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Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions [Hardcover]

Lisa Randall
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 18 2005 0060531088 978-0060531089 1

The universe has its secrets. It may even hide extra dimensions, different from anything ever imagined. A whole raft of remarkable conceptsnow rides atop the scientific firmament, including parallel universes, warped geometry, and threedimensional sink-holes. We understand far more about the world than we did just a few short years ago -- and yet we are more uncertain about the true nature of the universe than ever before. Have wereached a point of scientific discovery so advanced that the laws of physics as we know them are simply not sufficient? Will we all soon have to acceptexplanations that previously remained in the realm of science fiction?

Lisa Randall is herself making these extraordinary breakthroughs, pushing back the boundaries of science in her research to answer some of the most fundamental questions posed by Nature. For example, why is the gravitational field from the entire Earth so defenseless against the small tug of a tiny magnet? Searching for answers to such seemingly irresolvable questions has led physicists to postulate extra dimensions, the presence of which may lead to unimaginable gains in scientific understanding. Randall takes us into the incredible world of warped, hidden dimensions that underpin the universe we live in, describing how we might prove their existence, while examining the questions that they still leave unanswered.

Warped Passages provides an exhilarating overview that tracks the arc of discovery from early twentieth-century physics to the razor's edge of today's particle physics and string theory, unweaving the current debates about relativity, quantum mechanics, and gravity. In a highly readable style sure to entertain and elucidate, Lisa Randall demystifies the science and beguilingly unravels the mysteries of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond the one we are only now beginning to know.

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From Publishers Weekly

The concept of additional spatial dimensions is as far from intuitive as any idea can be. Indeed, although Harvard physicist Randall does a very nice job of explaining—often deftly through the use of creative analogies—how our universe may have many unseen dimensions, readers' heads are likely to be swimming by the end of the book. Randall works hard to make her astoundingly complex material understandable, providing a great deal of background for recent advances in string and supersymmetry theory. As coauthor of the two most important scientific papers on this topic, she's ideally suited to popularize the idea. What is absolutely clear is that physicists simply do not yet know if there are extra dimensions a fraction of a millimeter in size, dimensions of infinite size or only the dimensions we see. What's also clear is that the large hadron collider, the world's most powerful tool for studying subatomic particles, is likely to provide information permitting scientists to differentiate among these ideas soon after it begins operation in Switzerland in 2007. Randall brings much of the excitement of her field to life as she describes her quest to understand the structure of the universe. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A theoretical physicist who specializes in the so-called standard model of particle physics, Randall explains the particles and forces depicted in that model, and where the model fails as a picture of the real subatomic world. (For example, it does not explain gravity's weakness compared with electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces.) Randall's renown among physicists derives from her proposed solutions to deficiencies in the standard model, which, unlike some of the outre propositions of string theory, can be experimentally tested. That she borrows from string theory the concept of "branes" will be of high interest to science readers, for if vindicated by results from particle accelerators, she will have discovered evidence that extra dimensions are real places that gravity leaks into, an achievement that would seem to be Nobel Prize territory. Randall writes as clearly as possible, but in order to follow her text, readers will need to persevere; those who attentively do can consider themselves inducted into the fifth dimension. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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The word "dimension," like so many words that describe space or motion through it, has many interpretations-and by now I think I've heard them all. Read the first page
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I've read numerous books on the topic of cosmology, lee smolin, brian greene plus numerous others, I put this book at the top, two reasons, first, well structured, great summary notes at the end of each chapter, second, Lisa's ability to explain complicated concepts in relatively simple terms, makes the reading really enjoyable
Strongly recommend to anyone who wants understand the latest inroads to understanding our universe.
bernie lock
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it Dec 27 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is a book not for the avrage reader. You have to be determined and minded but there a lot of information about he news physics theory and there is a real effort for the author to explain it not mathematical term the complexity of the universe. A reference and a vision in the future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read Dec 21 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Expands you mind.............a complex subject written for the average person. Makes you think about the world around you in a new way. Would recommend to anyone interested in the mysteries of our world.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leading Expert Nov. 14 2006
By David
Lisa Randall unravels the mysteries of string theory. To make sense out of string theory, the understanding of how this theory behave's at a strong coupling, which is by now well-established, first came as quite a surprise. One possibility, stated Randall, is that the extra dimensions are rolled-up into sizes so incredibly minuscule that they cannot be measured. nother possibility, proposed by Randall and her colleagues was, an infinite extra dimension that blends in with the others except at a very compact scale. The five-dimensional theory was born, and could answer questions that had tormented physicists since Einstein. Why is gravity so much weaker than the other fundamental forces of physics? Randall explains that much of the gravity field leaks away into another realm, via the extra dimension. Lisa Randall explanations of extra dimensional cosmology give's us this new 11-dimensional phase of string theory, and the various dualities between string theories. Lisa Randall is a leading theoretical physicist, and through her book, we're led to the very exciting prospect that there is only a single fundamental underlying theory. There are additional dualities that arise when more dimensions are consolidated, which Randall discusses only briefly. Lisa Randall is one of the leading experts in the field of string theory. As well as a professor at Harvard for theoretical physics. And though her research may be controversial at times, Randall does know what she is talking about. I recommend this book as a good read.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  216 reviews
533 of 564 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT journey into cutting-edge physics! Oct. 10 2005
By Kasper Olsen - Published on Amazon.com
Prof. Lisa Randall's new book, Warped Passages, is a grand tour of some of the most important recent developments in high-energy physics.

