From Publishers Weekly
String theory is a recent development in physics that, by positing that all which exists is composed of infinitesimally small vibrating loops of energy, seeks to unify Einstein's theories and those of quantum mechanics into a so-called "theory of everything." In 1999, Greene, one of the world's leading physicists, published The Elegant Universe (Norton), a popular presentation of string theory that became a major bestseller and, last fall, a highly rated PBS/Nova series. The strength of the book resided in Greene's unparalleled (among contemporary science writers) ability to translate higher mathematics (the language of physics) and its findings into everyday language and images, through adept use of metaphor and analogy, and crisp, witty prose. The same virtues adhere to this new book, which offers a lively view of human understanding of space and time, an understanding of which string theory is an as-yet unproven advance. To do this, Greene takes a roughly chronological approach, beginning with Newton, moving through Einstein and quantum physics, and on to string theory and its hypotheses (that there are 11 dimensions, ten of space and one of time; that there may be an abundance of parallel universes; that time travel may be possible, and so on) and imminent experiments that may test some of its tenets. None of this is easy reading, mostly because the concepts are tough to grasp and Greene never seems to compromise on accuracy. Eighty-five line drawings ease the task, however, as does Greene's felicitous narration; most importantly, though, Greene not only makes concepts clear but explains why they matter. He opens the book with a discussion of Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus, setting a humanistic tone that he sustains throughout. This is popular science writing of the highest order, with copious endnotes that, unlike the text, include some math.
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*Starred Review* Forbidding formulas no longer stand between general readers and the latest breakthroughs in astrophysics: the imaginative gifts of one of the pioneers making those breakthroughs have now translated mathematical science into accessible analogies drawn from everyday life and popular culture. Using images as simple as that of Homer Simpson riding a skateboard and an ordinary earthworm crawling along a tightrope, Greene draws readers deep into revolutionary new conceptions of space and time. These conceptions transform the everyday world of 3-dimensional sense perception into the illusory surface of an 11-dimensional reality. Hidden from human view, tightly coiled loops of multidimensional string link radiant stars to mysterious black matter in a galactic space-time tapestry of sublime symmetry. Though Greene deepens his inquiries with occasional ventures into scholarly complexities (thoughtfully warning timid readers, who can skip the abstruse sections), disarmingly simple principles finally penetrate the very frontiers of cosmological research, where the random chaos of quantum mechanics begins to fit within the lucid harmonies of relativity and where the strangely one-directional arrow of time starts to yield the secrets of its flight. Nonspecialists will relish this exhilarating foray into the alien terrain that is our own universe. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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