us to look up at the sky and see a grander, more comprehensible universe.” —Margaret Geller, Professor of Astronomy, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship

From the Hardcover edition.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Alan Lightman is the author of six novels, including the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis, which was a National Book Award finalist. He is also the author of two collections of essays and several books on science. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among other publications. A theoretical physicist as well as a writer, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, where he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.

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47 von 47 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Our small stature in a very big place 14. Januar 2014
Von John L Murphy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition
What this MIT physicist and humanist (he holds a joint professorship, and this leads as he notes crossing his campus to some mental adjustment as he bridges the gaps) brings to familiar Big Questions is a gentle sense of wonder tempered with a scientific rigor. Both qualities are enhanced by his humility, and he accepts that we may not be able to answer what some of his colleagues anticipate as the Unified Theory that explains (after the Higgs Boson) everything. Instead, he cautions us to keep balancing in a humane (if still rational and certainly secular) approach our dual capacity of exacting and verifiable measurement and very cautious speculation.

As these linked essays show, the universe can be conceived as alternately or respectively accidental, temporary, spiritual, symmetrical, gargantuan, lawful, or disembodied. He applies his life's moments gently to enrich his lessons. I like reading books for popular audiences about cosmology, so I found Alan Lightman's style (in an advanced copy for review) engaging and accessible. He brings in his daughter's wedding on the Maine coast, his beloved pair of wingtip shoes, the amazing hexagonal symmetry of a honeycomb, or the disturbing harbinger of a world where our young appear to be wired, shut off from conversation, and online all the time. However, as his last chapter predicts, even those who try to flee the virtual realm as it takes over our physical and spiritual worlds may find themselves shut off from yet another universe now evolving.

Provocatively, Lightman compares how insignificant we are, stuck in a minor galaxy on a middling planet in a marginal status, yet we have figured out so much about the universe that surrounds us, if not the next stage, which we may never be able to discern to our satisfaction, that of multiverses. He tells us that our little worlds on a similarly infinitesimal level may elude our grasp. He imagines us as captains of a ship, up on a bridge, unable to discern fully from our perch what tumult lies below deck.

This sort of deft analogy, modest and never drawing too much attention to itself, characterizes Lightman's approach. Unlike some of his colleagues who write such essays, he keeps the math to a minimum while accentuating the verbal and visual images that he hones to remind us of the sheer amount we know now about our origins, back to the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. But, as we cannot penetrate that first moment of the Big Bang, that too stands to teach us of our own small stature, and how much the universe, big or small in these essays, continues to keep from our eager investigation. All the same, people such as Lightman inspire us to keep asking why.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen His Thinking Mirrors My Own 31. Januar 2014
Von Timothy Haugh - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Over the years, I have read many of Professor Lightman’s books. For me, his work is a mixed bag—sometimes great, sometimes no more than adequate. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I can report The Accidental Universe to belong in the former category. This is a wonderful book.

Most readers are likely familiar with Lightman because of his fiction: Einstein’s Dreams, Good Benito, Reunion (a personal favorite), and others. This book, however, is a work of nonfiction. It is essentially a series of short meditations on the universe by this author who is, after all, both a professor of physics and the humanities.

Meditations is the right word, I think. These brief essays each have the universe as their topic but approach it from a different aspect. Most of the titles give you a clue. “The Temporary Universe” discusses entropy and change, “The Gargantuan Universe” discusses its size with we as a speck in the vastness, and “The Symmetrical Universe” talks about—what else?—symmetry and its intellectual attractiveness (as well as the importance of the Higgs particle).

The two best sections, though, are “The Lawful Universe” and “The Spiritual Universe”. In a sense, they give the underlying themes of the book as a whole. First, there are things about the universe that are intellectually understandable. Over the centuries, the scope of the things that we understand—that we have laws about—has widened considerably, as our conception of the universe itself has grown. (How many of us realize that it was only a hundred years ago that the brightest minds on earth considered the “universe” to consist of a static Milky Way galaxy?) Lightman’s scientific bent enables him to grasp our need for scientific laws quite clearly. On the other hand, Lightman’s also has another side, a contrarian side that looks at the universe differently, and this also comes through.