The book is intended for a popular audience, but is also a very interesting read for anybody with a background in theoretical physics (like myself). The first part contains an overview of modern physics - Einstein's theories of relativity, quantum mechanics and the Standard Model of particle physics. The last part concentrates on the idea of extra dimensions beyond the standard four we know about, which can be motivated by string theory and its discovery of the so-called D-branes. Specifically, she explains the work, pioneered by herself, Raman Sundrum and others, on the so-called "braneworld scenarios". Basically, this is the idea that our four dimensional space-time is embedded in some higher dimensional space, usually called the "bulk".

You might think, that extra dimensions are just part of a set of crazy ideas? On the contrary. You should know, that the idea of extra dimensions is actually not at all new. Already in 1884, the original book, "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" (written by the English mathematician Edwin Abbott) described a world of two-dimensional beings, who only have indirect knowledge of the extra third space-dimension. But, from a mathematical point of view, one can imagine as many dimensions as one wants to. In physics, the story is somewhat different.

In physics, there are basically two distinct ways in which one can add extra dimensions to our four-dimensional universe. Already in the 1920's, Klein suggested that our universe is five-dimensional, where the extra dimension is rolled up in a circle, which is so tiny, that the universe looks four-dimensional at long enough distance-scales. The motivation was to give a unified geometrical description of electromagnetism and gravitation using Einstein's general theory of relativity. However appealing, this theory was destined to fail. Today we know, that there are other forces which should be included in a unified theory: namely the weak and strong nuclear forces. Presently there is only one theory which can possibly do the work, and this is string theory. Perturbative string theory tells us, that our space-time is ten-dimensional, and that the extra six dimensions should be rolled up in a small but complicated shape (which is determined by some mathematical restrictions).

Another way to achieve hidden extra dimensions of space is to suppose, that all normal matter, as well as the light by which we see the world, is confined to a four-dimensional "brane" embedded in a five-dimensional "bulk" - or larger universe. These so-called braneworld theories are the ones of Lisa Randall, Raman Sundrum and others. Warped Passages explains - in excellent style - the logic behind these seemingly fancy ideas.

What I particularly liked about the first part of this book is how Prof. Randall makes people envision extra dimensions. As Randall writes, "we are not physiologically equipped to envision more than three dimensions of space", so it might be difficult for the general reader to comprehend this idea. But, as Prof. Randall also explains, readers need not imagine a dimension only in spatial terms. Here is an example from the book: If you are buying a house, the factors you might consider include its location (specified by three numbers), price (one number), size (one number), and possibly many other things. So, the number of dimensions in your house search simply equals "the number of quantities you find worth investigating".

What Prof. Randall describes in the last part is - in more technical terms - her work with Raman Sundrum on solving the flavor-changing problem, the gaugino mass problem (and other things) that occur in supersymmetric models with the supersymmetry breaking sector on another brane, separated from ours, or in the bulk; the Randall-Sundrum warped geometry with two branes (a so-called "weak-brane", where we are supposed to live, and a "gravity-brane") and the Randall-Sundrum warped geometry with an infinite extra dimension, using so-called AdS geometry.

The main point guiding Randall's research - described in the last part of the book - is the fact that gravity is such a profoundly weak force. Indeed, gravity is the puniest of the fundamental forces governing the matter in the universe, by a huge margin (typically a 10^36 times weaker than the electromagnetic force between two charged particles). Why is this so?

Why this is so, Prof. Randall suggests, is because we live in a universe containing at least one extra dimension beyond those we can perceive. And gravity is weak because it has been "diluted" into this extra space. This is indeed a very simple and persuasive idea. (And also from the point of view of string theory a very compelling idea, with a simple explanation, related to objects in string theory called D-branes - like an infinite string (a 1-brane), a membrane (a 2-brane) etc). But note that Prof. Randall's original models are not inherently string-theoretical; it is just that her models have an elegant and simple interpretation in string theory. So you don't need to know *anything* about string theory to understand this book).

