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Reality as we know it is bound by a set of constants—numbers and values that dictate the strengths of forces like gravity, the speed of light, and the masses of elementary particles. In The Constants of Nature, Cambridge Professor and bestselling author John D.Barrow takes us on an exploration of these governing principles. Drawing on physicists such as Einstein and PlanckReality as we know it is bound by a set of constants—numbers and values that dictate the strengths of forces like gravity, the speed of light, and the masses of elementary particles. In The Constants of Nature, Cambridge Professor and bestselling author John D.Barrow takes us on an exploration of these governing principles. Drawing on physicists such as Einstein and Planck, Barrow illustrates with stunning clarity our dependence on the steadfastness of these principles. But he also suggests that the basic forces may have been radically different during the universe’s infancy, and suggests that they may continue a deeply hidden evolution. Perhaps most tantalizingly, Barrow theorizes about the realities that might one day be found in a universe with different parameters than our own....

Title : The Constants of Nature: The Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe
Author :
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ISBN : 9781400032259
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Constants of Nature: The Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe Reviews

  • Michael A. Sherbon
    2018-11-30 12:37

    Breezy read, with some humorous quotes. Good overall review and a little heavy on the possibility of changing constants. “Since only a narrow range of the allowed values for, say, the fine structure constant will permit observers to exist in the Universe, we must find ourselves in the narrow range of possibilities which permit them, no matter how improbable they are. We must ask for the conditional probability of observing constants to take particular ranges, given that other features of the Universe, like its age, satisfy necessary conditions for life.” Main constant is the fine-structure constant:1/α ≈ 157 − 337ρ/7 ≈ 137.035 999 168, with the prime constant ρ ≈ 0.414 682 509 851 111.Sherbon, M.A. "Wolfgang Pauli and the Fine-Structure Constant," Journal of Science, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp.148-154 (2012).Sherbon, M.A. "Fundamental Nature of the Fine-Structure Constant," International Journal of Physical Research, 3, 2(1):1-9 (2014).Sherbon, M.A. "Quintessential Nature of the Fine-Structure Constant" GJSFR 15, 4: 23-26 (2015).Sherbon, M.A. “Fine-Structure Constant from Golden Ratio Geometry,” International Journal of Mathematics and Physical Sciences Research, 5, 2, 89-100 (2018).Latest experimental-QED determination of the fine structure constant: Aoyama, T., Hayakawa, M., Kinoshita, T. & Nio, M. "Tenth-Order Electron Anomalous Magnetic Moment - Contribution of Diagrams without Closed Lepton Loops," Physical Review D, 91, 3, 033006 (2015).The improved value of the fine-structure constant 1/α = 137.035 999 157 (41)....Fine Structure Constant Quotes www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fine-str...

  • Roger
    2018-11-19 06:18

    Don't be misled by title - this is a book about cosmology, the structure of the universe, and how life, of the sort we know, fits in. I struggled with the first few chapters because I didn't feel that the author really explained why so few fundamental physical constants (primarily, the speed of light, the gravitational constant and Planck's constant) are needed to describe the universe. I was expecting there to be a lot more, such as the masses of the particles comprising the standard model, the strength of the Higgs' field, etc, and Barrow didn't seek to explain why these were not fundamental constants. And having finished the book I'm still somewhat in the dark on this matter! But as the book progressed, so it got a little better. There was much to read about the Anthropic Principle, which I found very interesting. Barrow also addressed the question of whether the constants are actually constant or whether they have changed (or are changing) with time, and here he introduced some of his own research. I learnt a lot from this book. Nevertheless, overall I'm not convinced that the author has really done justice to the subject in the title, "The Constants of Nature", because I don't think it ever fully recovers from what I found was a challenging start. Also, for me, Barrow made too many assumptions about my prior knowledge of this subject so I struggled to understand many of the points he was making. This is not a book for the faint-hearted.

