An insightful history of everything that simplifies its complex subject as much as possible but no further.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

UNTIL THE END OF TIME

MIND, MATTER, AND OUR SEARCH FOR MEANING IN AN EVOLVING UNIVERSE

The author of several bestselling explorations of cutting-edge physics turns his attention to the cosmos, and readers will encounter his usual astute observations and analysis.

Greene (Physics and Mathematics/Columbia Univ.; The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, 2016) quotes from philosopher Bertrand Russell who, in a 1948 radio debate with a cleric, based his agnosticism on a scientific law: “the universe has crawled by slow stages to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth and is going to crawl by still more pitiful stages to a condition of universal death…if this is to be taken as evidence of purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not appeal to me.” Russell is referring to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that “everything in the universe has an overwhelming tendency to run down, to degrade, to wither.” Greene explains that this is entropy, a term that is often popularly defined as a gradual slide into disorder. In the Big Bang, a supremely ordered low entropy kernel of energy expanded into the familiar universe, but entropy’s steady increase will lead to a uniformly disordered cold, lifeless emptiness—although not for a long time. The law allows plenty of local, highly organized, low entropy areas—galaxies, stars, civilization—whose existence is more than balanced by wasted energy they produce. Having announced his theme, Greene regularly returns to it in 11 chapters that begin at the Big Bang and proceed with deeply learned, sharp, never dumbed-down accounts of what scientists know about star formation, planet formation, life’s origins, evolution, consciousness, language, culture, and religion. The author concludes his engaging survey with what the future might hold for humans (very long life) and the universe (even longer); beyond a certain entropy, however, there will be no room for us.

An insightful history of everything that simplifies its complex subject as much as possible but no further.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3167-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

more