The breakthrough research by Randall and Sundrum proposed that gravity's dilution can be explained in terms of a cosmic configuration featuring two branes - or two infinite planes, separated by a higher dimensional bulk space. Roughly speaking, the "center of gravity" is on the "gravity-brane" - and some gravity leaks out of this brane, through the bulk, and onto the other brane, usually called the "weak-brane", which is where we live, and which contain the Standard Model fields. Later on, Randall and Sundrum found, that their concept is also theoretically consistent with a configuration which includes only one brane. Usually, one would think that Newton's 1/r^2 law of gravitation implies that there are four and only four non-compact dimensions of infinite extend. Randall and Sundrum showed that this is not correct.

The fact that branes are an important part of modern string theory meant that string theorists took an early interest in the Randall-Sundrum models. Furthermore, since Prof. Randall's research did not directly challenge string theory models, the string theory community actually accepted and recognized the profound significance of her work very early on.

One of the long outstanding problems of the Standard Model of particle physics, that braneworlds do provide an interesting answer for, is the "hierarchy problem", or why the weak and Planck scales are so disparate (10^2 GeV compared with 10^19 GeV). In these scenarios, the fundamental gravitational scale is not the Planck scale, but something closer to the weak scale. The conjecture is that gravity is not weak because the Planck scale is so large, but because braneworlds provide various geometrical mechanisms for making the gravitational force much weaker than the others.

All this would of course be pointless speculation unless there was some way for the extra dimensions to manifest themselves. So, can these ideas be experimentally tested? As Prof. Randall explains in detail, the answer is: yes indeed! It is possible that evidence supporting the braneworld models could appear within a decade or so, after the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), currently being built at the particle-physics laboratory CERN, starts operating in 2007. Here the traces of extra dimensions could come from "gravitons" (the fundamental constituents of gravity) moving into the extra dimension(s).

Some versions of the theory even predict that, as a result, small black holes could conceivably be created from the high-speed collisions at the LHC! (but don't worry, the black holes will only exist for about 10^{-26} sec and the Earth will not disáppear into a black hole). If the LHC sees the kinds of effects predicted by these models, be sure that there will be some well-earned Nobel prizes for the people involved in this story.

Let me say a few words about the style of the book. The book's central point - the possible existence of extra dimensions in space - is easy enough to explain; at least if the reader can comprehend the idea, that our universe has more than four space-time dimensions, which might not be easy. However, to motivate the conjecture of higher dimensions, Prof. Randall must first explain the General Theory of Relativity, quantum mechanics and the Standard Model of particle physics, with its zoo of subatomic objects - quarks, leptons, bosons of various sorts - and the details of the forces that act between them. To ensure the convergence of her ideas in the readers mind, she then has to go into more advanced topics such as "quantum field theory", "spontaneous symmetry breaking", the "Higgs potentials" and "supersymmetry". (But all these concepts are explained in much detail).

All this is a prerequisite for being able to properly describe string theory, and Prof. Randall must then proceed to the less understood generalization called 'M-theory' (which is an eleven-dimensional theory containing two-branes and five-branes). Only then can Prof. Randall explain how branes emerge from a jumble of concepts and ideas, that most likely might be unfamiliar to the general reader. But as far as I can judge, she accomplish this tour de force with *much* success. The immanent "problem" with such theories of unification is that one cannot leave anything out and therefore - to be explained and understood - they require background knowledge in virtually all of physics. But I think that Prof. Randall has done a very good job in explaining all the required physics in terms of analogies, simple illustrations and so on.

Finally I would like to stress that this book is *very* different from many of the random popular books about physics because Lisa Randall actually knows what she is talking about And you should know, that Prof. Randall is not by any standards a random person: she has become the most cited high-energy physicist since 1999.

In conclusion, I'll give Warped Passages some more than well-deserved 5 stars.
93 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I liked Lisa Randall's new book Sept. 17 2005
By Lee Smolin - Published on Amazon.com
Lisa Randall is one of the most important and influential theoretical particle physicists working today and this book tells the story of how she came to her most important ideas. The book is full of detail and takes the reader into the minds of the author and her collaborators as they struggle towards the discovery of a new approach to the key problems in particle physics. What I really like is that she takes the time to tell the real story, and not just some oversimplified version.

She is also refreshingly honest. She explains the motivation for her work, but unlike many of our colleagues, she does not oversell. You can think of her as a reliable climbing guide. With her help you can get to the top of a mountain you could not climb yourself. But you never forget about the difficultyies and the risks that both professionals and amateurs take when we try to advance our understanding of the laws of nature.