  • Michael A. Sherbon
    2018-12-03 11:11

    Breezy read, with some humorous quotes. Good overall review and a little heavy on the possibility of changing constants. “Since only a narrow range of the allowed values for, say, the fine structure constant will permit observers to exist in the Universe, we must find ourselves in the narrow range of possibilities which permit them, no matter how improbable they are. We must ask for the conditional probability of observing constants to take particular ranges, given that other features of the Universe, like its age, satisfy necessary conditions for life.” Main constant is the fine-structure constant:1/α ≈ 157 − 337ρ/7 ≈ 137.035 999 168, with the prime constant ρ ≈ 0.414 682 509 851 111.Sherbon, M.A. "Wolfgang Pauli and the Fine-Structure Constant," Journal of Science, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp.148-154 (2012).Sherbon, M.A. "Fundamental Nature of the Fine-Structure Constant," International Journal of Physical Research, 3, 2(1):1-9 (2014).Sherbon, M.A. "Quintessential Nature of the Fine-Structure Constant" GJSFR 15, 4: 23-26 (2015).Latest experimental-QED determination of the fine structure constant: Aoyama, T., Hayakawa, M., Kinoshita, T. & Nio, M. "Tenth-Order Electron Anomalous Magnetic Moment - Contribution of Diagrams without Closed Lepton Loops," Physical Review D, 91, 3, 033006 (2015).The improved value of the fine-structure constant 1/α = 137.035 999 157 (41)....Fine Structure Constant Quotes www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fine-str...

  • Jim Fonseca
    2018-12-04 13:15

    Let's start with what this book is not about. It's not about mathematical constants such as pi and little e, the natural logarithm. It is about constants of physics such as Planck's constant, the speed of light and the gravitational constant. The book is primarily about cosmology focused around the question, is the universe expanding or contracting? What happens to these physical constants in these cases; are they the same everywhere in the universe at all times and in all places, or can they vary based on expansion and contraction of the universe? If its expansion is slowing, will it eventually stop and re-implode, perhaps leading to another Big Bang? On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, as it appears to be, and if it is expanding at an increasing rate, what will happen? Since you are reading this review, you have had at least college math and that is generally sufficient to understand and to enjoy this book. It is not heavy math; the reading level is more like Discovery Magazine or Scientific American. An exception is the last section where the author explores new territory, apparently his own research, and the math gets difficult for the ordinary reader. Because constants might indeed vary over space or over time, it is fascinating how little they can vary, at least based on the ranges we know of in the known universe. But how do we truly know?

  • Tuomas
    2018-11-16 12:30

    Constants are a topic that interests me greatly, since I've written about them in my own philosophical work. Barrow is the first-hand authority on the topic, given his involvement in the team that found possible variation of the fine-structure constant via observation of quasars. So I was excited to finally read this book, even though it's over a decade old now. And it is a good book: very catchy writing and nice anecdotes. However, for someone who already knew much of the relevant data, this was a little too "popular". The punch line came very late in the book and the speculation that followed was a bit fluffy. While I'd recommend the book to those who don't know much about the topic yet, it's perhaps not the best source of further information even for interested amateurs like myself.

  • Rod Innis
    2018-11-20 05:08

    An interesting book. The author talks about the fine tuning of the universe and yet seems to reject a tuner.

