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Before the big bang, and arguably before the existence of humans, time did not exist. In this brilliant work, UC Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller chronicles the human understanding of time, and its relentless forward momentum through the lens of quantum physics past into its conceptual evolution into the fourth dimension and beyond. Now: The Physics of Time is the perfect read for any aspiring citizen-physicist.
“Now” is a simple yet elusive concept.
You are reading the word “now” right now. But what does that mean? What makes the ephemeral moment “now” so special? Its enigmatic character has bedeviled philosophers, priests, and modern-day physicists from Augustine to Einstein and beyond. Einstein showed that the flow of time is affected by both velocity and gravity, yet he despaired at his failure to explain the meaning of “now.” Equally puzzling: why does time flow? Some physicists have given up trying to understand, and call the flow of time an illusion, but the eminent experimentalist physicist Richard A. Muller protests. He says physics should explain reality, not deny it.
In Now, Muller does more than poke holes in past ideas; he crafts his own revolutionary theory, one that makes testable predictions. He begins by laying out—with the refreshing clarity that made Physics for Future Presidents so successful—a firm and remarkably clear explanation of the physics building blocks of his theory: relativity, entropy, entanglement, antimatter, and the Big Bang. With the stage then set, he reveals a startling way forward.
Muller points out that the standard Big Bang theory explains the ongoing expansion of the universe as the continuous creation of new space. He argues that time is also expanding and that the leading edge of the new time is what we experience as “now.” This thought-provoking vision has remarkable implications for some of our biggest questions, not only in physics but also in philosophy—including the ongoing debate about the reality of free will. Moreover, his theory is testable. Muller’s monumental work will spark major debate about the most fundamental assumptions of our universe, and may crack one of physics’s longest-standing enigmas.
About the Author
Richard A. Muller is professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the best-selling author of Physics for Future Presidents. For his outstanding work in experimental cosmology, he was awarded a 1982 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and also a share of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery of dark energy.
Mind-blowing ideas demand to be shared.…[Muller] posits a theory that seems at once plausible and—surprisingly, for a book with equations—one worth not spoiling.
Richard Muller is a leading physicist, but he’s also intellectually restless. That’s a potent combination, with the power to generate transformative ideas about ourselves and our relationship to the universe. In Now: The Physics of Time, Muller hypothesizes how time itself might be created or destroyed. Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s wrong. But along the way he’s given you a master class in what time is and how and why we perceive it the way we do.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Muller has taken a remarkably fresh and exciting approach to the analysis of time. With his usual clarity and wit, he proceeds from solidly established principles—each a fascinating story in its own right—but when he gets to the meaning of the flow of time and now, he forges a new path. I expect controversy! — Saul Perlmutter, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics
Can science shed light on time’s dark mysteries? Richard Muller thinks it can, making his case in this clear, evocative, and wide-reaching investigation of how nature may generate the flow of time. Must-reading for all concerned with the why behind when. — Timothy Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way
A provocative, strongly argued book on the fundamental nature of time. As an experimental cosmologist who has initiated some of the most important experiments of our time, Muller knows well where the limits of science are, and he keeps us interested by his ability to work close to that edge. — Lee Smolin, author of Time Reborn
The strength of this book lies in Muller’s experience as a lecturer and teacher, which has enabled him to describe and explain difficult concepts with simplicity.… [Now] provides a concise master class in understanding the essentials of physics.
Time spent with Muller will transform readers' understanding of time itself.…A mind-expanding venture to the frontiers of science—and beyond!
The kind of mind-expanding read that will give you something to think about late at night. Muller's passion for his topic shines through on every page.