The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
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There is an ill-concealed skeleton in the closet of physics: "As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right." Each is exceedingly accurate in its field: general relativity explains the behavior of the universe at large scales, while quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles. Yet the theories collide horribly under extreme conditions such as black holes or times close to the big bang. Brian Greene, a specialist in quantum field theory, believes that the two pillars of physics can be reconciled in superstring theory, a theory of everything.
Superstring theory has been called "a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century." In other words, it isn't all worked out yet. Despite the uncertainties--"string theorists work to find approximate solutions to approximate equations"--Greene gives a tour of string theory solid enough to satisfy the scientifically literate.
Though Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study is in many ways the human hero of The Elegant Universe, it is not a human-side-of-physics story. Greene's focus throughout is the science, and he gives the nonspecialist at least an illusion of understanding--or the sense of knowing what it is that you don't know. And that is traditionally the first step on the road to knowledge. --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
One of the more compelling scientific (cum-theological) questions in the Middle Ages was: "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Today's version in cutting-edge science is, "How many strings... ?" As posited by s tring theory physics, strings are furiously vibrating loops of stuff. The concept of strings was devised to help scientists describe simultaneously both energy and matter. The frequency and resonance of strings' vibration, just like those of strings on an instrument, determine charge, spin and other familiar properties of energy?and eventually the structure of the universe: a true music of the spheres. There's a chance that strings are themselves made up of something still smaller. But scientists can prove their existence only on the blackboard and computer, because they are much too tiny?a hundred billion billion times smaller than the nucleus of an atom?to be observed experimentally. Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Cornell and Columbia universities, makes the terribly complex theory of strings accessible to all. He possesses a remarkable gift for using the everyday to illustrate what may be going on in dimensions beyond our feeble human perception. Just when we might be tempted to dismiss strings as grist for the publish-or-perish mill, Greene explains how they have demonstrated connections between mathematics and physics that have helped solve age-old conundrums in each field. This book will appeal to astronomy as well as math and physics fans because it probes the important insights string theory gives into hotly debated issues in cosmology. Later chapters require careful attention to Greene's explications, but the effort will prepare readers to follow the scientific advances likely to be made in the next millennium through application of string theory. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
How can space time be smooth for gravity, and yet be bumpy for quantum machanics? Enter string theory.
This book is a terrific introduction not only to string theory, but to relativity and quantum mechanics as well. The first half of the book reviews the history and development of these theories, since they are a fundamental component of string theory. In particular, Greene's treatment of relativity uses some outstanding analogies to explain time dilation and gravitational warping. I thought I understood the basics of relativity; this book still taught me a few things.
Analogies are this author's strength. He uses them at every step to avoid the need to complex mathematical formulae. There are no formulae in this book (some will think that a minus, but I view it as a plus.) Using analogies, he's able to provide a comprehensible view of what 10-dimensional spacetime would be like, and how expanding one of the other dimensions might affect life in the Universe. These 5 pages alone are probably worth the price of the book.
If you want a glimpse of one of the cutting-edge areas of particle physics research without needing to study math for 10 years, this book can give it to you.
Brain Greene does an outstanding job captivating his readers with the amazing discoveries of physics. Page-by-page this book proceeded to blow my mind! His dealing with the first subject, Einstein's theories of special and general relativity, was absolutely astounding! Greene was able to convey these complex theories and their practical applications in an excited, conversational manner that would make complete sense to anyone, even with little-to-no training in the area of physics.
The second subject he deals with, quantum theory and string theory, is also extremely well handled. I would say that the concepts are a little more difficult to grasp, and therefore the reading a little more arduous, but still, Greene does a fantastic job bringing the reader right to the cutting-edge of physical research and explaining it in intelligible language.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in gaining an understanding of relativity (that section alone is worth purchasing the book for) and I would also recommend it to anyone untrained in physics, yet interested in learning what is considered "the edge of knowledge" today. This is a fantastic, fun to read, book!
Most recent customer reviews
Well written for the intelligent layman. At times somewhat heavy, but it certainly gives an insight into the history and current direction of theoretical physics.Published 3 months ago by Neil
This book is exactly what I would looking for, - all science no fluff or filler
Excellent introduction of what string theory is
Brian has excellent examples of explaining... Read more
This is a great read for anyone who is curious about ideas regarding the Universe and Cosmos. Great real world examples used to explain theories.Published on Jan. 16 2014 by 4th'n20
This was a fantastic book! Great read for anyone of any level education in physics interested in understanding the workings of modern physics. Read morePublished on May 10 2013 by Ruben
I have several other books on the go right now and got this book as part of a number on this topic - have only thumbed through it and am looking forward to actually reading.Published on Jan. 28 2013 by Marina Mactavish
Have not finished reading it, but so far, so great!! Easy to understand, and utterly fascinating. I love the universe!Published on Jan. 2 2013 by monica
Okay I have to admit that some of the discussion in this book is over my head, way over my head. But having said that the bulk of what is discussed is of interest. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2012 by fastreader
I hoped that this very valuable book will come in good condition. It certainly did , it was new ; even the cover was spotless and undamaged. Read morePublished on May 4 2012 by Frank