  • Rama
    2018-11-13 05:22

    Changing Constantsn order to explain physical reality, physicists measure and determine physical quantities/parameters/information related to the object/subject in question using well defined laws such as; the laws of classical physics (theory relativity), quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Physicists do not know the details of all the laws, and their interpretations/explanations often vary, but the physical laws themselves are the same across the universe. Einstein's principle of covariance states that laws of nature should appear the same for all observers in the universe no matter where they are located or how they are moving. The equations and the fundamental constants that write these laws are universal, but as physicists try to explain how the universe works, it is increasingly becoming apparent to a few physicists that some fundamental constants such as the speed of light (c), fine-structure constant, proton-electron mass ratio, and gravity (G) have changed over the last 13.7 billion light years. The author chronicles the historical development in the physics research of universal constant and touches upon the most fundamental part of creation. How do these constants that are a part of an equation could have impacted a functional universe that supports life? Mathematician Ramanujan once said that "An equation has no meaning unless it expresses the thought of God." The dimensionless constant is certainly the thought of God. Time variation of fundamental constants is subjected to theoretical and experimental research by a number of physicists such as; Arthur Eddington, Paul Dirac, George Gamow, Robert Dicke, Brendan Carter and others. The fine-structure constant was originally introduced in 1916 by Arnold Sommerfeld, as a measure of the relativistic deviations in atomic spectral lines of the Bohr's atomic model. This constsnt is interpreted as a measure of electromagnetic force that holds the atoms together or the strength of the interaction between electrons and photons; the ratio of two energies, the energy needed to bring two electrons from infinity to a distance against their electrostatic repulsion, and the energy of a single photon. It is also defined as the ratio of the strengths of the electromagnetic and gravitational interactions. This constant is a dimensionless quantity (1/137.035999679); hence its numerical value is independent of the system of units used. Many physicists have wondered why God would have created such an odd number for this constant (value of Pi is another example.) One explanation is the cosmological evolution of a quintessence-like scalar field coupled to gauge fields and matter would have effectively modified the coupling constants and particle masses over time. However, the anthropic principle states that the value of the fine-structure is what it is because stable matter could not have existed in the universe if that was any other number. In other words, galaxies, stars, planetary systems and life forms would not have evolved. For instance, if this constsnt was changed by 4%, carbon and oxygen would not have been produced in stars. Since fine-structure constant is present wherever electromagnetism is, it is determined by various methods from atomic spectra. One is by analyzing the atomic spectra of distant galaxies and stars. The second one is the natural reactor of Oklo has been used to check if the atomic fine-structure constant might have changed over the past 2 billion years. That is because it influences the rate of nuclear reactions. For example, Samarium(149) captures a neutron to become Samarium(150), and since the rate of neutron capture depends on the value of this constant, the ratio of the two samarium isotopes in samples from Oklo can be used to calculate the value of this constant that existed 2 billion years ago. The results are conflicting and it is not clear if these constant are changing. Despite the fact that this book has many irrelevant quotations from unorthodox figures such as; Joan Rivers, Woody Allen, Brooke Shields, W.C. Fields, and George Bush, it is highly recommended.

  • Ilya
    2018-11-19 12:24

    Despite the title, the book is mostly about just one constant. Take two electrons very far apart; bringing them to distance d of each other takes work that is proportional to 1/d. Now take a photon with frequency 1/d; its energy is also proportional to 1/d. Dividing the two coefficients of proportionality produces the fine structure constant, 1/137.035999074(44). This is the strength of the electromagnetic interaction, a fundamental force of nature. There is a caveat: quantum field theory says that an electron is surrounded by a cloud of virtual pairs of charged particles that screen its charge; the less the screening, the bigger the effective charge; so at energies near 80 GeV the effective constant is about 1/128. Where did the number 1/137... come from? Nobody knows. Since the constant was introduced in 1916, physicists have been trying to reduce it to a simple mathematical expression; they have failed. Was it ever different? Because U-235 decays faster than U-238, the proportion of U-235 in natural uranium was higher billions of years ago; some 2 billion years ago in Africa, an underground stream washing through uranium ore started a chain reaction; nowadays you need either heavy water or enriched uranium. A young Soviet nuclear physicist knew that the neutron capture rate of a certain decay product isotope depends very sensitively on the fine structure constant; he realized that by measuring the abundance of the isotope in the African ore, one could check whether 2 billion years ago the value of the constant was measurably different. It wasn't. Astronomers have looked into the spectra of quasars billions of light-years away; when their light was emitted billions of years ago, the value of the fine structure constant seems to have been the same as now. It has been reported that the value of the constant was very slightly different billions of years ago in different parts of the sky, but this is an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary evidence for it hasn't yet been produced.Now, if the value of the fine structure constant had differed by only a few percent, synthesis of carbon from helium in red giants would not take place, and carbon-based life such as humans wouldn't exist. This fact is picked up by modern creationists, though thankfully not the author himself, who claim that the universe was created for humans: "He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell, How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well." The fact is that no one has any idea, where the fine structure constant came from, whether it could have been any different, and if it could, what process generated it, and where the parameters for that process came from. There are also fundamental constants for which this is not true. The muon is an elementary particle similar to the electron, but 207 times heavier. No one knows where that number came from either, but as far as I know, it could have been significantly different with no consequences for life on Earth.