For lack of a better term, this is his “spiritual” side which is the second strong undercurrent in these pages. Though he remains basically atheist himself, he realizes the importance and the power of faith. I try to strike this balance myself and I find his thinking runs very close to mine. He certainly has the best words to say to the militant atheists I’ve read so far: “As a scientist, I find Dawkins’s efforts to rebut these two arguments for the existence of God—Intelligent Design and morality—completely convincing. However, as I think he would acknowledge, falsifying the arguments put forward to support a proposition does not falsify the proposition. Science can never know what created our universe…The belief or disbelief in such a Being is a matter of faith.” He goes on to say (after more kind words about Dawkins and his accomplishments): “What troubles me about Dawkins’s pronouncements is his wholesale dismissal of religion and religious sensibility…In my opinion, Dawkins has a narrow view of faith and of people. I would be the first to challenge any belief that contradicts the findings of science. But, as I have said earlier, there are things we believe in that do not submit to the methods of science” (p. 49 – 51). I have quoted this rather extensively but, as one who follows these arguments rather closely, I think Lightman has hit it on the head here. (Others, I know, will disagree.)

In the end, I was impressed by Lightman’s thinking here. He expounds easily on matters of science both historical and current. He also obviously considers the meanings of things deeply and speaks well on the subject. I recommend this highly to anyone interested in science and faith.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting but one sided view 5. März 2014
Von John Martin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
On beginning to read The Accidental Universe by Professor Alan Lightman you may think that it is a work of science fiction as he discusses the possibility of there being many universes (the multiverse). While Sheldon Cooper, the central character of the TV show The Big Bang, might be enamored of such a concept, most of us would simply be amused. But Professor Lightman, who is a theoretical physicist with appointments at both Harvard and MIT, is not really interested in exploring this possibility. Rather each chapter of the book focuses on different ways to view our present universe. In each of these chapters he provides interesting and valuable perspectives on how we can view the world and universe.

For example he takes on the question of the compatibility of science and religion and while admitted that he is an atheist he acknowledges that many scientists have deep religious beliefs. He notes that the Central Doctrine of Science is that all properties and events in the physical world are governed by laws that are always and everywhere true—but that they are modified over time by new discoveries. God, on the other hand, is understood to be a Being not restricted by such laws. Thus God and science are compatible as long as God does not interfere AFTER the universe has begun. Thus an interventionist God is incompatible with science. Religion is personal and subjective and thus is different from science.

In the chapter the Gargantuan Universe he takes on the question of whether or not there is life elsewhere and notes that some 3% of all stars have a life-sustaining planet and since there are very many stars, the likelihood is that some form of life exists elsewhere. In the Disembodied Universe he notes that we largely perceive the world through machines and thought processes. Foucault proved that the earth spins on its axis by using a pendulum, yet such an idea is not experienced by our senses—we do not get dizzy and if we throw something up in the air it comes down in the same place. Einstein showed that time is relative and changes depending on speed, but it takes extremely high speeds to demonstrate this phenomenon to a visible degree. Hertz showed that radio waves are invisible. Thus we see and experience only a tiny fraction of reality.

In sum this book is well worth reading as it gives you a better understanding of the world and universe we live in and is written in an engaging way that laypersons can understand.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Retread of false equivalency 15. Februar 2014
Von MZ - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
First, if you read a wide variety of magazines, online and otherwise, you may be disappointed to find out that many of the essays contained in this small book were previously printed in Salon, Orion, Harper's, etc. This fact is acknowledged in the first pages, but I don't know if it is revealed in the Amazon preview. My review will address what I believe is the weakest and most decisive chapter of this book: The Spiritual Universe.

Alan Lightman, like many other scientists, falls into a tired kind of categorical thinking when it comes to religion. He seems to think that once you have addressed the existence of Christians in the fields of academia and research, then the topic of spirituality in science has been sufficiently covered. While there are cursory mentions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and the three separate Abrahamic faiths, it is clear that Lightman doesn't have a firm grasp on any of them (except perhaps contemporary Christianity). On page 58 he writes of the "Old Testament of Judaism." There is no Old Testament in Judaism. That is a Christian term for the Hebrew Bible, and frankly, a lazy one.

Lightman attempts to equate Christianity with all religious thought known to man. He cites three exemplary men of faith who study and practice science (Collins, Hutchinson, and Gingerich); not surprisingly, they are all devout Christians. In contrast, Lightman obviously harbors negative feelings about Richard Dawkins. He accuses Dawkins of being narrow-minded about people of faith, and of using words of condescension toward Christians; but then he goes on to commit these mental sins in writing about Dawkins. Inadvertently, Lightman is himself narrow-minded about the wide variety of spiritual possibilities found in the world's religions. The majority of believers on Earth are something other than Christian. People of the false equivalency school of thought (like Lightman) are oblivious to that fact. There is more to religion than Christianity; and there is more to Richard Dawkins than atheism.

Alan Lightman could and should write elegantly about what he knows. But for now, his intellectual reach does not extend to spirituality.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Smart book. 29. März 2014
Von Robert A. Christiansen - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Very enlightening & easy to read. Answers lots of questions. Makes you think about things in a different light. Highly recommended.
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