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In Cosmic Numbers, mathematics professor James Stein traces the discovery, evolution, and interrelationships of the great numbers that define our world. Some numbers, like the speed of light and absolute zero, are well known to the general public. Others, such as Boltzmann’s constant and the Chandrasekhar limit, are known only to those with a deep knowledge of science. But these numbers do far more than the average person might dare to imagine: they tell us how this world began, the way we were and the way we are, and what the future holds. Stein reveals the manner in which certain cosmic numbers came to light, the dramatis personae involved, and cutting-edge developments associated with these numbers. Many are the cornerstones of grand discoveries and theories. They represent landmarks in the history of intellectual achievement. And the stories of these numbers offer a novel understanding of physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Much more than a gee-whiz collection, Cosmic Numbers illuminates why particular numbers are so important—both to scientists and to the rest of us.
Astronomer Royal Martin Rees shows how the behaviour and origins of the universe can be explained by just six numbers. How did a single genesis event create billions of galaxies, black holes, stars and planets? How did atoms assemble - here on Earth, and perhaps on other worlds - into living beings intricate enough to ponder their origins? This book describes the recent avalanche of discoveries about the universe's fundamental laws, and the deep connections that exist between stars and atoms - the cosmos and the microscopic world. Just six numbers, imprinted in the big bang, determine the essence of our world, and this book devotes one chapter to explaining each.
In How Math Explains the World, mathematician Stein reveals how seemingly arcane mathematical investigations and discoveries have led to bigger, more world-shaking insights into the nature of our world. In the four main sections of the book, Stein tells the stories of the mathematical thinkers who discerned some of the most fundamental aspects of our universe. From their successes and failures, delusions, and even duels, the trajectories of their innovations—and their impact on society—are traced in this fascinating narrative. Quantum mechanics, space-time, chaos theory and the workings of complex systems, and the impossibility of a "perfect" democracy are all here. Stein's book is both mind-bending and practical, as he explains the best way for a salesman to plan a trip, examines why any thought you could have is imbedded in the number p , and—perhaps most importantly—answers one of the modern world's toughest questions: why the garage can never get your car repaired on time. Friendly, entertaining, and fun, How Math Explains the World is the first book by one of California's most popular math teachers, a veteran of both "math for poets" and Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies. And it's perfect for any reader wanting to know how math makes both science and the world tick.
THE FIVE AGES OF THE UNIVERSE is a riveting biography of the universe which describes for the first time five distinct eras that Adams and Laughlin themselves defined as a result of their own research. From the first gasp of inflation that caused the Big Bang, through the birth of stars, to the fading of all light, THE FIVE AGES OF THE UNIVERSE describes the death of our own sun, tremendous fiery supernovae explosions, dramatic collisions of galaxies, proton decay, the evaporation of black holes and the possibility of communications when there are no planets or stars or even black holes left. This is a voyage to a land of red giants, white dwarfs, brown dwarfs, great walls larger than galaxies and WIMPs. With daring uncharacteristic of most scientists, the authors have applied themselves to the question of what precise kind of biology could possibly exist when, say, carbon atoms no longer exist. What, ultimately, is a lifeform? Their insight into the fundamental physics that allows life is both fascinating and provocative. Readers will find all the strange colour of science fiction with none of the fiction in this awesome scientific epic.
Longlisted for the 2015 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award Short-listed for Physics World's Book of the Year The Sunday Times (UK) Best Science Book of 2014 A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Science Book of Fall 2014 An NBC News Top Science and Tech Book of 2014 A Politics & Prose 2014 Staff Pick In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus dared to go against the establishment by proposing that Earth rotates around the Sun. Having demoted Earth from its unique position in the cosmos to one of mediocrity, Copernicus set in motion a revolution in scientific thought. This perspective has influenced our thinking for centuries. However, recent evidence challenges the Copernican Principle, hinting that we do in fact live in a special place, at a special time, as the product of a chain of unlikely events. But can we be significant if the Sun is still just one of a billion trillion stars in the observable universe? And what if our universe is just one of a multitude of others-a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities? In The Copernicus Complex, the renowned astrophysicist Caleb Scharf takes us on a scientific adventure, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets, probability theory, and beyond, arguing that there is a solution to this contradiction, a third way of viewing our place in the cosmos, if we weigh the evidence properly. As Scharf explains, we do occupy an unusual time in a 14-billion-year-old universe, in a somewhat unusual type of solar system surrounded by an ocean of unimaginable planetary diversity: hot Jupiters with orbits of less than a day, planet-size rocks spinning around dead stars, and a wealth of alien super-Earths. Yet life here is built from the most common chemistry in the universe, and we are a snapshot taken from billions of years of biological evolution. Bringing us to the cutting edge of scientific discovery, Scharf shows how the answers to fundamental questions of existence will come from embracing the peculiarity of our circumstance without denying the Copernican vision. With characteristic verve, Scharf uses the latest scientific findings to reconsider where we stand in the balance between cosmic significance and mediocrity, order and chaos. Presenting a compelling and bold view of our true status, The Copernicus Complex proposes a way forward in the ultimate quest: determining life's abundance, not just across this universe but across all realities.
Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist. Fascinating from first to last—this is a book that has already prompted the attention and admiration of some of the most prominent scientists and mathematicians.
The constants of nature are the numbers that define the essence of the Universe. They tell us how strong its forces are, and what its fundamental laws can do: the strength of gravity, of magnetism, the speed of light, and the masses of the smallest particles of matter. They encode the deepest secrets of the Universe and express at once our greatest knowledge and our greatest ignorance about the cosmos. Their existence has taught us the profound truth that Nature abounds with unseen regularities. Yet, while we have become skilled at measuring the values of these constants, our frustrating inability to explain or predict their values shows how much we still have to learn about the inner workings of the Universe. What is the ultimate status of these constants of Nature? Are they truly constant? Could life have evolved and persisted if they were even slightly different? And are there other Universes where they are different? These are some of the issues that this book grapples with. It looks back to the discoveries of the first constants of Nature and the impact they had on scientists like Einstein. This book also tells the story of a tantalising new development in astronomy. For the first time astronomical observations are suggesting that some of the constants of Nature were different when the Universe was younger. So are our laws of Nature slowly changing? Is anything about our Universe immune from the ravages of time? Are there any constants of Nature at all?

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