The Life of the Cosmos has ratings and 42 reviews. David said: Lee Smolin presents an interesting hypothesis that attempts to explain why the fundame. CHAPTER ONE. The Life of the Cosmos. By LEE SMOLIN Oxford University Press. Read the Review. LIGHT and LIFE. Science is, above everything else. The life of the cosmos / by Lee Smolin. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN X. ISBN (Pbk.) 1. Cosmology.

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The Life of the Cosmos

Return to Book Page. The Life of the Cosmos by Lee Smolin. Cosmologist Lee Smolin offers a startling new theory of the universe that is at once elegant, comprehensive, and radically different from anything proposed before. Smolin argues that the laws of nature we observe may be in part the result of a process of natural selection which took place before the big bang. Smolin’s ideas are based on recent developments in cosmology, quantum theory, relativity and string theory, yet they offer, at the same time, an unprecedented view of how these developments may fit together to form a new theory of cosmology.

From this perspective, the lines between the simple and the complex, the fundamental and the emergent, and even between the biological and the physical are redrawn.

The result is a framework that illuminates many intractable problems, from the paradoxes of quantum theory and the nature of space and time to the problem of constructing a final theory of physics. As he argues for this new view, Smolin introduces the reader to recent developments in a wide range of fields, from string theory and quantum gravity to evolutionary theory the structure of galaxies. He examines the philosophical roots of controversies in the foundations of physics, and shows how they may be transformed as science moves towardunderstanding the universe as an interrelated, self-constructed entity, within which life and complexity have a natural place, and in which “the occurrence of novelty, indeed the perpetual birth of novelty, can be understood.

Paperbackpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Life of the Cosmosplease sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Life of the Cosmos. Lists with This Book. Apr 14, David rated it liked it Shelves: Lee Smolin presents an interesting hypothesis that attempts to explain why the fundamental physical constants seem to be “tuned” perfectly to allow stars, planets, and life to evolve.

The best aspect of his hypothesis is that it is “falsifiable”. This means that Smolin proposes a number of tests that if they fail, would mean that his hypothesis is wrong. And, the tests are not incredibly difficult. He includes observational tests–like measuring the masses of additional neutron stars–and theore Lee Smolin presents an interesting hypothesis that attempts to explain why the fundamental physical constants seem to be “tuned” perfectly to allow stars, planets, and life to evolve.

He includes observational tests–like measuring the masses of additional neutron stars–and theoretical tests; calculating the consequences of changing the values of certain physical “constants”. So, Smolin’s hypothesis is quite engaging, and should be considered seriously.

But most of the book is not about Smolin’s hypothesis at all. It is really about reconciling various quantum theories and cosmology.

Book Review for Life of the Cosmos

The book is deeply philosophical, and the book makes clear which parts are pure speculation. Smolin mentions that he met Richard Feynman a few times. Each time he described his work to Feynman, he was criticized because Smolin’s ideas were not sufficiently crazy!

So, much of the book contains some crazy ideas, and it is full of philosophical speculation. The book is not easy to read–not because of heavy technical explanations, but because pife philosophical viewpoints are often quite subtle. Dec 29, Shane rated it really liked it Shelves: Lee Smolin proposes a thought-provoking cosmological theory of cosmic llife selection to explain the complexity of the universe.


In doing so, he dives into the discussion of self-organized complex physical systems and relativity. This is where the heart of the book lies, the life of such a cosmos. The book is very fun to read and is packed with information, both physics and philosophy, on the very basic, most abstract properties of the world. The ending is absolutely beautiful as well. I feel that this book will be very important in the future, although kife is viewed as a mere popular science book right now.

I highly recommend it. Nov 27, Krish Sanghvi rated it really liked it. Although his theory more of a hypothesis reallyseems testable, it has too tue assumptions, and the assumptions are what lie to be falsifiable, not the theory itself.

Still, smolij is a great book because it delves into questions rarely addressed by proper cosmox like- why are the parameters of the universe the way they are and not otherwise; is there an absolute truth and does this lie beyond the reaches of the scientific method; the difference between absolute and relative etc.

This book Although his theory more of a hypothesis reallyseems testable, it has too many assumptions, and the assumptions are what lie to be falsifiable, lifs the theory itself. This book is more philosophy of science than science, which is what differentiates it from other popular books on cosmology.

Cosmological natural selection (fecund universes)

It also uses principles of biology natural selection, niche, competition etc to infer hypotheses about the universe, although i disagree with him and feel his case for cosmic Darwinism is very oee and doesn’t test that hypothesis directly.

