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

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The award-winning former editor of Science News shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology--the existence of multiple parallel universes--has a long and divisive history that continues to this day. We often consider the universe to encompass everything that exists, but some scientists have come to believe that the vast, The award-winning former editor of Science News shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology--the existence of multiple parallel universes--has a long and divisive history that continues to this day. We often consider the universe to encompass everything that exists, but some scientists have come to believe that the vast, expanding universe we inhabit may be just one of many. The totality of those parallel universes, still for some the stuff of science fiction, has come to be known as the multiverse. The concept of the multiverse, exotic as it may be, isn't actually new. In The Number of the Heavens, veteran science journalist Tom Siegfried traces the history of this controversial idea from antiquity to the present. Ancient Greek philosophers first raised the possibility of multiple universes, but Aristotle insisted on one and only one cosmos. Then in 1277 the bishop of Paris declared it heresy to teach that God could not create as many universes as he pleased, unleashing fervent philosophical debate about whether there might exist a "plurality of worlds." As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, the philosophical debates became more scientific. Ren� Descartes declared "the number of the heavens" to be indefinitely large, and as notions of the known universe expanded from our solar system to our galaxy, the debate about its multiplicity was repeatedly recast. In the 1980s, new theories about the big bang reignited interest in the multiverse. Today the controversy continues, as cosmologists and physicists explore the possibility of many big bangs, extra dimensions of space, and a set of branching, parallel universes. This engrossing story offers deep lessons about the nature of science and the quest to understand the universe.


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The award-winning former editor of Science News shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology--the existence of multiple parallel universes--has a long and divisive history that continues to this day. We often consider the universe to encompass everything that exists, but some scientists have come to believe that the vast, The award-winning former editor of Science News shows that one of the most fascinating and controversial ideas in contemporary cosmology--the existence of multiple parallel universes--has a long and divisive history that continues to this day. We often consider the universe to encompass everything that exists, but some scientists have come to believe that the vast, expanding universe we inhabit may be just one of many. The totality of those parallel universes, still for some the stuff of science fiction, has come to be known as the multiverse. The concept of the multiverse, exotic as it may be, isn't actually new. In The Number of the Heavens, veteran science journalist Tom Siegfried traces the history of this controversial idea from antiquity to the present. Ancient Greek philosophers first raised the possibility of multiple universes, but Aristotle insisted on one and only one cosmos. Then in 1277 the bishop of Paris declared it heresy to teach that God could not create as many universes as he pleased, unleashing fervent philosophical debate about whether there might exist a "plurality of worlds." As the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, the philosophical debates became more scientific. Ren� Descartes declared "the number of the heavens" to be indefinitely large, and as notions of the known universe expanded from our solar system to our galaxy, the debate about its multiplicity was repeatedly recast. In the 1980s, new theories about the big bang reignited interest in the multiverse. Today the controversy continues, as cosmologists and physicists explore the possibility of many big bangs, extra dimensions of space, and a set of branching, parallel universes. This engrossing story offers deep lessons about the nature of science and the quest to understand the universe.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    I didn't know a history of the multiverse would include the condemnation of 1277 but apparently the Catholic Church was ok with God creating multiple universes that year sorry Aristotle. This wide-ranging intellectual history covers the ideas of many worlds from Epicureans in the classical world, through Medieval Scholastics, to the Copernican Revolution, Newtons time, thinkers like Kant and his island universes (galaxies), To Einstein and Hubble, to Hugh Everett III and Many worlds of quantum I didn't know a history of the multiverse would include the condemnation of 1277 but apparently the Catholic Church was ok with God creating multiple universes that year sorry Aristotle. This wide-ranging intellectual history covers the ideas of many worlds from Epicureans in the classical world, through Medieval Scholastics, to the Copernican Revolution, Newtons time, thinkers like Kant and his island universes (galaxies), To Einstein and Hubble, to Hugh Everett III and Many worlds of quantum mechanics, to Andre Linde and Alan Guth and just about everyone who has a speculation on what is outside of our tiny pocket world. Everything but the kitchen sink.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Travis Ellis

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Walker

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    John H

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pt Books

  11. 5 out of 5

    Luke Gorham

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  13. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vatsal Kanakiya

  15. 4 out of 5

    Drazen Milic

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lin Ding

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

  18. 5 out of 5

    Luke Perez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn D

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maya Sheth

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

  22. 4 out of 5

    Neil R. Coulter

  23. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Livus

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mari

  27. 5 out of 5

    JohnnyWorkhorse

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nitin CR

  29. 4 out of 5

    浩 陳

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura Williams

  31. 4 out of 5

    Karol Castro

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ritvij Tiwari

  33. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  34. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  35. 5 out of 5

    Tahsin

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