  • Hollowman
    2018-12-12 10:14

    This review will be in draft mode for a while.I actually got this book way back in 2002 when it was first pub'd. What a confusing mess!I haven't read any of Barrows' other books, so I can't say whether he can't (IMO) write clear books in general or whether the lack of clarity is an issue with Constants...In the first chapter -- heck, even in the Preface -- the author should LIST off (bullet, number, letter, etc.) the Constants (symbol and all) followed by a one- or two-sentence description. Next, and to a lesser degree perhaps, one chapter should be dedicated to each Constant.Finally, a Glossary should be provided with brief definitions for each constant.That's the LEAST an author needs to do to treat a topic as important and potentially complex as "the Constants of Nature".Barrow has done none of that ... this book was frustrating!If you go thru some of Barrow's YouTube videos and articles in New Scientist, you'll note that he's not really a bad communicator. The video lectures are clear and structured and worth watching. The same clarity needs to given to a topic as important as the Constants of Nature ... not sure this book will ever be revised ... but all we need is someone to dedicate a Blog or Wiki article to the topic. Books are kinda inconvenient nowadays anyway.==== EDIT UPDATES BELOW ====This 2013 ScienceBlogs post is kinda what I had in mind (it lists 26)...http://scienceblogs.com/startswithaba...This may also help ...http://einsteinsintuition.com/what-is...In 2007, the Journal NATURE reported:Physicists whittle down the number of truly fundamental constants."How many physical constants does it take to describe the Universe? The answer, according to a team of physicists in Brazil, is just two.The two can be chosen, according to taste, from a list of three: the speed of light, the strength of gravity, and Planck’s constant, which relates the energy to the frequency of a particle of light, say George Matsas of the São Paulo State University and his colleagues.Once two constants have been chosen from that list, they say, those are the only parameters that need have units of measurement ascribed to them. Everything else — for example, the charge or the mass of an electron, or the strength of nuclear forces — can be described in relation to these two 'dimensional' constants."More here:http://www.nature.com/news/2007/07122...

  • Thomas Paul
    2018-11-27 10:09

    There is a good book in this book somewhere, but it is trapped inside of a fair book that promises a lot more than it actually delivers. There is an initial problem that the book fails to make the case as to why particular constants are important. When discussing the fine structure constant (which is really the only constant that is given any significant coverage), the author tells us that it is made up of a combination of the electron charge, the speed of light, and Plank's constant. One might ask why these three particular values and that would be a fair question. The author tells us that if these three values changed but the fine structure constant remained the same, the resulting universe would be indistinguishable from our own. And then he leaves it there. What does that mean? Why is this the case? The author skips over this and moves on to other topics. He also makes a claim for "natural units" without being clear about what he means and why they are particularly natural.In chapter six the author discusses some curious coincidences surrounding Eddington's number. But after having debunked some other coincidental numbers he seems to leave himself open to claims that he is simply invoking meaningless coincidences. For example, he lays claim to an odd coincidence between the number of protons in the Universe and the ratio of the strengths of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces between two protons. Why these particular numbers? There are some interesting twists and turns in the book but there are also enough things that seem rather shaky that I began to doubt how much of the book was truly reliable. As one reviewer has already pointed out, what does one say when a book is so careless as to claim that solar eclipses are caused by the Earth's shadow falling on the Sun? I am sure the author doesn't believe that to be the case but it shows a certain amount of carelessness that worries me about the remainder of the book.There are some good parts to the book that I should mention. The discussion of the Anthropic Principle was clear and concise. His explanation of why intelligent life could not evolve unless there were exactly three spatial dimensions and one time dimension was convincing although I would have liked him to expand on this in more depth. Chapter eleven's discussion of natural nuclear reactors was also quite interesting. Overall there are some good parts in here but I didn't find the book as a whole delivered on its promise.

