Timeless Reality

Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes


 Available from Amazon.com.
 
 


Reviews

Astronomy Magazine. January 2002.

Read review by Jennifer Birriel here.

Choice. Current reviews for Academic Libraries. May 2001

This wide-ranging, sophisticated book treats physics and important philosophical issues closely related to physics. The dust cover blurb does a poor job of describing the book; the best description is found on page 339: "The Basic thesis of this book is that physics has painted for us a simple picture of material reality that is well within our general understanding." In roughly 400 pages, Stenger (Univ. of Hawaii), a professional physicist with an interest in philosophy, discusses major topics of physics such as relativity, quantum mechanics, and the apparent one-way nature of time, as well as philosophical stances from Platonism to postmodernism. The book goes considerably beyond popularization, without burdening the reader with technical detail. Nevertheless, it would take a very gifted lay reader to absorb everything in this book in one reading. The author makes his own views known on some famously difficult issues, but the reader does not need to agree with him to follow the text. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students, professional scientists and philosopher, and lay readers with an active interest in philosophy or physics. - M.C Ogilvie, Washington University.
 

New Books - September 2000.

Quantum physics has many extraordinary implications. One of the most extraordinary is the events at the atomic and subatomic level seem to depend on the future as well as the past. Is time really reversible? Physicist Victor Stenger say yes, arguing that at its deepest level reality is literally timeless. And, with this reality, it is possible that many universes exist with different structures and laws from our own.
 

USA Today Dec. 15, 2000.

With the holiday rush upon us, it's tempting to think that time matters a great deal. But that may be a mistake, suggests physicist Victor Stenger as he dives into the quantum realm - the tiny spaces where part of atoms appear in more than one place simultaneously, blink in and out of existence, and generally defy understanding.
Rather than meaning nothing or indicating that the universe continuously branches off into new realities, as some physicists argue, the author suggests that quantum events show time reverses itself freely at the subatomic level.
Although aimed at the general reader, Timeless Reality is not the easiest read on the bookshelf. The payoff comes for the reader with a glimpse into the debate over the nature of reality.
 

Discover Magazine January 2001.

In clear, simple prose, physicist Stenger bravely explores quantum theory's most complex and challenging implications - that reality is fundamentally timeless and that time itself may be reversible.
 

Today's Books Dec. 8, 2000

! ! ! ! ! Must Read. Originality, content, style, author
Because at the level of quantum phenomena time may be reversible, there could be multiple universes arrayed differently than our Universe and operating upon different scientific principles.
 

Book News Jan. 8, 2001.

If you complained to Stenger (physics and astronomy, U. of Hawaii) that you had not time, he would shrug and say nothing does. He explains to educated lay readers that time is reversible and that the underlying reality of all phenomena may have no beginning and no end. He argues that based on established principles of simplicity and symmetry, at its deepest level reality is literally timeless, and that many universes may exist with different structure and laws from this one.
 

Amazon.com

takes some getting used to... , March 4, 2003

Reviewer: Lester M. Stacey (see more about me) from Las Vegas, Nevada USA
I first read this book two years ago and I found the ideas presented to be very unsettling. I needed to set the book aside and think about more ordinary aspects of the world for a while. The fact is, however, that Dr. Stenger describes reality and there's no getting away from reality. Now my investigations lead me back to the implications of time symmetry. And happily, I have Dr. Stenger's book on hand to turn to again. This time, unafraid, I am finding the experience extremely satisfying.

I agree with the detailed reviews written below. I would also like to add an important bit of information about trust. Anyone who has investigated this field becomes familiar with the corruption that has taken place. Science is used as propaganda to support dogmatic conclusions. Speculation is too easily mutated into whatever covert form of mysticism the author secretly harbors and seeks to spread. Therefore, it is necessary to exert significant effort to find a guide into the stranger regions of reality who can be trusted to NOT MISLEAD. Victor Stenger is someone who can be trusted.

This makes all the difference in the world.

I've had the pleasure of receiving several kind personal responses to questions I posed to Dr. Stenger by way of his friendly and helpful website. I was delighted to find that he is genuinely interested in furthering human understanding and improving the human condition. He is without any hidden agenda. What you see is what you get. He is interested in exposing deception instead of practicing it. He sincerely cares about individuals who struggle with the almost insurmountable challenge of trying to understand what's really going on here in the world. He provides a sense of much-needed balance in an effort that often seems to threaten one's sanity.

And given the fact that what's really going on here takes some time for a person to adapt to, please take your time and let the ideas filter in gradually. Whether we like it or not, the strangeness of the world isn't going to go away. In fact, things become increasingly more interesting the more closely they are examined. And this is why having a trusty guide who's familiar with the topography is so important.

