The Number of the Heavens: A History of the Multiverse and the Quest to Understand the Cosmos

Tom Siegfried. Harvard Univ., $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-674-97588-0
While many might think of the idea of the multiverse as something new, science writer Siegfried (A Beautiful Math) describes how this seemingly fanciful concept—that this universe is one of many—has been accepted by thinkers and philosophers for millennia. Siegfried opens his detailed history with the ancient Greeks, when “atomist” philosophers imagined “innumerable worlds” created by the motion of spinning atomic whirlpools. The multiverse lost ground when Plato insisted on a perfect singular cosmos, fueling his student Aristotle’s claims that there could only be one universe. These dominated the scientific consensus until 1277, when the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, announced that God was fully capable of creating more universes, and that anyone saying otherwise would face excommunication. Siegfried profiles fascinating figures over the centuries, such as medieval polymath Roger Bacon, natural philosopher William of Ockham, and astronomer Nicholaus Copernicus. The author also explains groundbreaking ideas such as Albert Einstein’s infamously difficult cosmological constant, quantum mechanics, and the big bang. This clear and thoughtful work of popular science serves as a fascinating history of one of the most provocative concepts in modern physics, while also tracing its roots in ancient ideas and exploring its implications for this universe and others. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/15/2019
Release date: 11/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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