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Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program) [Paperback]

Kip S. Thorne , Stephen Hawking
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 17, 1995 0393312763 978-0393312768 Reprint

Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them.

Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time.

Kip Thorne, along with fellow theorists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, a cadre of Russians, and earlier scientists such as Oppenheimer, Wheeler and Chandrasekhar, has been in the thick of the quest to secure answers. In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work of scientific history and explanation, Dr. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads his readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, coming finally to a uniquely informed answer to the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know the things they think they know? Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has been one of the greatest best-sellers in publishing history. Anyone who struggled with that book will find here a more slowly paced but equally mind-stretching experience, with the added fascination of a rich historical and human component.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at CalTech, here offers an accessible, deftly illustrated history of curved spacetime. Covering developments from Einstein to Hawking, he takes his readers to the very edge of theoretical physics: straight through wormholes--and maybe back again--past hyperspace, "hairless" wormholes and quantum foam to the leading questions that drive quantum physics. He even addresses the tabloid taunt that has tantalized him since 1988: Do quantum laws allow time travel? (In his foreword, Hawking suggests, "Maybe someone will come back from the future and tell us the answers.") Thorne is rigorous, modest and, true to the spirit of science, determined that readers move beyond the appeal of exotic answers and grasp the significance of quantum questions. This volume, a model of style, format and illustration, will speak eloquently to the readership, ranging widely in scientific literacy and interest, that such theoretical physics writers as Hawking and Feynman have established.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book's subtitle explains it all. Virtually all astrophysicists accept the fact that Einstein's theory of general relativity is the best model of physical reality that we have. In other words, it is essentially correct. Yet the model requires the existence of physical phenomena beyond one's wildest imagination. One of the investigators attempting to fathom the depths of the theory, Thorne here describes the people who have done the work and the trails, both false and fruitful, they have followed. He brings us up-to-date on the state of the art in black hole research and the attempts to find definitive proof of their existence. Even with the mathematics removed, his explanations can be pretty heavy going. Nevertheless, the payoff is worth the work. For academic and larger public library science collections.
Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393312763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393312768
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can a blend of History and Black Holes succeed? March 18, 2000
I thought not. I was wrong. The reason: Kip Thorne. I really enjoyed the reading of this book because it offers the theoretical face of the so-called "Black Holes Mechanics" and a very important and delightful part, the history behind the theorems. The book begins with several chapters dedicated almost exclusively to the bases of the Special Theory of Relativity and the General Theory of Relativity, which describes the gravitation field in almost any place of our universe (if you get the book you will see why I say "almost"). Thereafter, the text covers the most important aspects of stellar implosion, which, in fact, brings Black Holes into existence. Once you are immersed in the very topic of the holes, the author studied profoundly their properties with informative boxes, spacetime diagrams, lots of references about discoveries, people and, the great difference with others books, an outstanding and thorough historical background. By the end, the author presents the most excitement predictions about the future use of Black Holes and the yet ill-understood Quantum Gravity Theory (predictions like backward time travel and wormholes). Finally, Kip Thorne closed the book with an excellent glossary of exotic terms and a list of principal characters that appeared throughout the text. I can say, without any doubt, that this is one of the most illustrative and complete books I have ever read, and in my opinion, is a book that every "Black Hole serious student" might have in his/her shelve. If you are looking for a less technical book, I suggest you "Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide" by Clifford Pickover. Nevertheless, if you want a higher challenge, get the book "Gravitation" by Thorne, Wheeler and Misner.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject, Inviting treatment May 23, 2001
WHO WROTE IT: Kip Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoritical Physics at CalTech. He wrote several other books, including such a classic as GRAVITATION (withJ. Wheeler, C.Misner). This rich combination (plus an obvious talent as a communicator and an apparently fun loving personnality) makes him both a knowlegeable and understandable writer.

WHAT YOU GET: Many books have been written about black holes. Some are really simple. They make for a good introduction but are somewhat too basic for my taste. Some aim at staying intellectually affordable but they describe more than they explain. You are left frustrated: you don't understand what you are shown (see among others, John Gribbin's Unveiling the Edge of Time ). Some are too technical and took me out of my depth. K. Thorne gives explanations wich are complete enough to give you a coherent understanding while still being aimed at a non specialist public.

