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April 15, 2024

My review of Brian Greene's 'The Elegant Universe'


Back story: in early 2000 Barnes & Noble held a contest in which entrants were required to explain, in 250 words or less, why a given book of their choice merited inclusion in what was to be called the Independent Thinkers series, a group of books selected for their original and provocative points of view.

Below is my submission for the contest.

Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe," like any book, is an idea in two dimensions: words on paper. This brave text would put lightning in a bottle; its heart is nothing less than an explanation of how our everyday world is a kind of Potemkin Village, masking a violent, seething, unimaginably frantic 11-dimensional space of energy fields and matter exploding and vanishing within and around us.

The audacity of any attempt at a final "Theory of Everything" is always admirable and yet, ultimately, poignant and futile. In an attempt to understand all that appears mysterious by way of reason and mathematics, Greene shows how the greatest thinkers of modern physics open vistas of thought that appear tantalizingly close to success at explaining our universe. It is as if the belief of the leading physicists at the dawn of the twentieth century that everything important had been discovered, and what remained was only to fill in the details, never existed: what's past becomes prologue.

If indeed we are walking, talking, scheming, dreaming energy fields, composed of nothing but infinitesimally tiny vibrating loops of string-like stuff, sleeping and then waking each morning and resuming our 11-dimensional trip through time, each of us at a submicroscopic level indistinguishable from any other of the six billion souls on the the planet, so be it. The very idea of a shared nature, our common essence, is one so powerful and uplifting that the book containing it demands inclusion in the Independent Thinkers series.

I didn't win, place or show.

I still like the essay, though.

April 15, 2024 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


I just saw a show on PBS called "Space Time" that discussed the potential of the universe being a simulation. He walked through all the math and theories and left me in the cosmic dust trying to comprehend what was being said. I would have to watch that show 10 times to begin to understand some of it. Now I want to read The Elegant Universe.

Posted by: Mike | Apr 16, 2024 10:08:06 AM


Posted by: Gregory Perkins | Apr 15, 2024 7:30:06 PM

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