Cover image for Until the end of time : mind, matter, and our search for meaning in an evolving universe
Title:
Until the end of time : mind, matter, and our search for meaning in an evolving universe
ISBN:
9781524731670
Edition:
1st ed.
Physical Description:
xiii, 428 pages ; 25 cm.
Contents:
The lure of eternity : beginnings, endings, and beyond -- The language of time : past, future, and change -- Origins and entropy : from creation to structure -- Information and vitality : from structure to life -- Particles and consciousness : from life to mind -- Language and story : from mind to imagination -- Brains and belief : from imagination to the sacred -- Instinct and creativity : from the sacred to the sublime -- Duration and impermanence : from the sublime to the final thought -- The twilight of time : quanta, probability, and eternity -- The nobility of being : mind, matter, and meaning.
Summary:
From the world-renowned physicist, co-founder of the World Science Festival, and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes this utterly captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose. Brian Greene takes readers on a breathtaking journey from the big bang to the end of time and invites us to ponder meaning in the face of this unimaginable expanse. He shows us how, from its original orderly state the universe has been moving inexorably toward chaos, and, still, remarkable structures have continually formed: the planets, stars, and galaxies that provide islands in a sea of disorder; biochemical mechanisms, including mutation and selection, animate life; neurons, information, and thought developed into complex consciousness which in turn gave rise to cultures and their timeless myths and creativity. And he describes, as well, how, in the deep reaches of the future, the nature of the universe will threaten the existence of matter itself. Through a series of nested stories Greene provides us with a clearer sense of how we came to be, a finer picture of where we are now, and a firmer understanding of where we are headed. Taken together, it is a completely new perspective on our place in the universe and on what it means to be human. --
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Copies
Status
Searching...
Book 523.1 GRE 0 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book 523.1 GRE 0 1
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

Instant New York Times Best-seller

"A splendid and invigorating read."
--Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

From the world-renowned physicist and best-selling author of The Elegant Universe comes a captivating exploration of deep time and humanity's search for purpose.

Until the End of Time is Brian Greene's breathtaking new exploration of the cosmos and our quest to find meaning in the face of this vast expanse. Greene takes us on a journey from the big bang to the end of time, exploring how lasting structures formed, how life and mind emerged, and how we grapple with our existence through narrative, myth, religion, creative expression, science, the quest for truth, and a deep longing for the eternal. From particles to planets, consciousness to creativity, matter to meaning--Brian Greene allows us all to grasp and appreciate our fleeting but utterly exquisite moment in the cosmos.


Author Notes

BRIAN GREENE is a professor of physics and mathematics and director of Columbia University's Center for Theoretical Physics and is renowned for his groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory. He is the author of The Elegant Universe , The Fabric of the Cosmos , and The Hidden Reality , which have collectively spent sixty-five weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and sold more than two million copies worldwide, and he has hosted two Peabody and Emmy Award winning NOVA miniseries based on his books. With producer Tracy Day, Greene cofounded the World Science Festival. He lives in New York.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Greene (The Hidden Reality), director of Columbia University's Center for Theoretical Physics, translates sophisticated science topics into an accessible and illuminating survey. His achievement is particularly remarkable given the cerebral subject--the "fundamental transience of everything" in the universe, and of the universe itself. Greene digests the latest scientific thinking on how the universe began; on molecular Darwinism, the "chemical combat" believed to have triggered the transformation of inanimate collections of atoms into life; and on the nature of consciousness. Greene effectively illustrates his points with understandable examples, as when he uses pennies, all arranged heads-up, to explain entropy; shaking the coins will flip some of the coins to tails, thus increasing disorder, but is highly unlikely to return them all to the ordered state of all-heads. He concedes that some profound questions--"Why is there something rather than nothing?"--are currently unanswerable, though he is convinced that "there is no grand design," and that people must construct their own meaning. Curious readers interested in some of the most fundamental questions of existence, and willing to invest some time and thought, will be richly rewarded by his fascinating exploration. (Feb.)


