I don’t read enough popular science, which is too bad because a few writers, like the late Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene elevate the form to art. Greene has been a hero of mine since I wrote a feature about him for Forbes back in 2002. Then, Greene told me of his admiration for Carl Sagan, one of America’s most important and effective public intellectuals.
In his latest book Until the End of Time, Greene charts the history of the universe from the Big Bang until today and then forecasts what might become of it all as the “entropic two step” that’s produced ordered forms like stars, planets, DNA and higher intelligence inevitably breaks down. Now, Greene doesn’t share this conclusion, but along the way he’s almost convinced me that, since in an infinite universe all things are not only possible but will inevitably happen, that we’re all Boltzmann Brains anyway (kind of like Descartes’ brains in a vat).
In his latest book, Greene sets out to explain the fundamentals of physics, chemistry and biology to support a sophisticated materialist view of everything from intelligence to creativity and spirituality and along the way, hopes to give us a path to finding meaning and solace in a necessarily indifferent universe that will not only extinguish all of our lives, but will eventually extinguish all life and thought.
He very much succeeds but does so in the only way available – which is to celebrate the wonder of it all. His conclusion is the same as Dr. Manhattan’s in The Watchmen – from all this chaos, chance and indifference, each of us has emerged as a thermodynamic miracle that makes it all worthwhile.
Get this book. It’s ecstatically brilliant.