I am please to see that Dr. Stenger has an important new book coming out that will further help those of us who need technological expertise in exposing the mischief of the dogmatists. "Has Science Found God?" promises to provide further comfort and support for those of us who just want to approach the truth unadulterated. If truth is defined as "good" (no matter how uncomfortable it makes us), then Dr. Stenger is firmly on the side of the good. He's a great and welcome ally.
 


Serious science for dedicated enthusiasts, March 24, 2002.
Reviewer: chrisindenver from Aurora, CO United States

First of all, I'd like to start with a caveat. I gave this book 5 stars, but that assumes the reader has a college education or a very technical background. For someone not used to college-level writing, I would recommend avoiding this book. Having said that, I thought this book was amazing. My head is still spinning from all the detailed, technical information about quantum physics and relativity. Without getting bogged down in the actual mathematics, this book tells you just about everything you might want to know about modern physics.

Some of the best and most original writing is actually at the end, where Stenger presents his ideas on symmetry and how it relates to cosmology and the history of the universe. However, everything else in the book leads up to this, and there are plenty of references to previous chapters.

Stenger's concluding paradigm is simple, logical, and aesthetic, and definitely meets his own criterion of parsimony, or Occam's razor. Parsimony is a common theme in this and Stenger's other books, and he does a great job of using it to critique and analyze the various theories and philosophical interpretations of modern physics.

Again, I would recommend this book to anyone comfortable with college-level reading, but I would also love to see Stenger's  concluding ideas summarized in another, less technical and more accessible format, for a wider audience.
 

Would have five stars if he stuck to one thesis objective..., November 8, 2001  Reviewer: IndiAndy (see more about me) from an evolving state of enlightenment I approve of the non-mathematical descriptions this book offers the intended audience. It elucidates some important quantitative principles in a comprehensible language (e.g. the Principle of Least Action; the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian; the 'Wave-Particle Duality' and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle; state vectors, phase, superposition, Gauge Invariance, Relativity symmetry, spin, and Lorentz transformations). I have enjoyed using this book as part of a bridge to step across the yawning gulf between popular (non-mathematical) and rigorously quantitative textbooks on Quantum theory (Quantum Electrodynamics & Quantum Field Theory). I especially liked Chapter 7 'Taming Infinity' where the Feynman Wheeler Interaction Theory and Feynman's QED are beautifully presented for intellectual consumption. He seems especially aligned with Feynman's views of the particle nature of matter.

The author has carefully placed key words in bold type throughout the book that indicate their inclusion in a generous glossary of terms near the end of the book. I have grown to appreciate this as is a valuable feature in several books at this reading level. The chapters are broken into intellectually digestible size with a fair amount of diagrams to illustrate certain concepts visually. Apparently a part of his agenda in this book, as well as in several of his other publications, is to try to correct (control) superstitious creationist (wrong) thinking concerning the origin of our Universe and equally incorrect mystical interpretations of reality. Vic flat out states that the Universe '...had no beginning and was not created.' For example, Dr. Stenger seems compelled to narrowly target the logic of theistic physicists such as Polkinghorne and Ross. In addition, he seems to be inclined to marginalize the fact that particles are a manifestation of force field excitations/waves in a quantum field description of the phenomena in our Universe. After carefully reading his book (with sincere & open minded interest) I have come to strongly suspect that he fears an association of 'spooky action at a distance' (i.e. fields & waves) with a an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and eternal (timeless) Supreme Being who, God forbid, might have created everything (including the laws of physics). He also goes after the philosophical interpretation of QM that speculates that reality is mystically created or changed by observation & measurement. One has to wonder if maybe the author might have had some kind of traumatic religious disenchantment in his earlier travels through life that subsequently motivates him to prove that God doesn't exist. I would like to point out that I once had a bout of serious religious disillusionment from which I recovered to a simple & humble attitude and outlook towards a theological ontology of reality that is in harmony with, indeed even embraces, physical reality as we understand it from a scientific perspective. It's possible to do this and not risk your intelligence, reasonability, sanity, and objectivity towards reality. I may be projecting something that isn't really there with this guy so I apologize if that's the case. Honestly I have to confess that I don't know (for sure) what motivates this man as I cannot read his mind. I can, however, surmise from what he has written that he finds the possibility of a spiritual realm untenable. Well, live & let live right?