Booklist Review

Why does the universe exist? How will it end? What does it all mean? Greene (The Fabric of the Cosmos, 2004), a leading cosmic thinker and popular science writer, attempts to tackle these questions with an eye to explaining our deep need to believe we can be part of something eternal that is focused on the central role of entropy and Darwinian evolution in the unfolding of the universe. He begins with the Big Bang and concludes with explorations of how the universe might end. He explores the development of planets and complex life, the birth of mind, language, and creativity, awareness of mortality, the rise of storytelling, religion, and our attempts to leave some kind of permanent testament to our existence. He serves broad, high level summaries of ideas from physics, biology, neuroscience, philosophy, the arts, storytelling, and anthropology. He provides enough background to follow the meat of the discussion but he doesn't water it down for nonspecialists. There's tremendous joy in witnessing a brilliant and curious mind wrestle with such profound issues. He takes readers on a remarkable journey.--John Keogh Copyright 2020 Booklist


Guardian Review

"In the fullness of time all that lives will die." With this bleak truth Brian Greene, a physicist and mathematician at Columbia University, the author of best-selling books like "The Elegant Universe" and co-founder of the yearly New York celebration of science and art known as the World Science Festival, sets off in "Until the End of Time" on the ultimate journey, a meditation on how we go on doing what we do, why and how it will end badly, and why it matters anyway. For going on is what we do, building bridges, spaceships and families, composing great symphonies and other works of art, directing movies, and waging wars and presidential campaigns, even though not only are we going to die, but so is all life everywhere in the fullness of eternity, according to what science now thinks it knows about us and the universe. "Until the End of Time" is encyclopedic in its ambition and its erudition, often heartbreaking, stuffed with too many profundities that I wanted to quote, as well as potted descriptions of the theories of a galaxy of contemporary thinkers, from Chomsky to Hawking, and anecdotes from Greene's own life - of which we should wish for more - that had me laughing. It is also occasionally afflicted with stretches of prose that seem as if eternity will come before you ever get through them, especially when Greene is discussing challenging topics like entropy. If I really understood entropy, I suspect I would be writing this review in an office at M.I.T., not an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Greene's main idea, his own grand unified theory of human endeavor, expanding on the thoughts of people like Otto Rank, Jean-Paul Sartre and Oswald Spengler, is that we want to transcend death by attaching ourselves to something permanent that will outlast us: art, science, our families and so forth. For Greene this impulse has taken the form of a lifetime devotion to mathematics and physics, of the search for laws and truths that transcend time and place. "The enchantment of a mathematical proof might be that it stands forever," he writes. If he dies, the work lives on as part of the body of science and knowledge. But as a cosmologist, he knows this is an illusion: "As our trek across time will make clear, life is likely transient, and all understanding that arose with its emergence will almost certainly dissolve with its conclusion. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is absolute." Depressing. But in a Starbucks one day, he says, he had a realization, a sort of conversion to gratitude. Life and thought might occupy only a minute oasis in cosmic time, but, he writes, "If you take that in fully, envisioning a future bereft of stars and planets and things that think, your regard for our era can appreciate toward reverence." Or maybe, he jokes, he was just losing his mind. This book, then, is a love letter to the ephemeral cosmic moment when everything is possible. Reading it is like riding an escalator up through a giant department store. On the lower floors you find things like time, energy, gravity and the Big Bang, and biology. The universe is expanding - why? So far the best explanation is that a virulent antigravitational force dubbed "inflation" - and strangely allowed by Einstein's equations - briefly switched on during the first split trillionth of a second of time and sent everything flying, but astronomers still lack the smoking-gun proof. All