From Eternity to Here Is … Here!

By Sean Carroll | January 7, 2010 7:09 am

From Eternity to HereAnd here you thought the holidays were over. Silly you. Today is the greatest holiday of all: Book Release Day!

That’s right — From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time is out today. That means you could head over to and buy the book right now:

From Eternity to Here at Amazon

Don’t worry, we’ll wait. Of course you could also buy it later, but there are benefits to having a great first day, and we’re aiming to get as many Amazon purchases as we can. So you might want to take Lee Billings’s advice:

Just drafted a micro-review of @seanmcarroll’s “From Eternity to Here”. It’s really quite good–I suggest you all buy several copies.

I’m excited, anyway. You can find various goodies on the web page, including a reprint of the prologue, an annotated table of contents, a list of upcoming events, links to blurbs and reviews and other commentary, and a collection of related articles. Heck, I even went out and made a video:

I don’t think Spielberg is checking his rear-view mirror, but my budget was a bit lower.

Looking back through my old emails, I was first talking seriously about writing a book on the arrow of time in August, 2006. The contract with Dutton was agreed upon in May, 2007. Worked on it on and off, and finally started working in earnest in mid/late-2008. I emailed the manuscript to the publisher at 2:42 a.m. on Friday, May 8, 2009. And now it’s released to the world.

Writing the book was actually a lot of fun. If you write a very long blog post or medium-length magazine article, you’re talking 3,000 words. This book is 180,000 words, including footnotes. Room to stretch a bit and explain things the right way! Part of the fun was learning new things — I dug into the history a bit, reading papers by Boltzmann and his contemporaries, and also looked into interesting topics like complexity and information theory. But perhaps even more enjoyable was the challenge of explaining really deep ideas in an understandable way. I have a whole chapter that tries to work through the ideas of determinism and reversibility from the ground up — something that most physics books just zoom right past. There are a lot of places where I really took care to explain something basic in a fresh and accessible way — or tried to, anyway. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, so we’ll see what people think.

One thing I learned is that producing a book is very much a collaborative effort. I owe a lot to Stephen Morrow, Tala Oszkay, Katinka Matson, and John Brockman, who provided invaluable guidance and steered me in the right direction more than once. Jason Torchinsky contributed the charming illustrations. And of course to my wife Jennifer, for many reasons, but it doesn’t hurt to have an expert writer and editor right there in the house when you embark on a project like this. Many people were gracious enough to read through the book and point out where it could be improved — with embarrassing accuracy, I may add. (Special thanks to Scott Aaronson and George Musser, for their detailed and substantive critiques.) And I was fortunate enough get a dream team of physicist-writers to provide blurbs for the back of the book: Lisa Randall, Brian Greene, Kip Thorne, and Roger Penrose. I won’t reproduce them all here (that’s what the web page is for), but here’s Penrose:

Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here provides a wonderfully accessible account of some of the most profound mysteries of modern physics. While you may not agree with all his conclusions, you will find the discussion fascinating, and taken to much deeper levels than is normal in a work of popular science.

Of course everyone will agree with all my conclusions … eventually.

Enough of the folderol of writing and publishing the damn book — time to talk about the science! Next week I’ll post the schedule for a weekly book club right here at Cosmic Variance; the discussions will officially begin on January 19, and will continue every subsequent Tuesday. I’m going to try to participate as much as I can in the discussions — I want to hear how people react to the book, but I’m also expecting to learn a lot. Time and the origin of the universe — pretty big subjects, always room to understand more.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Personal, Time, Words
  • Justin Wagner

    I just ordered my copy from Looking forward to reading it!

  • Fenn

    Man, really been looking forward to it. Hauled in half a dozen books for xmas, but the missus refused to buy me any that weren’t actually out, so I have to wait til February 1 when my e-rewards Borders bucks are active.

    Borders is showing it as available on-line only and L.A.’s city and county libraries haven’t picked it up (Orange County) did. So it’s gonna be tough to get my hands on a copy until I can buy it.