It must be noted that one of his major points in this book is we exist in a (bi-directional) time symmetric Universe that may be one of many in the 'Multiverse'. This is most interesting and would make a book in itself without all the other anti-superstitious stuff. I believe that he could have left his arguments against the creative design of the Universe in (a revised version of?) his other book 'The Unconscious Quantum' to keep this particular book more focused towards the subjects of the sub-title: 'Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes'. Ironically, his arguments for a timeless reality reinforce my view of an eternal Spirit whom I believe is responsible for, and continues to sustain, more than we can ever achieve in defining the reality he has created. I choose to call this Spirit God. Well now you know my perspective. I like to try to keep an open mind. If I'm wrong, and I very well might be, then I haven't lost anything, just a little mental time in a timeless universe.

All this said I hope you don't get the wrong impression of my respect towards what Mr. Stenger has done with this great book. He has challenged us to be freethinking skeptics and to recognize the hocus-pocus philosophical fluff that is frequently published in the mystical/speculative interpretations concerning the nature of reality at the quantum level. I loved the book because the majority of it lent itself as a great reference to introductory Quantum Mechanics. His writing is succinct (no fluff), objective and didactic. I recommend "Timeless Reality" to anyone (theistic or otherwise) interested in exploring the deeply mysterious and equally edifying adventure of Quantum Reality. I hope this comes out in paperback so that more can benefit from it as I have. My sincere appreciation goes out to this author. Thanks Vic! Ciao, IndiAndy
 


Summary


 While we can never be certain of the nature of "true reality," modern physics provides the best window available to us. Many believe that the laws of quantum physics represent a deep, Platonic reality that goes beyond the material objects that are observed by eye and by advanced scientific instruments. But reality may be simpler and less mysterious than most think. The quantum world only appears mysterious when forced to obey rules of everyday human experience.

 One of these commonsense rules is that time flows in one direction.  No basis for an arrow of time can be found in any of the laws of physics.  All fundamental physical processes can happen in either time direction.  However, on the scale of everyday experience, one time direction is highly more probable than the other for many observed processes. This results from the large number of particles involved and their largely random motions.  When the number of particles is small, or when their motion is highly coherent as it is for quantum phenomena, no arrow of time is evident.

 On the quantum scale, events are found to depend on the future as well as the past, which makes them seem very strange.  Weird effects occur, such as particles appearing simultaneously at different places ("nonlocality"). These and other quantum paradoxes can be easily understood in terms of time symmetry.  On the other hand, the time travel paradox, in which you go back in time and kill your grandfather, does not occur at the quantum level.  Thus quantum time travel is not paradoxical.

 Time symmetry at the quantum level makes it possible to draw a model of underlying reality that is simpler and more symmetric than the conventional view.  This reality is timeless, with no beginning, no end, and no arrow of time. Observations at the smallest distances and highest energies reveal a picture of localized, discrete material bodies moving along definite spacetime paths in an otherwise empty void, with no fundamental distinction between past and future and no need to introduce  "real" continuous fields.  This is the picture revealed to us by the standard model of elementary particle and forces, which is fully consistent with all empirical data.

  In Timeless Reality, the laws of physics are not externally imposed, but follow naturally from symmetry and simplicity. Spontaneous, localized symmetry breaking leads to complex material structures, but these are the result of chance rather intelligent design.  Overall, universal symmetry in space, time, matter, and antimatter is retained.

  Nothing rules out the existence of many universes besides our own and such a multiverse is strongly suggested by modern theories of cosmology.  But whether reality has one universe or many, it had no beginning and no creation.  It neither was nor will be.  It just is.


Table of Contents
The links will take you to pdf versions of select chapters. They may not correspond exactly to the published book which should be referred to if anything is being quoted. They are copyrighted and should not be copied or distributed without the permission of author and publisher.
Preface
1. Atoms and Forms
2. The Whole is Equal to the Sum of  its Particles
3. The Death of Absolute Now
4. Three Arrows of Time
5. The Quantum Domain
 6. Paradoxes and Interpretations
7. Taming Infinity
8. The Timeless Quantum
9. Modeling Matter
10. Dreams of Fields
11. Particle Reality
12.  Global Simplicity and Local Complexity
13. The Natural and the Supernatural
14. Truth or Consequences
15. Einstein's Building Blocks
Bibliography
Glossary
Index


Time Reversibility of the Stern-Gerlach  Experiment


It has been asserted that the Stern-Gerlach experiment is not time reversible. In this essay I prove in detail that it is.


TIME'S ARROWS POINT BOTH WAYS: THE VIEW FROM NOWHEN.  PDF. Article based on book that is published in Skeptic Magazine Vol. 8 No, 4 (2001)pp. 92-5. This may not correspond exactly to the published version which should be referred to if anything is being quoted.
 


A related book:

"The View From Nowhen." My review of Time's Arrow and Archimedes Point by Huw Price.

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