What is the universe? Is it infinite, or finite? Is it eternal, or did time begin at some first moment? If it began, what began it? Everyone has wondered about these questions, and every culture has told a story about them. As human knowledge and culture has expanded, this story has changed and grown, in a succession of stages, as the known world expanded and the realm of mythology and speculation was pushed back.
Now at the end of the twentieth century we stand at the verge of another step in our growing understanding of the universe. We live in the middle of one of the great revolutionary periods in our understanding of nature, as we attempt to meld into one framework what we have learned about relativity, the quantum and the expanding universe. This framework must provide answers to the questions I began with, as well as other questions, which the developments of this century have made urgent, such as: Why is there life in the universe? Why is the universe full of such a variety of beautiful structures? Are the laws of physics eternal truths, or were they somehow created, with the world? Is it possible to conceive of, and understand, the universe as a whole system, as something more than the sum of its parts?
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Publication information: Book title: The Life of the Cosmos. Contributors: Lee Smolin - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 11.
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