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Book Review: The Universe Solved! Options
mortimer
Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2008 2:40:09 AM

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Here's the review I did for media underground:



I was first introduced to the ideas and theories of Jim Elvidge in an interview he did with Red Ice Creations Radio. His clarity, intelligence and wit impressed me so much that it prompted me to write to the author to see if I could acquire a review copy of his new book The Universe – Solved! - a work that proported to be a "provocative view of the nature of reality”. I was not disappointed.

Elvidge’s background is rooted in engineering. Having gained a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University, Elvidge has kept pace with the latest research, theories and discoveries in the varied fields of subatomic physics, cosmology, articifical intelligence, nanotechnology and the paranormal. Coming from an Electrical and Electronic background myself, what astonished me most about his book was the clarity and lucidity of his writing. Most of the engineers I came across during my time working for Raytheon were completely incapable of communicating in a language that the layperson could appreciate or understand; over-engineering things to the point of insanity, and getting patted on the back by their caravaning contemporaries for doing what should have resulted in a disciplinary hearing. Then again, most of the engineers I’ve met were on ridiculously high salaries for what appeared to be little more than pursuing a career that involved staring at a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for 9 hours a day. Also, most of them were so rooted in their academic education that anything that deviated into the areas of fringe science would be categorised as utter nonsense.

Not so with Jim Elvidge. To put it simply, The Universe – Solved! is a treatise on a concept that has become quite commonplace in today’s mainstream culture: the idea that reality might not be exactly what we think it is, and that perhaps we are actually living in a simulation. Popularised largely by the half-rate movie The Matrix and its dismally dull sequels, this is not a new idea, and authors like Philip K. Dick have been exploring these concepts in their fictional writings for many years.

The idea was also presented to the scientific community in a paper entitled Are You Living In A Computer Simulation? by Future of Humanity Institute director, Nick Bostrom, and Jim Elvidge is the first to acknowledge that these ideas are nothing new. However, what is wonderful about Elvidge’s book is that it is intelligently composed and presented in such a way that anyone picking it up and reading it will understand it from the onset. I mean, philosophy, psychology, quantum mechanics and computer coding (among many, many other things) are not exactly the kinds of subjects that your average Joe on the street will be familiar with (or even want to be familiar with, for that matter). I myself have struggled to grasp many of the concepts of quantum mechanics, simply because a lot of them seem contrary to the way I have been educated (or perhaps programmed) to interpret the reality around me. Elvidge’s book, for me, made all the difference and some very complex theories are explored in great depth, but in a way that allows you to visualise them, understand them and appreciate them fully.

As Wittgenstein put it: “anything that can be said, can be said clearly” and it is the mark of a great writer when something very complex can be presented very simply. In fact, The Universe – Solved! is a highly entertaining read and despite how well it flows, it might take you longer than you expect to get through it, simply because you will constantly want to put the book down and have a little think about some of the mindblowing ideas presented in it. You see, what’s truly fascinating about this work is that I think it is the first of its kind ever to make perfect scientific and theological sense. Whilst we can all probably agree that life at times seems mundane and perfectly ordinary, there are also so many anomolies going on around us that it is difficult to unify and assimilate them into a coherent interpretation. Elvidge explores many of these anomolies and then packages the whole thing up by providing an explanation. At this stage in human evolution, this explanation makes perfect sense, and whilst it might not be 100% correct, I think Jim Elvidge has got closer to the truth than any of his predecessors.

So are we really living in a computer simulation? That's the million dollar question, isn't it? Personally I’m not so sure it’s all as simple as that, but it’s a fascinating speculative argument and one that fits in well in this digital/information age. I do part company with the author on some issues, but this is mainly because there seems to be a positive moral message running throughout the book, which is probably just as well otherwise half the book’s readers might lapse into paranoia and psychosis. Elvidge also advocates the existence of a soul, and whilst I myself feel that there has to be something more to human consciousness and self-awareness, I’m not so sure that my consciousness means that I’m a separate entity per se, but perhaps rather a small subjective part of something greater.

Elvidge’s argument gravitates towards a reality where individual consciousness is existing inside a simulation in much the same way as one might play a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft. Unfortunately I’ve read too much Philip K. Dick to feel optimistic, and have often speculated that our consciouness might just simply be a small part of the software that is actually running this universal program (or organism).