living creatures that we know about on Earth share the same genetic tool kit, based on DNA. And we are all battery-operated, deriving energy from a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, ATP for short. In order to keep going, Greene tells us, each cell in your body consumes some 10 million of these molecules every second. Upward we go through the emporium of ideas to floors dedicated to consciousness, free will, language and religion. We don't linger long on any floor. Greene is like one of those custom shopping consultants. He knows the wares, the ideas being pitched in every department. He drags in all the experts - from Proust to Hawking - and tries to be an honest broker about the answers to questions we can't really answer. Why do humans tell stories? Was there an evolutionary advantage to be gained from taking time out from the hunt to sit around the campfire and gab - a bonding experience? Is the shared imagination a way to practice navigating unknown territory, or a guide for living your life? Can physics explain not just how the mind - neurons and electrochemical impulses - works but also explain the feeling of having a mind, that is to say consciousness? Greene is cautiously hopeful it can. "That the mind can do all it does is extraordinary. That the mind may accomplish all it does with nothing more than the kinds of ingredients and types of forces holding together my coffee cup, makes it more extraordinary still. Consciousness would be demystified without being diminished." But he's not always sure. Admitting that the neurophysical facts shed only "a monochrome light" on human experience, he extols art as another dimension. "We gain access to worlds otherwise uncharted," he says. "As Proust emphasized, this is to be celebrated. Only through art, he noted, can we enter the secret universe of another, the only journey in which we truly 'fly from star to star,' a journey that cannot be navigated by 'direct and conscious methods.'" Two main themes run through this story. The first is natural selection, the endless inventive process of evolution that keeps molding organisms into more and more complex arrangements and codependencies. The second is what Greene calls the "entropic-two step." This refers to the physical property known as entropy. In thermodynamics it denotes the amount of heat - wasted energy - inevitably produced by a steam engine, for example as it goes through its cycle of expansion and contraction. It's the reason you can't build a perpetual motion machine. In modern physics it's a measure of disorder and information. Entropy is a big concept in information theory and black holes, as well as in biology. We are all little steam engines, apparently, and everything we accomplish has a cost. That is why your exhaust pipe gets too hot to touch, or why your desk tends to get more cluttered by the end of the day. In the end, Greene says, entropy will get us all, and everything else in the universe, tearing down what evolution has built. "The entropic two-step and the evolutionary forces of selection enrich the pathway from order to disorder with prodigious structure, but whether stars or black holes, planets or people, molecules or atoms, things ultimately fall apart," he writes. In a virtuosic final section Greene describes how this will work by inviting us to climb an allegorical Empire State Building; on each floor the universe is 10 times older. If the first floor is Year 10, we now are just above the 10th (10 billion years). By the time we get to the 11th floor the sun will be gone and with it probably any life on Earth. As we climb higher we are exposed to expanses of time that make the current age of the universe look like less than the blink of an eye. Eventually the Milky Way galaxy will fall into a black hole. On about the 38th floor of the future, when the universe is 100 trillion trillion trillion years old, protons, the building blocks of atoms, will dissolve out from under us, leaving space populated by a thin haze of lightweight electrons and a spittle of radiation. In the far, far, far, far future, even holding a thought will require more energy than will be available in the vastly dissipated universe. It will be an empty and cold place that doesn't remember us. "Nabokov's description of a human life as a 'brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness' may apply to the phenomenon of life itself," Greene writes. In the end it is up to us to make of this what we will. We can contemplate eternity, Greene concludes, "and even though we can reach for eternity, apparently we cannot touch eternity."


