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Introduction Perhaps Time is the Greatest MysteryI stop and do nothing Nothing Happens I am thinking about nothing I listen to the passing of time This is time, familiar and intimate We are taken by it The rush of seconds, hours, years that hurls us toward life then drags us toward nothingness We inhabit time as fish live in water Our being is being in time Its solemn music nurtures us, opens the world to us, troubles us, frightens and lulls us The universe unfolds into the future, dragged by time, and exists according to the order of timeIn Hindu mythology, the river of the cosmos is portrayed with the sacred image of Shiva dancing his dance supports the coursing of the universe it is itself the f lowing of time What could beuniversal and obvious than this flowing And yet things are somewhatcomplicated than this Reality is often very different from what it seems The Earth appears to be flat but is in fact spherical The sun seems to revolve in the sky when it is really we who are spinning Neither is the structure of time what it seems to be it is different from this uniform, universal flowing I discovered this, to my utter astonishment, in the physics books I read as a university student time works quite differently from the way it seems toIn those same books I also discovered that we still dont know how time actually works The nature of time is perhaps the greatest remaining mystery Curious threads connect it to those other great open mysteries the nature of mind, the origin of the universe, the fate of black holes, the very functioning of life on Earth Something essential continues to draw us back to the nature of timeWonder is the source of our desire for knowledge, and the discovery that time is not what we thought it was opens up a thousand questions The nature of time has been at the center of my lifes work in theoretical physics In the following pages, I give an account of what we have understood about time and the paths that are being followed in our search to understand it better, as well as an account of what we have yet to understand and what it seems to me that we are just beginning to glimpseWhy do we remember the past and not the future Do we exist in time, or does time exist in us What does it really mean to say that time passes What ties time to our nature as persons, to our subjectivity What am I listening to when I listen to the passing of time This book is divided into three unequal parts In the first, I summarize what modern physics has understood about time It is like holding a snowflake in your hands gradually, as you study it, it melts between your fingers and vanishes We conventionally think of time as something simple and fundamental that f lows uniformly, independently from everything else, from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way pasts, presents, futures The past is fixed, the future open And yet all of this has turned out to be falseOne after another, the characteristic features of time have proved to be approximations, mistakes determined by our perspective, just like the flatness of the Earth or the revolving of the sun The growth of our knowledge has led to a slow disintegration of our notion of time What we call time is a complex collection of structures, of layers Under increasing scrutiny, in ever greater depth, time has lost layers one after another, piece by piece The first part of this book gives an account of this crumbling of timeThe second part describes what we have been left with an empty, windswept landscape almost devoid of all trace of temporality A strange, alien world that is nevertheless still the one to which we belong It is like arriving in the high mountains, where there is nothing but snow, rocks, and sky Or like it must have been for Armstrong and Aldrin when venturing onto the motionless sand of the moon A world stripped to its essence, glittering with an arid and troubling beauty The physics on which I workquantum gravityis an attempt to understand and lend coherent meaning to this extreme and beautiful landscape To the world without timeThe third part of the book is the most difficult, but also the most vital and the one that most closely involves us In a world without time, there must still be something that gives rise to the time that we are accustomed to, with its order, with its past that is different from the future, with its smooth f lowing Somehow, our time must emerge around us, at least for us and at our scaleThis is the return journey, back toward the time lost in the first part of the book when pursuing the elementary grammar of the world As in a crime novel, we are now going in search of a guilty party the culprit who has created time One by one, we discover the constituent parts of the time that is familiar to usnot, now, as elementary structures of reality, but rather as useful approximations for the clumsy and bungling mortal creatures we are aspects of our perspective, and aspects, too, perhaps, that are decisive in determining what we are Because the mystery of time is ultimately, perhaps,about ourselves than about the cosmos Perhaps, as in the first and greatest of all detective novels, Sophocles Oedipus Rex, the culprit turns out to be the detectiveHere, the book becomes a fiery magma of ideas, sometimes illuminating, sometimes confusing If you decide to follow me, I will take you to where I believe our knowledge of time has reached up to the brink of that vast nocturnal and star studded ocean of all that we still dont knowPraise for The Order of Time Highly original Chapter by chapter, Rovelli shows how modern physics has annihilated common understandings of time the many other excellent explanations of science, the heart and humanity of the book, its poetry and its gentle tone raise it to the level and style of such great scientist writers as Lewis Thomas and Rachel Carson Alan Lightman, New York Times Book ReviewAn elegant grapple with one of physics deepest mysteries A masterly writer In this little gem of a book, Mr Rovelli first demolishes our common sense notion of time an ambitious book that illuminates a thorny question, that succeeds in being a pleasurable readWall Street Journal No one writes about the cosmos like theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli Rovellis new story of time is elegant and lucidly told, whether he is revealing facts or indulging in romantic philosophic speculation about the nature of time The Washington PostA deepand remarkably readabledive into the fundamental nature of time written with enough charm and poetry to engage the imagination of anyone who reads it Financial Times The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli, hardly seems like pool side reading, but anyone with the least interest in the science of the physical world will be by turns astonished, baffled and thrilled by what Rovelli has to say about the true nature of time, which has little in common with our everyday conception of it Rovelli is the poet of quantum physics John Banville We live in an age of wonderful science writing, and Carlo Rovellis new book, The Order of Time, is an example of the very best Time is something we think we know about instinctively here he shows how profoundly strange it really is Philip Pullman Mind bending Michael Pollan The Order of Time is a little wonder of a book It provides surprising insights into an increasingly mysterious world, offers warmly humane reflections on our existential condition, and sustains a virtual conversation that will continue long after the reading has ceased PopMatters A dizzying, poetic work The GuardianA compact and elegant book NatureRovelli, a physicist and one of the founders of loop quantum gravity theory, uses literary, poetical and historical devices to unravel the properties of time, what it means to exist without time and, at the end, how time began Scientific AmericanPhysics literary superstar makes us rethink timeThe Order of Timewill surely establish Rovelli among the pantheon of great scientist communicatorsMore of this please New ScientistWhere other writers struggle to get their complex ideas across, Rovelli introduces profound notions with ease, using simple but evocative languageHe also has a knack for mixing his serious enterprise with a sense of humor Science MagazineIn this fascinating new book, Carlo Rovelli weaves together physics, philosophy, and art to explore the enduring mystery of time itself BustleAn elegantly concise primer makes theoretical physics intelligibleit would be to do a disservice to Rovelli and this stunningly written book, to say that brevity is its main virtue The TimesUK