As a boy, Brian Greene read Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphusand was transformed. Camus, in Greene's paraphrase, insisted that thehero triumphs "by relinquishing everything beyond immediateexperience." After wrestling with this idea, however, Greene rejectedCamus and realized that his true idols were physicists; scientists whostruggled "to assess life and to experience the universe at allpossible levels, not just those that happened to be accessible to ourfrail human senses." His driving question in The Fabric of the Cosmos, then, is fundamental: "What isreality?" Over sixteen chapters, he traces the evolving humanunderstanding of the substrate of the universe, from classical physicsto ten-dimensional M-Theory. Assuming an audience ofnon-specialists, Greene has set himself a daunting task: to explainnon-intuitive, mathematical concepts like String Theory, the HeisenbergUncertainty Principle, and Inflationary Cosmology with analogies drawnfrom common experience. For the most part, he succeeds. His languagereflects a deep passion for science and a gift for translating conceptsinto poetic images. When explaining, for example, the inability to seethe higher dimensions inherent in string theory, Greene writes: "Wedon't see them because of the way we see…like an ant walking along a lily pad…we could be floating within a grand, expansive, higher-dimensional space."
For Greene, Rhodes Scholar and professor of physics and mathematics atColumbia University, speculative science is not always as thorough andsuccessful. His discussion of teleportation, for example, introducesand then quickly tables a valuable philosophical probing of identity.The paradoxes of time travel, however, are treated with greater depth,and his vision of life in a three-brane universe is compelling and--touse his description for quantum reality--"weird."