    I can at least try to rectify the the library situation. Requesting both purchase it.

  • tlee1771

    Ordered my copy from amazon this morning. Trying to pick up a second copy from Barnes and Noble or Books a Million for this weekend but they don’t have them yet.

  • Lotty

    Congratulations Sean! Looking forward to reading the copy that I just bought.

  • Bee

    Nice video. Did you make a script for the text? And after we’ve computed for some trillion years might it turn out The Last Question is also the first question? 😉

  • dennis

    Congratulations. I’m sure we will be seeing you soon.

  • Eliza Strickland

    Congrats, Sean! Glad to see you’re coming to talk in NYC this spring.

  • Romeo Vitelli

    Congratulations. I checked the Mobipocket site and your e-book is already available.

  • Joe

    I’m excited, Sean. I’ll order it now.

    That said, the crazy Amazon customer review is kind of hilarious. I’m not sure which is worse – that you’re the kind of physicist who drove Boltzmann to suicide, or the implication that you thought quoting Augustine would make you cool.

  • Oded

    I ordered mine several weeks ago, together with David Albert’s “Time and Chance”.. I’m hoping it will arrive soon, just in time for my break from university in 2 weeks! :)

  • Norwegian Shooter

    Great title, and the subtitle is good, too! It’s got to be the worst time of the year to release a book, though.

  • Charlie Brown

    Wow. I just checked my Amazon account. I ordered the book April 20, 2009. I guess I learned an object lesson about time.

    I can’t wait to get it.

  • Barbara

    Just got it over Whispernet (shhhhh!) and am reading it at work instead of working this afternoon. If I get fired, it’s the author’s fault.

  • Sean

    Actually we intentionally released it in January rather than earlier. It’s true that many books are purchased for Christmas presents, but the competition is correspondingly more fierce. Given the economy, the publisher made the choice that books by new authors would do better after the holidays.

  • andy.s

    Congrats. You managed to get a negative review from Peter Woit _and_ Lubos Motl. How did you manage that? (OK, granted, pissing off Lubos is not difficult.)

    Got it on Kindle this morning. Will start it this evening.

  • Sean Heacock

    Ordered it from Amazon today – thanks for writing this, I’m really looking forward to it! I’ve been a fan since I googled “dark matter radiation” and found your paper :)

  • ARJ

    Rumor is that you wrote the title and the page numbers and the text was ghost-written by Jennifer… but, just a rumor.

  • Jim

    I ordered my copy too! …but won’t be delivered until 13th Jan :( …but Amazon “said” it was in stock.

    Overwhelmed by orders!! Awesome!!!

  • Joe

    Heh. And this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Teaching Company ad anywhere, despite owning something like 60 courses. I wonder if Sean should pump that up while he’s at it . . .

  • Sean

    ARJ, I can neither confirm nor deny such scurrilous rumors.

  • WhatMeWorry

    I pounced on the Amazon offer for a used book. Seriously I will be buying one just as soon as it crosses your northern border. Too bad about the timing; would have made a dandy Christmas present.

  • Tom Allen

    Just ordered it. Turns out I’ve already read it later this month. Maybe it’s the same copy WhatMeWorry is getting.

  • Chris W.

    By the way, Sean, have you tried searching for “From Eternity to Here” on Amazon’s book site? The top two matches make a rather odd couple. Maybe you should have thought a bit more about the choice of title. :)

  • King Cynic

    I’m just relieved that the author of the other “From Eternity to Here” is not the All Star pitcher.

  • Chad J. Cuddihy

    Congratulations! Copy purchased.

  • paul valletta

    MESSAGE..Sean, congrats book about time, pls send signed copy to the above responder fan(who’s finances are insufficiently balanced after LHC caused black_hole money loss paradox dated april a time deflected date post magnetic fault?)..our future needs charity..time waits for your reply 😉
    end MESSAGE.

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  • Eugene

    Congratulations!!! When are you going on the Colbert Report?

  • Amp

    Congrats! Just ordered a copy. Not via Amazon but from our local book store in south germany though – hope that counts too..

