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Cosmological Koans

A Journey to the Heart of Physical Reality

June 2019

Territory Rights — Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.


Cosmological Koans invites the reader into an intellectual adventure of the highest order.

Through more than fifty Koans—pleasingly paradoxical vignettes following the ancient Zen tradition—leading physicist Anthony Aguirre takes the reader across the world from West to East, and through ideas spanning the age, breadth, and depth of the Universe.

Using these beguiling Koans (Could there be a civilization on a mote of dust? How much of your fate have you made? Who cleans the universe?) and a flair for explaining complex science, Aguirre covers cosmic questions that scientific giants from Aristotle to Galileo to Heisenberg have grappled with, from the meaning of quantum theory and the nature of time to the origin of multiple universes.

A playful and enlightening book, Cosmological Koans explores the strange hinterland between the deep structure of the physical world and our personal experience of it, giving readers what Einstein himself called “the most beautiful and deepest experience” anyone can have: a sense of the mysterious.


"Playful and enchanting." — Priyamvada Natarajan, Wall Street Journal

"Readers may experience epiphanies clarifying scientific theories of the cosmically large and the subatomically small…Science and mysticism meld in this physics rendered as fully human life." — Booklist (starred review)

"Aguirre presents lucid, thought-provoking discussions…and his explorations of cosmic origins and the possibility of this universe being one among many are grandly engaging." — Publishers Weekly

"A provocative set of meditations on the nature of life, the universe, and everything…A delight for readers raised on books like Gödel, Escher, and Bach and The Dancing Wu Li Masters." — Kirkus Reviews

"The tremendous insights into the natural world which are the precious gift of the current research in physics and cosmology can be popularized by simplifying and trivializing them; or they can be made to sparkle, looking in the eyes the abyssal questions they open. This is what Anthony Aguirre does, with shining intelligence and profound human sensitivity, in this gem of a book." — Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

"The universe is apparently paradoxical, but ultimately sensible. How better to illuminate that dichotomy than through Zen koans? This book is calisthenics for the mind—it will stretch your imagination almost to the breaking point, and your understanding of reality will come away more healthy and flexible than before." — Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture

"A truly creative exploration of physics and its profound insights into the Universe. A masterful writer, Anthony Aguirre has composed an accessible and entertaining exploration of the Cosmos and our place in it. This book is a delightful addition to popular accounts of both the foundations and frontiers of physics." — Adam Frank, author of Light of the Stars

"Written by one of the most important cosmologists of his generation, Cosmological Koans draws the reader into the deeply philosophical quest implicit in modern cosmology: the quest to understand who and what we are. I can think of no other book that so effectively elicits a sense of wonder." — Jenann T. Ismael, author of How Physics Makes Us Free

"Physicists have pieced together dazzling theories of the universe and our place within it; yet deep questions remain. Cosmologist Anthony Aguirre rewards curious readers with a tour of some of the thorniest open questions. Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging—I couldn’t put it down!" — David Kaiser, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics

"This unique and beautifully written masterpiece by a leading cosmologist transforms the deepest mysteries of our Universe into a captivating and accessible quest for personal enlightenment." — Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0



165 x 244 mm • 384 pages


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