HOW IT IS DONE: The theoritical concepts involved are exposed along an historical structure . This way, the necessity of each element of the theory is made more obvious. Also, one gets briefly acquainted with the circumstance of the discoveries, the personnality of the involved researchers and the prevalent questionning as our knowledge evolved.

WHAT YOU NEED: The book contains very little mathematics. A college level should suffice. There are no equations (still rigourous; quite a challenge). Thorne illustrates his text with schematic illustrations, diagrams and simple mathematical curves. Being acquainted with the theory of relativity is probably a prerequisite. Thorne's explanation's of Einstein's space-time appears too short to bring you up to speed if you have no notion on the subject.
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60 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Astrophysics Gets Down to Earth (A Little) February 9, 2002
Don't be too swayed by the word "outrageous" in the title of this book. That may be there to attract attention, but needless to say, physicist Kip Thorne does a good job of explaining the more bizarre aspects of the universe in this book. Thorne's writing style is very accessible and down to earth, as he explains relativity, black holes, quantum mechanics, and even time warps. However, you'll still need to be really on the ball to understand many of these extremely complicated topics. I was impressed by Thorne's ability to explain bizarre concepts like gravitational time dilation and Einstein's theory of relativity to non-eggheads. But some of the more arcane aspects of quantum gravity or unified field theories will be beyond even the most well tuned laymen who read this book. Thorne also keeps the mood light by giving us the human side of advanced physics research, focusing on the friendships, rivalries, and personalities of the world's leading minds. This extends from Einstein in the beginning to Hawking in the present, and dozens of other less famous but almost as brilliant minds in between.
Watch out for some inconsistency in this book however, as Thorne sometimes gets into too much sentimental detail about the scientists' social lives (including his own), while the middle of the book sags as it digresses into the mechanical specs of radio telescopes and gravitational wave detectors. Also, beware of Thorne's suspiciously enthusiastic endorsements of gravitational wave research in chapter 10, as this is his own field of research, and I suspect he's trying to promote the need for funding.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It's been read at least twice in our house.
The book is well written; it explains terms and ideas in simple formats so a layman can understand how black holes work, what a worm hole is, the meaning of "the point of no... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Madeleine M. Miehls
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Book
What is space? What is time? Can we travel through time? When a black hole forms? And one of worm? If you are follower of Einstein, you can not miss this review of relativity and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Shantal Torres Castro
3.0 out of 5 stars When you achieve the all-encompassing, mellow, California surfing wow,...
For what it is, a fun read, but I agree with Wofgang Zernik's take ....

Vector representations of space-time (x,t), Matter/antimatter (+,-), Energy-Momentum (E,K) or... Read more
Published 3 months ago by BuleriaChk
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you can appreciate
Very well written and easy to read book. It was used in our Black Holes Astronomy class at Virginia Tech. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Tom P
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than buying at the bookstore on campuis
A little outdated, but still a very interesting read about black holes. Have not read the entire book yet, but it has held my attention so far as a supplement to another book for a... Read more
Published 9 months ago by kookoo4cocopuffs
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Good Reference
This book is also good for reference but I must admit I have come across better reference books. However, this one met my needs so I gave it the 5 stars.
Published 9 months ago by BigDrM
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book.
I remember my dad reading this to me when I was sick in the hospital and having read it again now, I have to say this is the penultimate work on this specific area of quantum... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Luke Spurlock-Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeper explanations of astrophysics but still accessible to the laymen
I've read many books on astrophysics over the years (think Hawking, Greene, etc.) but this book is the best. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Russell T.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading
A book you don't want to put down .
Really gets deep into it , everything you wanted to know and more . Read more
Published 16 months ago by The One Kid Hifi
3.0 out of 5 stars Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth...
The book was OK to many anecdotes for me personally and the explanations where some what hard to understand for the layman. A Little more facts would have been nice. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Aaron G
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