Book Review of Visions of the Multiverse
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Visions of the Multiverse

Book Review of: Visions of the Multiverse

Do parallel realities exist? Is our universe one of many?

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Review of Visions of the Multiverse, by Dr. Steven Manly (Softcover, 2011)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


I like Dr. Manly's style. It's obvious he enjoys writing. I enjoyed reading what he wrote.

This book takes a non-academic approach to explaining various theories of some of the toughest of academic topics, such as particle physics and cosmology. Dr. Manly communicates the essence of these theories clearly, despite not using the math that normally forms the basis for discussion.

The idea of multiple universes doesn't appeal to me, and I agree with the view Dr. Manly had before he wrote this book. However, that particular twist makes a compelling reason to read the book. The bulk of it covers the supporting topics, which we might consider mainstream physics and cosmology. I've read many books on these topics, partly because it took many books before I could have a reasonably full grasp of these topics.

For someone who is new to these areas of science, this book would be an excellent introduction. It isn't particularly deep, but it does have enough depth to be educational. Its breadth is necessary, I think, to prepare the reader for the multiverse concepts Dr. Manly explores.

It didn't surprise me when I read the About the Author part and learned he teaches introductory physics at the University of Rochester. This book is geared toward that demographic. Without being "dumbed down," the book is introductory in scope, content, and tone. He also has a direct writing style, as opposed to the passive voice commonly used in works targeted toward higher academics.

As a reader, I never felt insulted or condescended to. I could feel Dr. Manly's enthusiasm for the subject as I read, too. This is one of those works of nonfiction that you can read strictly for enjoyment, if you want to.

This book consists of nine chapters and two appendices spanning 240 pages. It also has an index, extensive notes, and an extensive bibliography.

Chapter one explains the story of Copernicus and his revolutionary effect on how the western world viewed the universe. Chapter two gives an overview of how our current view of space-time came to be. Chapter three delves into the sometimes confusing subject of particles and waves, a topic that seemed straightforward until de Broglie put his two cents in. Dr. Manly manages to discuss all of this without leaving the reader confused.

The rest of the book goes a little deeper into particle physics but mostly builds on the multiverse theme as the title promises. Just in case you didn't catch all of the main points, Appendix A presents them in abbreviated form. For those who want a structured view of multiverse theories, Appendix B looks at Tegmark's taxonomy. It has four levels, so it's a quick read.

Add this book to your reading list, if you don't have a copy yet. It could make for some interesting dinner conversations.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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