Friday, February 10, 2017

Our Mathematical Universe

Our Mathematical Universe is about big questions: Why are we here? What made it all? What's it all made of? Where did we come from? Where will we go? Where did we come from, Cotton Eye Joe? and so forth. More specifically, it is about Max Tegmark's answer to all those questions.

Tegmark takes us on a tour of the extremes of physics, from the epic scales of our entire universe to the smallest scales of atoms and space. The part about cosmology and the beginning of the universe is especially good, because Tegmark has personally worked with the data from satellites investigating the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. He also talks about the possibility of multiverses, and identifies four different "levels" of multiverse. I like that he stresses that there is no such thing as a "multiverse theory" in physics; multiverses are not a theory, but a prediction of other theories.

Then he talks about his idea that, in the end, the entire universe is a mathematical object. He makes quite the compelling case for the idea, essentially arguing that for physics to mean anything it has to be true, but in the end he didn't convince me. It's kind of a nice idea, though. A good effort. Anyways, if you'd like to see the structure of the entire book, it's something like this:
Yep. That's taken right out of the book. Tegmark did some of my job for me. Nice of him.

When Tegmark says "my quest for the ultimate nature of reality," he means it. The book is about his quest. Our Mathematical Universe could equally accurately be called Max Tegmark is a Nerd, although I doubt that would sell quite as well. The book is filled with personal anecdotes and little asides, which I think adds to it a lot. Then, of course, there's the whole "reality is math" thing that he believes. Still, he's an interesting person with interesting ideas, so it's fun to go on the "quest" with him. He certainly kept me to the end, at least. If you're also interested in the big questions about what it's all about, and you don't mind having a friend along for the ride, then you would enjoy reading Our Mathematical Universe.

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