Kirkus Review

The author of several bestselling explorations of cutting-edge physics turns his attention to the cosmos, and readers will encounter his usual astute observations and analysis.Greene (Physics and Mathematics/Columbia Univ.; The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, 2016) quotes from philosopher Bertrand Russell who, in a 1948 radio debate with a cleric, based his agnosticism on a scientific law: "the universe has crawled by slow stages to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth and is going to crawl by still more pitiful stages to a condition of universal deathif this is to be taken as evidence of purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not appeal to me." Russell is referring to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that "everything in the universe has an overwhelming tendency to run down, to degrade, to wither." Greene explains that this is entropy, a term that is often popularly defined as a gradual slide into disorder. In the Big Bang, a supremely ordered low entropy kernel of energy expanded into the familiar universe, but entropy's steady increase will lead to a uniformly disordered cold, lifeless emptinessalthough not for a long time. The law allows plenty of local, highly organized, low entropy areasgalaxies, stars, civilizationwhose existence is more than balanced by wasted energy they produce. Having announced his theme, Greene regularly returns to it in 11 chapters that begin at the Big Bang and proceed with deeply learned, sharp, never dumbed-down accounts of what scientists know about star formation, planet formation, life's origins, evolution, consciousness, language, culture, and religion. The author concludes his engaging survey with what the future might hold for humans (very long life) and the universe (even longer); beyond a certain entropy, however, there will be no room for us.An insightful history of everything that simplifies its complex subject as much as possible but no further. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Journalist Levy (In the Plex), known for previous technology corporate histories, turns his sights on the social media platform Facebook and its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp. Covering Facebook's origination and initial growth, much of which is depicted in Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires (adapted into the film The Social Network), Levy explores the past decade of corporate acquisitions, new social features, and a culture of "move fast, break things." Many employees and division heads are interviewed or profiled, but the main arc remains focused on the successes and missteps of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. Though the author's access to these two executives is touted as the book's selling point, Levy relates events in a personable but detached tone that steers clear of hagiography, critique, or even the inside scoop. VERDICT The value of this book lies in its putting together all the pieces of Facebook's privacy troubles, algorithms, and the Cambridge Analytica affair, elsewhere leaked, reported, or divulged in Congressional hearings.[See Prepub Alert, 8/12/19.]--Wade Lee-Smith, Univ. of Toledo Lib.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 The Lure of Eternity Beginnings, Endings, and Beyond In the fullness of time all that lives will die. For more than three billion years, as species simple and complex found their place in earth's hierarchy, the scythe of death has cast a persistent shadow over the flowering of life. Diversity spread as life crawled from the oceans, strode on land, and took flight in the skies. But wait long enough and the ledger of birth and death, with entries more numerous than stars in the galaxy, will balance with dispassionate precision. The unfolding of any given life is beyond prediction. The final fate of any given life is a foregone conclusion. And yet this looming end, as inevitable as the setting sun, is something only we humans seem to notice. Long before our arrival, the thunderous clap of storm clouds, the raging might of volcanoes, the tremulous shudders of a quaking earth surely sent scurrying everything with the power to scurry. But such flights are an instinctual reaction to a present danger. Most life lives in the moment, with fear born of immediate perception. It is only you and I and the rest of our lot that can reflect on the distant past, imagine the future, and grasp the darkness that awaits. It's terrifying. Not the kind of terror that makes us flinch or run for cover. Rather, it's a foreboding that quietly lives within us, one we learn to tamp down, to accept, to make light of. But underneath the obscuring layers is the ever-­present, unsettling fact of what lies in store, knowledge that William James described as the "worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight."1 To work and play, to yearn and strive, to long and love, all of it stitching us ever more tightly into the tapestry of the lives we share, and for it all then to be gone--­well, to paraphrase Steven Wright, it's enough to scare you half to death. Twice. Of course, most of us, in the service of sanity, don't fixate on the end. We go about the world focused on worldly concerns. We accept the inevitable and direct our energies to other things. Yet the recognition that our time is finite is always with us, helping to shape the choices we make, the challenges we accept, the paths we follow. As cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker maintained, we are under a constant existential tension, pulled toward the sky by a consciousness that can soar to the heights of da Vinci, Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Einstein but tethered to earth by a physical form that will decay to dust. "Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever."2 According to Becker, we are impelled by such awareness to deny death the capacity to erase us. Some soothe the existential yearning through commitment to family, a team, a movement, a religion, a nation--­constructs that will outlast the individual's allotted time on earth. Others leave behind creative expressions, artifacts that extend the duration of their presence symbolically. "We fly to Beauty," said Emerson, "as an asylum from the terrors of finite nature."3 Others still seek to vanquish death by winning or conquering, as if stature, power, and wealth command an immunity unavailable to the common mortal. Across the millennia, one