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The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

4.6 out of 5 stars 386 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Penguin Highbridge (Aud); Abridged edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565113470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565113473
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 386 customer reviews
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Format: Hardcover
Toe central problem of physics today revolves around this conundrum: Gravity is governed by Einstein's relativity theory, which requires that space-time is smooth. Gravity has been experimentally verified. Atomic forces are govered by quantum mechanics, which requires that space-time is bumpy, foamy, and irregular. These atomic forces have been experimentally verified.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of superstrings was limited to passing references in magazine articles and that time the Enterprise hit one in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wondering if I needed to get superstring coverage added to my auto-insurnance, I picked up this book. Needless to say, this was the book for me. Through insider knowledge and well conceived analogies, the basic premise of superstrings comes through clearly. I finished the book knowing enough about superstrings to sound smart at the comic book store while in reality my head painfully throbs at the thought of a 11-D space-time continuim. Not a pretty picture. The highlight of the book was the primer on old school quantum mechanics and general relativity. I wish Mr. Greene had written the textbooks for some of my physics classes. He very deftly tells the story of 20th century physics, setting up the reader for the stringy things to come. After reading the book, I was left wondering if string theory is really the end all/be all of physics or cold fusion's distant cousin, but at least I don't have to change my car insurance.
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Format: Paperback
After reading through the first 3 chapters of this book I wanted to share my new found knowledge with someone. I excitedly went home and started explaining to my wife the concept of the spatial dimensions and how they correlete with the dimension of time, and how gravity is actually an object's mass causing the fabric of space to warp...she threw me out of the house. This book may not get you a date, but you will give you a wealth of fascinating knowledge about the matter that our universe is made of. Brian Greene does an outstanding job of simplifying the complex through visual imagery and analogies. The only pre-requisite is a desire to learn the subject matter.
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Format: Paperback
This was one of the few books (less than 5 probably) that really changed the way I viewed the world. It enriched my understanding and appreciation of the universe in which I live. It even in a way allowed me to feel closer to God. As a lay person with no more than 1 semester of university level physics under her belt, I very much appreciate Mr Greene's efforts in writing this book and making a new world accessible to me.
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Format: Hardcover
The words which Robert Jungk used to describe J.R. Oppenheimer are, I think, equally applicable to Brian Green. He is one of the "new worldly variety of scientist, with the mighty forces of nature arrayed behind him... His exceptional gifts of presentation enable him to arouse sympathy in his listeners for the great adventure of modern physics. He [can] communicate to them the profound excitement felt by the explorers of a new scientific region."

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!
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