THE SINGULAR UNIVERSE AND THE REALITY OF TIME
A book written with Roberto Mangabeira Unger, published by Cambridge University Press, November 30, 2014.
The book has been positively reviewed.
An erratum to Part II is coming soon.
“ This might be one of the most important books of our time. Or not. Right or wrong, like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, it is an event.”
-Bryan Appleyard in The London Sunday Times, January 4, 2015.
This is a book on the nature of time and the basic laws of nature. We argue for the inclusive reality of time as well as for the mutability of the laws of nature. We seek to breathe new life and meaning into natural philosophy –- a form of reasoning that crosses the boundaries between science and philosophy.
The work should appeal to a broad educated readership as well as to scientists and philosophers. It is not a popularization, but neither does it use a technical vocabulary that would restrict it to specialized readers. The subjects that it addresses are of paramount interest to people in many disciplines outside cosmology and physics.
In the twentieth century, physics and cosmology overturned the idea of an unchanging background of time and space. In so doing, however, they maintained the idea of an immutable framework of laws of nature. This second idea must now also be attacked and replaced. What results is a new picture of the agenda of physics and cosmology as well as of the methods of fundamental science.
The book develops four inter-related themes:
1) There is only one universe at a time. Our universe is not one of many worlds. It has no copy or complete model, even in mathematics. The current interest in multiverse cosmologies is based on fallacious reasoning.
2) Time is real, and indeed the only aspect of our description of nature which is not emergent or approximate. The inclusive reality of time has revolutionary implications for many of our conventional beliefs.
3) Everything evolves in this real time including laws of nature. There is only a relative distinction between laws and the states of affairs that they govern..
4) Mathematics deals with the one real world. We need not imagine it to be a shortcut to timeless truth about an immaterial reality (Platonism) in order to make sense of its “unreasonable effectiveness” in science.
We argue by systematic philosophical and scientific reasoning , as well as by detailed examples, that these principles are the only way theoretical cosmology can break out of its current crisis in a manner that is scientific, i.e. results in falsifiable predictions for doable experiments.
The book is in two parts: the first part by Roberto Mangabeira Unger and the second, shorter part by Lee Smolin. Unger presents the argument of the book first in comprehensive philosophical form. Smolin goes on to develop it in the context of contemporary physics and cosmology. Thus, the two parts of the book connect organically, building on each other. They have begun to be discussed by scientists and philosophers.. These two parts of the work are preceded by a joint introduction by both of us. These texts represent the product of eight years of intense collaboration between the authors.