The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
Arm Chair Physics
|von Brian Greene|
If you are an arm chair physicist as I am, this book is for you. In a field of knowledge that is constantly evolving, Mr. Greene calmly takes us by the hand and walks us through the history of physical thought, in an attempt to prepare us for the latest, seemingly outrageous in theoretical physics. In this, he succeeds. Concepts from Newton's Classical Physical Laws, through Einstein's Relativity and Bohr's Quantam Theory are revisited as Mr. Greene takes the time to allow us to share in the brilliance of these important, life changing breakthroughs. His use of character driven metaphors as examples of each of these schools of thought bring us to an immediate understanding of their underlying principles. You will learn something here.
After this well thought out primer, the second half of the book introduces us to the latest innovations in physics, namely string theory. He points out the reliance of this theory on some rather esoteric mathmatics, and as such, string theory is a bit more difficult to relate to. If one continues the walk, however, you will be introduced to such bizzare concepts as a ten dimensional universe, and two dimensional loops being the basis of all matter, defined only by their vibrations.
This is journey worth taking, though you may have to slow down to a crawl at times. In the end though, the universe won't ever seem quite the same.
This is an excellent trip through the wonders of modern cosmology and physics. I kept having to get up and walk around the room once in a while and pinch myself to get a new reality fix. Well maybe reality -- but Mr. Greene might think I was fooling myself and only moving about in the 3 dimensional space known to my conciousness, and not the other seven tightly wrapped dimensions in Calabi-Yau forms at a billionth of a billonth of a meter. Who needs science fiction when the real thing is so "unreal?"
As a reader I have more than a casual interest in modern physics and have read dozens of books in this vein, however I do not have a math background sufficient enough to deal with the professional literature in the field. I have found this work one of the best in explaining string theory. Mr. Greene's approach of using analogy and metaphor is right on target. His sometimes humorous approach was a good antidote for what could become overbearingly theoretical.
The first half went down pretty easily in spite of the difficult nature of the subject. Brian Greene deserves much applause for pulling off this bit of magic. The second half gets tangled up in the author's own areas of research and I felt that he suddenly began talking to a different audience, in this case his peers, and instead of an explanatory tone, the book seemed a little bit argumentative. Of course this is a topic where anything said in a definitive manner is likely to provoke a professional argument. Nonetheless, the first half of the book is well worth the read and more than adequately covers the field for the reader where this topic would be of interest. The second half will be of interest to folks with more background.
With absolutely no background in physics, I was afraid that I would be lost soon after beginning but I have been pleasantly surprised. Greene gives an easy to understand example for each concept as he introduces it. He makes the concepts, at least on a broad base, accessible for everyone. In a pleasant writing style, Green takes the reader through the beginning theories of Newton and explains Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity - illuminating the rift between the micro and macro trains of thought. Once the reader is brought up to speed about the current question in physics, Greene explains patiently and carefully the concepts being dealt with and proposed by the Unified String Theory. If the last time you read anything about science was sixth grade, this is an excellent book to help you attempt to "be informed".
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