530: Time Reborn by Lee Smolin

by Gerard


530.12: Smolin, Lee. Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 273 pp. ISBN 978-0-547-51172-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 530: Physics
  • 530.1: Theories and mathematical physics
  • 530.12: Quantum mechanics

Time is both everywhere and nowhere. It is force we deal with everyday in a metaphysical sense as well as a phantom object. In the physics world, it has no real definition aside from what other theories and variables give it. After Einstein’s theories, it became relative; what was perceived as a certain time to one person could be different to another. Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn seeks to wrestle the relative and vanishing concept of time away from the quantum mechanical model and give it a physical presence in the universe. He wants to make time real.

Separating space and time, and making time real in the process, is a very heady goal. There’s a reason it’s always referred to as “space-time.” They are inextricably linked. While I liked all the interesting new physics Smolin discussed, I’m not entirely sure he accomplished his goal with the clarity he wanted. Metaphysics and philosophy tend to creep into his argument and thus create flaws in his quest to quantify time as a legitimate, whole, and distinct entity. A lot of the standard physics theories tend to break down when trying to isolate time in a concrete sense. That being said, Smolin’s history of physics was engaging and slightly more refreshing than the rote stuff you get from other texts. And this book will get you thinking about the larger concepts of the universe, which is never a bad thing. It has kind of a physics class feel to it as his illustrations look like they were drawn with a dry-erase marker (I liked that). If you’re interested in a different perspective on contemporary quantum physics, then dive right in—if you have the time, of course.