But what comes across strongly in the book is that Elvidge is an open, logical and original thinker who is willing to modify his ideas as they evolve. Whilst The Universe – Solved! might present itself as the author’s magnum opus, it is clear that Elvidge derives much pleasure from speculating about a great many concepts, and is clearly no stranger to alternative viewpoints and angles.

Alongside Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson, The Universe – Solved! is probably one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read, and a must for just about anyone who enjoys sitting up to the small hours discussing and comtemplating the nature of existence. In fact, not since reading Prometheus Rising have I wanted to buy a copy of a book for all my family and friends ...until now.

It is clear this book has been a labour of love for the author, and that is what truly makes it a masterpiece worth reading. So many things just fit together with Elvidge’s argument that the book deserves mainstream attention (particularly when there’s been a spate of half-baked quasi-religious science books and films hitting the mainstream market such as the dreadful What The Bleep Do We Know? docu-melodrama).

Priced at a reasonable $24.95, one can acquire a signed hardcover copy of the book from Jim Elvidge’s website or buy it directly from Amazon.

media underground
jim
Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2008 5:26:34 PM

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Wow! Awesome review - thank you so much! Mortimer, you are my new PR agent. Angel
Neo
Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2008 5:33:00 PM
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That was an extensive review mortimer, you obviously put effort into it. I'm currently on Chapter 7 (yup, that Chapter) and so far it's been a most interesting read, though I'll add that some of the ideas are quite new to me. The two aspects of this book that impress me most up to now are (1) the author's knack of treating complex concepts (eg. String Theory, M-Theory, D-Branes) both lucidly and succinctly when required, and (2) the general wide-ranging scope of this tome. For these reasons alone I feel that it's well worth reading - one to get the imagination buzzing.

***

mortimer wrote:


Popularised largely by the half-rate movie The Matrix


Eh? Slag off the sequels if you must, but 'The Matrix' is half-rate? Simply don't agree.

There is no spoon.
Neo
Posted: Monday, May 05, 2008 4:51:49 PM
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Any movie that has a scene like the one below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9p8LXD5UDs

is worth watching.

There is no spoon.
jdlaw
Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2008 5:48:59 AM

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mortimer wrote:
Popularised largely by the half-rate movie The Matrix and its dismally dull sequels, this is not a new idea, and authors like Philip K. Dick have been exploring these concepts in their fictional writings for many years.


The movie is really a cross-over. The Matrix flavor of science fiction, sci-fi, is based on a broad genre of fiction, whereas some other less popular, but more scientifically correct works. tend to focus better on a particular fantasy, speculation, or horror.

The "13th Floor" movie released that same year (1999) for example was perhaps much more critically acclaimed, but lacked popularity. It was a much more focused piece that more fully sought to show the programmed reality in a genre conducive to the classic sci-fi "fantasy" crowd.

Another excellent example is to compare Sci-Fi genres is Battelstar Galactica. Some people really found the old Battlestar Galactica original series to be the better extremely well written, directed, and popularized work of science fiction. Others found the old series "corny," second-rate, and generally a "waste of time." To the old crowd (not necessarily based on the age of the viewer) the new series, Battlestar Galatica, which is an Emmy award winning show often called the "best" sci-fi of our time, is considered way too dark, over-acted, and much too ominously portrayed.

Which is it? Old or new? There are "soft" and "social" sci-fi, which focus more on character and emotion and there are the Sci-fi "fantasy" and "horror" flicks that try to use alternate realism to elicit more adrenalin in the viewer.

Since the Movie Matrix successfully landed with the masses and is now entrenched as classic pop culture icon, it should be considered the most successful movie about programmed reality. Even if the Matrix was not the most technically or scientifically correct, as for the cinematography with its revolutionary "fast-frame" filming, the 1999 Matrix movie was (for its time) perhaps the best "filmed" Sci-fi movie and best scripted ever.

If you don't think this movie has really affected pop culture, just go back to youtube and do a search on Neo's tag line "there is no spoon" People are taking that clip from the movie and threading in music and other video and even to trying to legitimize the concept of "there is no spoon" as a scientific fact. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMeAgVStw20

Personally, I think they're all just on LSD, but let me just say Wow!
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