consequence has been a widespread fascination with all things, real or imagined, that touch on the timeless. From prophesies of an afterlife, to teachings of reincarnation, to entreaties of the windswept mandala, we have developed strategies to contend with knowledge of our impermanence and, often with hope, sometimes with resignation, to gesture toward eternity. What's new in our age is the remarkable power of science to tell a lucid story not only of the past, back to the big bang, but also of the future. Eternity itself may forever lie beyond the reach of our equations, but our analyses have already revealed that the universe we have come to know is transitory. From planets to stars, solar systems to galaxies, black holes to swirling nebulae, nothing is everlasting. Indeed, as far as we can tell, not only is each individual life finite, but so too is life itself. Planet earth, which Carl Sagan described as a "mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam," is an evanescent bloom in an exquisite cosmos that will ultimately be barren. Motes of dust, nearby or distant, dance on sunbeams for merely a moment. Still, here on earth we have punctuated our moment with astonishing feats of insight, creativity, and ingenuity as each generation has built on the achievements of those who have gone before, seeking clarity on how it all came to be, pursuing coherence in where it is all going, and longing for an answer to why it all matters. Such is the story of this book. Stories of Nearly Everything We are a species that delights in story. We look out on reality, we grasp patterns, and we join them into narratives that can captivate, inform, startle, amuse, and thrill. The plural--­narratives--­is utterly essential. In the library of human reflection, there is no single, unified volume that conveys ultimate understanding. Instead, we have written many nested stories that probe different domains of human inquiry and experience: stories, that is, that parse the patterns of reality using different grammars and vocabularies. Protons, neutrons, electrons, and nature's other particles are essential for telling the reductionist story, analyzing the stuff of reality, from planets to Picasso, in terms of their microphysical constituents. Metabolism, replication, mutation, and adaptation are essential for telling the story of life's emergence and development, analyzing the biochemical workings of remarkable molecules and the cells they govern. Neurons, information, thought, and awareness are essential for the story of mind--­and with that the narratives proliferate: myth to religion, literature to philosophy, art to music, telling of humankind's struggle for survival, will to understand, urge for expression, and search for meaning. These are all ongoing stories, developed by thinkers hailing from a great range of distinct disciplines. Understandably so. A saga that ranges from quarks to consciousness is a hefty chronicle. Still, the different stories are interlaced. Don Quixote speaks to humankind's yearning for the heroic, told through the fragile Alonso Quijano, a character created in the imagination of Miguel de Cervantes, a living, breathing, thinking, sensing, feeling collection of bone, tissue, and cells that, during his lifetime, supported organic processes of energy transformation and waste excretion, which themselves relied on atomic and molecular movements honed by billions of years of evolution on a planet forged from the detritus of supernova explosions scattered throughout a realm of space emerging from the big bang. Yet to read Don Quixote's travails is to gain an understanding of human nature that would remain opaque if embedded in a description of the movements of the knight-­errant's molecules and atoms or conveyed through an elaboration of the neuronal processes crackling in Cervantes's mind while writing the novel. Connected though they surely are, different stories, told with different languages and focused on different levels of reality, provide vastly different insights. Perhaps one day we will be able to transit seamlessly between these stories, connecting all products of the human mind, real and fictive, scientific and imaginative. Perhaps we will one day invoke a unified theory of particulate ingredients to explain the overwhelming vision of a Rodin and the myriad responses The Burghers of Calais elicits from those who experience it. Maybe we will fully grasp how the seemingly mundane, a glint of light reflecting from a spinning dinner plate, can churn through the powerful mind of a Richard Feynman and compel him to rewrite the fundamental laws of physics. More ambitious still, perhaps one day we will understand the workings of mind and matter so completely that all will be laid bare, from black holes to Beethoven, from quantum weirdness to Walt Whitman. But even without having anything remotely near that capacity, there is much to be gained by immersion in these stories--­scientific, creative, imaginative--­appreciating when and how they emerged from earlier ones playing out on the cosmic timeline and tracing the developments, both controversial and conclusive, that elevated each to their place of explanatory prominence.4 Clear across the collection of stories, we will find two forces sharing the role of leading character. In chapter 2 we will meet the first: entropy. Although familiar to many through its association with disorder and the often-­quoted declaration that disorder is always on the rise, entropy has subtle qualities that allow physical systems to develop in a rich variety of ways, sometimes even appearing to swim against the entropic stream. We will see important examples of this in chapter 3, as particles in the aftermath of the big bang seemingly flout the drive to disorder as they evolve into organized structures like stars, galaxies, and planets--­and ultimately, into configurations of matter that surge with the current of life. Asking how that current switched on takes us to the second of our pervasive influences: evolution. Although it is the prime mover behind the gradual transformations experienced by living systems, evolution by natural selection kicks in well before the first forms of life start competing. In chapter 4, we will encounter molecules battling molecules, struggles for survival waged in an arena of inanimate matter. Round upon round of molecular Darwinism, as such chemical combat is called, is what likely produced a series of ever more robust configurations ultimately