As a theorist myself, I am aware of how far we are from solving the problems in elementary particle physics thyat Lisa Randall's work addresses. But I am sure we will get there and my optimism is due in no small part to the fact that Lisa and her colleagues are on the case.
178 of 210 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bright Light in a Dark Passageway... Sept. 11 2005
By Dennis R. Meyer MD - Published on Amazon.com
The popularization of Cosmology through recent television (PBS's

"Elegant Universe") and cinema ("What the BLEEP Do We Know?")as well as an extant excellent press by actual Cosmologists such as Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking have "softened up" an avid readership for this book. Dr. Randall is "spherically exquisite", to paraphrase Fritz Zwicky: She is perfect from any angle;cutting edge benchwork researcher; top line theorist; most-quoted author; Harvard Professor....PLUS she's a HOTTIE (my son's words). As she walks you through the requisite historical and theoretical building blocks for armchair Cosmology, her clarity is best ever. Her expansion into extradimensional physics verges upon the philosophic, without straying into the "touchy/feely" quasi religious miasma of cult fiction. Elucidating the Multidimensional Brane Theory of Everything is a task she accomplishes with clarity, wit and a mere hint or Feminism (quite appropriate in her male-dominated field). This is a Great Book. I'm giving it to all my colleagues on our Medical Faculty as well as my friends who share my fascination with Physics, but lack the requisite Math. ( Dr. Randall even supplies much of that onerous mathematical work,unburdened in her unique style, which makes the most stygian topic clear as daylight). Brava, Dr. Randall!

Dennis R. Meyer MD, FACP
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredibly entertaining and accessible introduction to a cosmic mystery! Oct. 6 2005
By Doris Morris - Published on Amazon.com
There is nothing like the thrill of hearing about the latest developments in a field from a leader in that field, and Lisa Randall is that. This is a book that explains some of the biggest questions in physics today (offering some possible answers, as well), and it is written for the ordinary reader to understand it. Leavened with humor, helpful diagrams, and the perspective of a woman who clearly lives to probe the mysteries of our universe(s), the book is designed to transmit to us her excitement about the discoveries she describes. Short of a brain transplant, she does everything possible to make clear to the non-scientist a host of arcane concepts. The book has a whole different tone from so many of these pop science books that I‚ve picked up and then put down a short time later because I‚m just not getting it. Warped Passages has a down-to-earth (no pun intended), humane, personal feeling to it, even though it‚s chock full of information, so it draws the reader in and makes him or her feel capable of understanding these momentous concepts. Randall actually makes it fun. Which allowed me to feel like I was, indeed, sharing her adventures in extra dimensions with her. Without having to do the math. An excellent read.
39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as readable as advertised May 15 2007
By Joe J. Kern - Published on Amazon.com
I am shocked that so much of the praise of this book is centered on its readability for popular audiences. I regularly read philosophy and popular physics and biology books and articles, and I took a modern physics course in college and quite enjoyed it and did well (I did a degree to be a secondary science teacher), but I did not learn what I wanted to learn from this book. I just don't think Randall is a good writer.

I understand the basic ideas of quantum mechanics and particle physics, and I want something more, a deeper understanding. She states the facts that can be found in an encyclopedia (e.g., "the uncertainty principle means that position and momentum cannot both be measured"), but when she tries to go deeper and into more detail, I found her explanations incomprehensible. They seem to me to be both too simple (and her tone often condescending) and too complex. I beat my head against the wall re-reading sections of the text trying to grasp her meaning, which she is maddeningly confident that she has conveyed, but finally concluded that in many of the sections the words simply were not there that needed to be there. Sufficient bridges are not created from one idea to the next, and in her effort to avoid scaring people away with long explanations, she has instead given insufficient explanations. A lot of space that could have been given over to actual explanation is taken up with literary fluff and the typical popular-science-book encouragements of "don't worry if this seems hard, I know you can do it!" I have stopped halfway through, and haven't even gotten to the parts about extra dimensions. Maybe I should just skip to those. (The 'preliminary' parts on other aspects of physics besides extra dimensions, by the way, take up about 2/3 of the book)

Randall could learn quite a bit from popular biology writers like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Steve Pinker, E.O. Wilson and Oliver Sacks. All of these writers assume an intelligence equal to their own in their readers, and I find this assumption lacking in Randall. Quoting rock lyrics at the beginning of a chapter in an effort to be more accessible sounds like an idea a book marketer would come up with to sell books to people who think Alice Cooper or Johhny Rotten are intellectuals, not something a thoughful writer would do. (Nothing wrong with Alice Cooper or Johhny Rotten though.) It's as if she is teaching an undergraduate class of English majors trying to get their science requirement completed, and is more concerned that they like and respect her than that they come away with a real understanding of the material. In contrast, I come away from a work by the above writers feeling as though a circle has been completed. Everything they mention is explained in full, taking as much space as is needed; if there is something too technical to fully explain to a non-scientist, I nonetheless come away satisfied that I understand why it cannot be explained.

Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, I have since learned, is a well-written account of relativity and quantum mechanics. I highly recommend it instead of Warped Passages.
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