Chapter 1 Excerpt

Today, we live in a worried world that seems short of good ideas. We are confronted by challenges that can feel overwhelming: financial instability, overconsumption and pollution, energy and resource shortages, climate change, and growing inequality. All of these problems were created by humans, and they are all solvable. Yet we seem to be locked in a culture of short-term thinking, of the quick fix and the fast buck. Whereas what each of these problems really needs for its solution is consistent, principled, far-sighted actions extending over many years.

We’re reaching the limits of existing technologies and natural resources. We are in danger of losing our sense of optimism. Can we find smarter ways to manage our planet? Can we make the discoveries that will open up a bright future? Who are we, after all? Are we just the product of a process of random mutation and natural selection, now reaching its terminus? Or are we potentially the initiators of a new evolutionary stage, in which life may rise to a whole new level?

In these lectures, I want to talk about our ability to make sense of reality and to conceive of the universe within our minds. This ability has been a continuous source of powerful ideas, describing everything from the tiniest subatomic particle up to the entire visible cosmos. It has spawned every modern technology, from cellphones to satellites. It is by far and away our most precious possession, and yet it is also completely free to share. If history is anything to go by, the Universe Within us will be the key to our future.

Excerpt from pages 3-4 of The Universe Within © 2012 Neil Turok and CBC.

No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.