yielding the first molecular collections we would recognize as life. The details are the stuff of cutting-­edge research, but with the last couple of decades of stupendous progress, the consensus is that we are heading down the right track. Indeed, it may be that the dual forces of entropy and evolution are well-­matched partners in the trek toward the emergence of life. While that might sound like an odd coupling--­entropy's public rap veers close to chaos, seemingly the antithesis of evolution or of life--­recent mathematical analyses of entropy suggest that life, or at least lifelike qualities, might well be the expected product of a long-­lived source of energy, like the sun, relentlessly raining down heat and light on molecular ingredients that are competing for the limited resources available on a planet like earth. Tentative though some of these ideas currently are, what's certain is that a billion or so years after the earth formed it was teeming with life developing under evolutionary pressure, and so the next phase of developments is standard Darwinian fare. Chance events, like being hit by a cosmic ray or suffering a molecular mishap during the replication of DNA, result in random mutations, some with minimal impact on the organism's health or welfare but others making it more or less fit in the competition for survival. Those mutations that enhance fitness are more likely to be passed on to descendants because the very meaning of "more fit" is that the trait's carrier is more likely to survive to reproductive maturity and produce fit offspring. From generation to generation, qualities that enhanced fitness thus spread widely. Billions of years later, as this long process continued to unfold, a particular suite of mutations provided some forms of life with an enhanced capacity for cognition. Some life not only became aware, but became aware of being aware. That is, some life acquired conscious self-­awareness. Such self-­reflective beings have naturally wondered what consciousness is and how it arose: How can a swirl of mindless matter think and feel? Various researchers, as we will discuss in chapter 5, anticipate a mechanistic explanation. They argue that we need to understand the brain--­its components, its functions, its connections--­with far greater fidelity than we now do, but once we have that knowledge, an explanation of consciousness will follow. Others anticipate that we are up against a far greater challenge, arguing that consciousness is the most difficult conundrum we have ever encountered, one that will require radically new perspectives regarding not just mind but also the very nature of reality. Opinions converge when assessing the impact our cognitive sophistication has had on our behavioral repertoire. Across tens of thousands of generations during the Pleistocene, our forebears joined together in groups that subsisted through hunting and gathering. In time, an emerging mental dexterity provided them with refined capacities to plan and organize and communicate and teach and evaluate and judge and problem-solve. Leveraging these enhanced abilities of the individual, groups exerted increasingly influential communal forces. Which takes us to the next collection of explanatory episodes, those focused on developments that made us. In chapter 6 we examine our acquisition of language and subsequent obsession with the telling of stories; chapter 7 probes a particular genre of stories, those that foreshadow and transition into religious traditions; and in chapter 8 we explore the long-­standing and widespread pursuit of creative expression. In seeking the origin of these developments, both common and sacred, researchers have invoked a wide range of explanations. For us, an essential guiding light will continue to be Darwinian evolution, applied now to human behavior. The brain, after all, is but another biological structure evolving via selection pressures, and it is the brain that informs what we do and how we respond. Over the past few decades, cognitive scientists and evolutionary psychologists have developed this perspective, establishing that much as our biology has been shaped by the forces of Darwinian selection, so too has our behavior. And thus in our trek across human culture we will often ask whether this or that behavior may have enhanced the prospects for survival and reproduction among those who long ago practiced it, promoting its wide propagation throughout generations of descendants. However, unlike the opposable thumb or upright gait--­inherited physiological features tightly linked to specific adaptive behaviors--­many of the brain's inherited characteristics mold predilections rather than definitive actions. We are influenced by these predispositions but human activity emerges from a comingling of behavioral tendencies with our complex, deliberative, self-­reflective minds. And so a second guiding light, distinct but no less important, will be trained on the inner life that comes hand in hand with our refined cognitive capacities. Following a trail marked by many thinkers, we will come to a revealing vista: with human cognition we surely harnessed a powerful force, one that in time elevated us to the dominant species worldwide. But the very mental faculties that allow us to shape and mold and innovate are the very ones that dispel the myopia that would otherwise keep us narrowly focused on the present. The ability to manipulate the environment thoughtfully provides the capacity to shift our vantage point, to hover above the timeline and contemplate what was and imagine what will be. However much we'd prefer it otherwise, to achieve "I think, therefore I am" is to run headlong into the rejoinder "I am, therefore I will die." Excerpted from Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 The Lure of Eternityp. 3
Beginnings, Endings, and Beyond
2 The Language of Timep. 17
Past, Future, and Change
3 Origins and Entropyp. 44
From Creation to Structure
4 Information and Vitalityp. 67
From Structure to Life
5 Particles and Consciousnessp. 115
From Life to Mind
6 Language and Storyp. 160
From Mind to Imagination
7 Brains and Beliefp. 188
From Imagination to the Sacred
8 Instinct and Creativityp. 220
From the Sacred to the Sublime
9 Duration and Impermanencep. 244
From the Sublime to the Final Thought
10 The Twilight of Timep. 280
Quanta, Probability, and Eternity
11 The Nobility of Beingp. 310
Mind, Matter, and Meaning
Acknowledgmentsp. 327
Notesp. 329
Bibliographyp. 387
Indexp. 405