Friday, March 20, 2015

THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS

Review of THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS: SPACE, TIME, AND THE TEXTURE OF REALITY by BRIAN GREENE

The challenge I find with nonfiction is that many authors know their topic backwards and forwards...but not how to write about it in an engaging way. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Brian Greene. Physics may not be the most accessible subject for many people, but Greene uses simplified terms and a contagious excitement to make everything from relativity to string theory more approachable.  

I went into this book with a minimal understanding of physics. Frankly, a lot went over my head. I felt I would either need to re-read this book several times to fully absorb everything or - what I intend to do - read many more books on similar topics. I often need application for real understanding and struggled the most with concepts that I simply can’t picture. That being said, I did learn a great deal and, perhaps more importantly, fanned my interest in physics overall. Areas that I understood the least didn’t feel like frustrating concepts forever beyond my reach, but more like exciting mysteries for me to slowly unwrap.

I found myself surprised by how much physics can sound like philosophy. Of course, physics roots itself in facts, but nevertheless I think philosophy when I hear questions like, “What is there when there is nothing?” or “Where is the end to infinity?” Scientifically based or not, some of the questions posed in the physics field are simply mind-boggling.

I would suggest reading this book in small snippets. That’s exactly what Greene advises from the start, but not what I did. I read this in large chunks at a time, but likely might have grasped more if I read less than a chapter at once and allowed myself some time to ponder and absorb all the ideas put forth before reading on.

From entropy to spacetime, this book covers a lot of ground! I imagine it’s a little too simple for anyone well versed in physics, but if you’re looking to widen your basic understanding I would highly recommend THE FABRIC OF THE COSMOS.