An encyclopedia-dictionary hybrid that teaches readers about the world and their own existence.
Smolin takes the reader on a vast journey as he goes through the annals of knowledge. He starts with a logical breakdown of the meta-aspects of existence—form, process and idea, or “tools,” as he puts it—for understanding the varying aspects of existence. Smolin then moves through lists and examples of these forms and processes. Using this as his extended introduction, he then turns his attention toward many large-scale questions, such as free will, mysticism and the origin of the universe. He systematically goes through the tangible world—from quarks to galaxies—before turning to humans and their biological and psychological makeup. But Smolin doesn't stop there. After discussing the soul and religion, he turns to a potpourri of topics that includes everything from war to orgasms. For all the immensity of topics covered, the writing is fairly easygoing. And he doesn't present fluff either, making it quite accessible for a book dealing so heavily in scientific concepts. With each topic given a separate chapter and most chapters stretching no more than a page or two, Smolin’s approach is to provide the reader with basic facts and ideas. It would be very easy, due to the nature of many of the topics, for the author to give skewed, opinionated views, but more often than not he succeeds in steering clear of giving his personal opinion, presenting instead a wide collection of possibilities.
Although the book might struggle to find its appropriate targeted audience, the reader should find it helpful for not only presenting and outlining thoughts on various topics, but seeing where they fit into the larger structure of knowledge.