  • Finn
    2018-12-12 13:21

    I quite liked this book although I felt it drifted off in places to irrelevant or fluffy things. That said, it did cover a range of interesting topics in Physics and was broken up with some funny and quirky quotes by famous authors, scientists, etc. which was a nice touch. The book probably could have been condensed to half the size, but I can understand why it wasn't - you'd probably lose the friendly tone and extra snippets of insight and humour that the author put in, which although didn't add anything in terms of knowledge, made the book more enjoyable to read.

  • Tammy
    2018-12-02 12:36

    For a lay person, this book about the mathematical formulas that undergird our world is strangely accessible. I was constantly fascinated by what physicists already know... the formulas for gravity, speed of light, etc. are both eminently simple and strikingly complex. Their interplay shows how narrow of a window the universe allows for life as we know it to exist.For anyone who loves physics, but isn’t a physicist, this book will provide a gripping read.

  • Robert Hernandez
    2018-11-26 07:32

    The title and initial pre-reading of the book promised a lot, but failed to meet my expectations. Mr. Barrow might be a good scientist, but he is not as good a philosopher and touches on subjects of religion and belief in a mocking tone that made evident a lack of knowledge on the subject. Fairly good exposition on the current state of physics, but disappointing in philosophical matters.

  • David Stag
    2018-12-11 07:18

    Not what I expected. More a philosophy treatise than an exploration of the physical meaning of constants. A lot of wild speculation. I can see why some may like it, but the title could be more accurate in describing what the book is about.

  • Deb
    2018-12-06 09:13

    Finally finished this book. The concepts are way beyond my brain power, but it is wonderfully written and organized. I wish I actually grasped the information better, but that is my problem, not the writer's.

  • Britain
    2018-12-05 12:35

    It was a fascinating read for a non-scientist. I found the knowledge and explanations to be conveyed as easily as they can be (some of the formulas and constants' math required re-reading at times).I found most of the last third or quarter to be preachy and superfluous. It did not add much.

  • Hadrian
    2018-12-05 12:32

    Nice and easy overview of some of the most underlying concepts of physical science. A bit slow in the beginning, but really picks up in the later chapters.

  • David
    2018-11-22 13:17

    Very informative, but, slightly unsure of itself in terms of who its geared towards

  • Sean
    2018-11-12 12:33

    Interesting angle on the anthropic universe and understanding what possible multiverses might look like in the Darwinian universe theory.

  • Cosuma
    2018-12-08 11:29

    What happens first is not necessarily the beginning.

  • Brian King
    2018-11-30 09:30

    Even the scientists don't know!

  • Marty
    2018-11-26 05:12

    If there weren't so many books I want to read, i would start over and see if I would understand more.

  • Andrea Aprile
    2018-12-10 11:07

    L'epicità fatta a libro. Semplicissimo, scorrevolissimo, FIGHISSIMO e a tratti molto emozionante. Uno dei libri che mi hanno cambiato la vita.

  • Maurizio Codogno
    2018-11-30 11:29

    la mia recensione: http://xmau.com/notiziole/archives/00...

  • Austin Calico
    2018-12-10 07:15

    Much is good, but the last few chapters are overly wordy and not written as clearly.

  • Johann Fourie
    2018-12-08 08:27

    Give a overview of how we see nature and the cosmos.