Looking at night you are actually looking into your past!
The book falls into three parts: the first reviews our discovery of modern cosmology, the second describes some of the more intellectually challenging and counter-intuitive aspects of modern physics, astrophysics and cosmology theories, the third considers possible long-term futures for existence, knowledge and the universe. Along the way the usual suspects are rounded up, with black holes, time travel, quantum entanglement, string theory, 11-dimensional M-branes, and the anthropic principle all getting a mention.
Filled with informational punches one can glide through the time from Classical physics to the present spooky baffle. That the first image Hubble could capture was that of the Universe 13 billion light years ago (With about 300 million black holes in our night sky!). Whether the universe expands forever into a deep freeze or eventually contracts back into a hellish dot containing all energy, the future looks grim. Nearly all cosmologists agree that our universe isn’t static. It’s apparently expanding at an accelerating rate.
This we deduce from many years research with ET telescopes, and very fast computers. Step by step with the observations are the mathematical reasonings. The uncertainty principle, quantum mechanics, relativity, string theory all try to correlate the forces, fields and particles that constitute our existence. But, once entering into the realm of mathematics, the equations can lead to places that aren’t observable. Therefore, the concept that a parallel world might exist given the way Physicists vouch to evaluate the 11 dimensions, comes to the fore.
A beginner can get a glimpse of the how the Universe might have formed starting from dense stars to nebulae to pulsars to dwarfs. Along the way, the author mentions the works of Newton, Halley, Darwin, Einstein, Gamow and other luminaries along with Godel's Universe, Kerr black hole, Casimir effect and Schwarzschild values. These references, however, don’t obscure the main thrust which is to enable understanding of our universe, but are rather significant. Kaku explains why the night is black (read Olber's paradox), how the uncertainty principle links to consciousness (what a jump), and where quantum theory can lead to infinite realities. And with these spectral information he vouches for Strings Theory. Why not? Everything not forbidden is compulsory.
The heart of the book is the exotic physics. The path along proves to be an intellectually challenging one, starting with black holes, and especially their much-debated possible implications for time-travel. At places there is no clear yes-no answer, since there is no agreed one. The continuing fascination of quantum mechanics is well-discussed. Uncertainty and certainty are discussed at the same vigour, but when you look into certainty, questions like "Can a tornado striking a junkyard build up a Boeing 747?", appear and put the entire onus on probability and thus the ultimate Schrodinger's thought experiment emerges significant.
The pace with which he describes the events is very fast so that one need to have learnt already a few basic things about the Universe. Some catchy references, from what I have liked, include:
# How would you suspend 50000 pounds of water in the air with no visible means of support? - Answer - Build a cloud
# Vacuum is already empty and there is discussion about false vacuum
# A donkey falling into a pit has negative energy an bringing it up to the surface you bring it to neutral state (I am reminded of the medico in Chennai, who dropped an innocent dog from a third floor as if he was evaluating Guinea-feather experiment on Energetics!)
# Why is Gravity stronger than the electromagnetic forces? Because it is only a monopole unlike magnetism or charge which has positive and negative sides.
# The secret of nature is about losing the symmetry. A single homogenous drop develops into a heterogeneous human being!
# Butterfly effect: At critical time even the fluttering of the wings of the butterfly sends ripples that can tip the balance of forces and set off powerful storms.
# Objects exist because humans are there! : If a tree falls in a forest no one is there to see it and it does not really fall then. something related to collapse of the wave.
# What is the smallest distance one can travel? For moving from point A to point B in a room, quoting Feynmann, you move through the Milky way and other stars!!
# The Universe is behaving like a driver who slows down.
The vast range of topics discussed embraces modern cosmology, a subject increasingly replacing quantum mechanics and elementary particle physics at the head of the great race for knowledge and a theory of everything. The universe will prove itself to be more interesting than we have yet imagined.
Here is the circle of anthropic principle which has no end: The Weak - Constants of nature must be tuned on to allow for intelligence. The Strong - An intelligence of some sort was required to tune Physical constants to allow for intelligence.
The book does add weight to your knowledge of the things that have been Created.