  • Rohan


    Of course I’ll have to wait now until NEXT Christmas before I can have it!

  • Rosenberg

    Thanks to some relativistic effect the book arrived here in Sweden on New Years Eve. I have read it. Absolutely excellent.

  • Albert Bakker

    Wonderful! Meanwhile I’ll be busy shoveling snow from the post-office to my house.

  • Samuel A. (Sam) Cox

    Best Wishes Sean,

    I’ve ordered my copy. I like the title and your remark “From Eternity to Here- is HERE!…quite profound; would not suggest anyone start reading the book without first pondering the implications of the title- and the meaning of eternity itself. I liked the coffee illustration. It was interesting to watch the coffee “un-mix” seemingly as easily as it was mixed…entropy direction is related to the set of coordinates from which it is observed…the (critical) link between the past, present- and future….

  • Cliff Moore

    Apparently you’re one of the hottest young physicists coming up in the physicists ranks, so says Barnes and Noble.

    …I feel cold, and more than a little frightened.

    But in all seriousness, good show mr. Carroll! Good Show!

  • Radha

    Got my copy last night — it looks great, and I can’t wait to read it this weekend. Congratulations, Sean!

  • daniel

    Congratulations!! How does it feel post-partum? I’m really looking forward to reading it.

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  • Tarun

    Amusingly, the price trend on Amazon has the arrow of time reversed. Which is to say that “11 new from $17.49, 2 used from $28.40” :)

  • jepe

    Congratulations Sean! We’ll get our copy and dive in. It’ll be required reading for the lab (esp the part on biological physics). Already got a heads up from….

  • Chad J. Cuddihy

    Reviewed in the WSJ! A nice one. Another journal conquered.

  • joel rice

    A cool idea from GFR Ellis- T Rothman on ArXiv “…the arrow of time arises simply because
    the future does not yet exist.”

  • joulesm

    Yay my copy has arrived!! Can’t wait to read it :)

  • Sili

    Having just seen Brian Cox’ book on Plait’s blog (yeah, I’m catching up), I have to ask a very important question about this new book:

    Does it have cats?

  • Sean

    Yes, there is a cat. Also a dog, but the cat gets top billing.

  • Brad Cooke

    Thanks mainly to Sean and Cosmic Variance, I have been struggling through “Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man Who Trusted Atoms” for the past month or so, and now have a very good excuse to put it down and read something that I’m sure is far more accessible and better written. Looking rearward to it….!

  • George

    I will check it out. I always did like Kerr Deborah…

  • marc

    My copy is in the mail! Alas, I had a Barnes & Noble gift card, so didn’t use Amazon. Same price, though…

  • Samuel A. (Sam) Cox

    Hi Sean, An impressive book. Not finished yet (I’ll take my time and digest each idea carefully) but I really appreciate your objectivity, and the way you carefully follow the history of science in your writing….One quick question/: PP 211, near the bottom….”We could consider a slight variation on this approach, in which there were only a finite number of particles in the universe (very sound- finite mass- and relates to our finding the unverse evolving in the manner in which it is), but they had an infinite amount of space in which to evolve. Then recurrences would truly be absent.”
    (I agree). My question is: In a universe in which the existence of particles and mass itself are finite and inter-related with the shape of space-time, is it tenable to conjecture that space is infinite? Of course, other models hold that time is infinite (eternal), so why not space? Are time and space part of the same thing…or is time distict in some essential way, from space? There is a lot of tricky geometry here! Can “closed” space actually have an infinite quality, for example, or does space “have” to be “open” to be infinite?

    A fine, thought provoking book! Best Wishes….

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  • Bob Turrentine

    Your book just arrived today & I’ve started it. Looks fascinating. Also, I took your advice about going to the Math & Physics Forum for my questions & discovered that Moving Dimension Theory IS a crackpot theory & can be safely ignored. Glad to get THAT settled! Therefore, I can ignore that terrible review of your book on (And also the other bad one by that failed Czech physicist.)


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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