The Book of Universes, By John D Barrow


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The Independent Culture

The latest work from Cambridge's Professor of Mathematical Science is reminiscent of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in variety – though not, perhaps, comprehensibility.

The 60-odd universes described here include Ptolemy's Heath Robinson version ("it wasn't right but it had so many ways of being tweaked"), the Swiss cheese of 1945 ("it had spherical regions removed... each had a mass placed at its centre equal in magnitude to what had been excavated"), the Mixmaster of 1969 ("its highly contorted geometry could... homogenise light") and others characterised as hot, electric, fractal, turbulent, chaotic, magnetic, singular and fake.

By 2012, we have reached the runway: "We may have to accept that our universe may not even be at the centre of the Universe."