Physics today has reached a dead end, with all big questions still left unanswered and no new evidence being accumulated about stuff like dark energy, dark matter, multiverses, Gravity etc. We also don’t understand why quantum theory is true and what it describes. Also, two distinct and equally true theories: Hence, we may need a paradigm shift in physics, something which is quite taboo among physicists. Smolin gets this discussion started through his book and points out the limitations of current physics.

It also questions the scientific method and its assumptions, which science books rarely do. Smolin emphasises why this paradigm shift is important if we wish to have a better theory that describes the universe. On the other hand, biology has been the most progressive and complete of all sciences. It also acts as a self referencing system, and can self organise and spontaneously occur probablyand smolin tries to apply these principle csomos biology to cosmology, and gives us a new hypothesis for the universe which doesn’t need any external truth, and which relies on the history of a self referencing and self forming universe.

This book also has some fantastic interpretations of general relativity and natural selection, which themselves make it worth reading. It also provides a fantastic critique of reductionism, absolutism, radical atomism and why these ideas are redundant today, in a universe where things are nothing but interactions. I’m yet cosmis read a good, lif science book which discusses how science itself requires some level of faith in the scientific method and in evidence and in reality, but this book is the closest I have come so far.

These aren’t discussed directly, but can be inferred. I also like the book because it addresses the philosophical origins and implications of Newtonian physics the absolutegen rel the relationaland QM the observational and probabilisticrather than merely describing what these theories are.

Also, it acknowledges that there are many interpretations of QM which physics books rarely do!

The Life of the Cosmos

It also wonderfully illustrates quantum uncertainty and entanglement, which often seem very counterintuitive. This book has finally helped me appreciate quantum mechanics, something I didn’t understand properly prior to reading it. Is quantum mechanics the end of the road for physics?


The author certainly thinks otherwise- that there exists a better theory somewhere in the future, that will explain the universe more coherently. I think the weirdness of the quantum world won’t be explained by anything other than QM.

Of course, I wish I’ll be proved wrong. One of the main objectives of this book is to explain why the universe is what it is. Why is there life, complexity, organisation, stars etc, when all these things seem so improbable to arose, were the laws for a universe chosen randomly. Most people would either use the weaker anthropocentric principle to justify their answer, or succumb to the concept of a god. But neither answer seems satisfactory or testable. This book discusses these ideas and introduces another one- of cosmic natural selection to answer the question above.

The first part of the book is th descriptive and goes through the history of science and has many definitions some of which, like the gauge principle, I couldn’t csomos. The second part deals with his hypothesis of lif natural lie which may seem interesting at first, but then gets very speculative and repetitive.

The fourth part, which is equally interesting, tells us what the universe would have to be like, if observers were to describe it in a quantum way. It talks about how there can never be an absolute description of the universe, because that would require an observer outside our own universe. It also explains how different observers may relate to each other to describe the universe precisely, but not accurately.

It also discusses what gravity, space time, and time would be like at a quantum level, and why there are so many inconsistencies in physics and in reality itself. The take home message of the book is this- we may never know truth because the universe isn’t absolute, yet, our theories can be improved so that we describe the universe as a self organising, relational, non absolute, complex, out of equilibrium system.

Also the book isn’t very succinct, and ideas are scattered all over the place which makes it less coherent to read.

But maybe I feel this way coz I took a really long time to finish it 7 months!! Jun 01, Gendou rated it really liked it Shelves: Smolin starts by describing how what he calls “Radical Atomism” conflicts with unification.

His argument is that, under Radical Atomism, particles have fundamental properties, independent from their fo. But for unification to reach it’s ultimate goal, the variety of particles must th from one fundamental element. This is the first of many weak, philosophical arguments in the book.

I’m interested in the formation and evolution of stars. In this book I found a fascinating and enlightening Smolin starts by describing how what he calls “Radical Le conflicts with unification. In this book I found a fascinating and enlightening pun intended survey of this complex and sensitive phenomena.

I was particularly interested to learn that Cellular Automata have been used to model galactic star formation. The book’s thesis is Smolin’s own theory of Cosmological Natural Selection. In this theory, the apparently fine-tuned parameters in physics are a result of a sort of natural selection. This evolution of the fundamental constants occurs via black hole reproduction. As the theory goes, formation of new black holes in a universe give rise to child universes, etc.

He concludes that we can test this theory by examination of the parameters of physics. If a parameter can be changed to increase the rate of black hole formation, it would refute the theory.