Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe

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9780465036721: Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe

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? What fundamental laws govern our universe?This book describes new discoveries and offers remarkable insights into these fundamental questions. There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld. Just six numbers, imprinted in the big bang,” determine the essential features of our entire physical world. Moreover, cosmic evolution is astonishingly sensitive to the values of these numbers. If any one of them were untuned,” there could be no stars and no life. This realization offers a radically new perspective on our universe, our place in it, and the nature of physical laws.

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Review:

Just six numbers govern the shape, size, and texture of our universe. If their values were only fractionally different, we would not exist: nor, in many cases, would matter have had a chance to form. If the numbers that govern our universe were elegant--1, say, or pi, or the Golden Mean--we would simply shrug and say that the universe was an elegant mathematical puzzle. But the numbers Martin Rees discusses are far from tidy. Was the universe "tweaked" or is it one of many universes, all run by slightly different, but equally messy, rules?

This is familiar ground, though rarely so comprehensively explored. What makes Rees's book exceptional is his conviction that cosmology is as materialistic and as conceptually simple as any of the earth sciences. Indeed,

cosmology is simpler in one important respect: once the starting point is specified, the outcome is in broad terms predictable. All large patches of the universe that start off the same way end up statistically similar. In contrast, if the Earth's history were re-run, it could end up with a quite different biosphere.

Rees demonstrates how the cosmos is full of "fossils" from which we can deduce how our universe developed as surely as we infer the earth's past from the relics found in sedimentary rocks. Rees's theme is nothing less than the colossal richness of the universe. It is an ambitious book, but if anything, it deserves to be longer. --Simon Ings, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Martin Rees is Britain's Astronomer Royal. He is the author of several books, including Gravity's Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe (with Mitchell Begelman) and Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others. A member of the Royal Society, the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and numerous foreign academies, Rees is Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University.

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