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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.
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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
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