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The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory Paperback – July 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: The Complete Idiot's Guide
  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Alpha (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592577024
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592577026
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Despite the crazy title, this is an excellent popular account of string theory. As the astronomer Martin Rees writes in the foreword, ‘For aliens, string theory may be a doddle. But for most of us humans, they are a Himalayan challenge.’ So, this book is to be welcomed, not only for explaining the physics in an easily assimilated way, but also for articulating why superstrings and the rest of fundamental physics matter at all. This is something that physicists themselves rarely do. Best of all, Musser, a staff editor and writer at Scientific American, tackles the controversial aspects of string theory, which have been the subject of much journalistic nonsense lately, and gets it all just about right.”
Physics World, December 2008

“… is actually a thoroughly worthwhile read, doing as good a job as you could hope for in reducing the Gordian complexity of string theory into something that intelligent readers feel that they understand.”
Physics Education, November 2008

About the Author

George Musser is a staff editor and writer for Scientific American magazine. He was recently awarded the 2010 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award by the American Astronomical Society. He was the originator and one of the lead editors for the magazine's special issue "A Matter of Time" (Sept. 2002), which won a National Magazine Award for editorial excellence, and he coordinated the single-topic issue "Crossroads for Planet Earth" (Sept. 2005), which won a Global Media Award from the Population Institute and was a National Magazine Award finalist.

More About the Author

George Musser is a senior editor for Scientific American magazine in New York. He is the recipient of the 2011 Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics and the 2010 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award of the American Astronomical Society. He was the originator and one of the lead editors for the single-topic issue "A Matter of Time" in September 2002, which won a National Magazine Award for editorial excellence, and coordinated the single-topic issue "Crossroads for Planet Earth" in September 2005, which won a Global Media Award from the Population Institute and was a National Magazine Award finalist. Musser did his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering and mathematics at Brown University and his graduate studies in planetary science at Cornell University, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. His thesis work modeled mantle convection on Venus in order to explain broad plateaus known as coronae.

Customer Reviews

It keeps you turning pages to see what comes next.
Easy Reader
This is a very well written book, easy to read, flows very well from topic to topic, doesn't spend too much time on any single area and has excellent coverage.
Andrew
It is full of words but not of explanations of those words.
Edward Nikicicz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on July 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a very well written book, easy to read, flows very well from topic to topic, doesn't spend too much time on any single area and has excellent coverage.
This book is for you if:
-You are looking for a good overview of the challenges that String theory is trying to solve
-You are not interested in a book of Math formula's (there is no math) or a book that just reprints the theory
-You are interested in a balanced view including discussions of alternative theories (it mostly covers String theory but it does highlight how other theories deal with the problem) as opposed to bashing other theories
-You have read several other books but still don't see the big picture
-You are not interested in a history lesson on how great the author is and all of his friends and all the other guys are nuts
Hope this helps
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven Colyer on November 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
Five stars for this introductory book on Quantum Gravity. The name of this book as has been noted is quite misleading. This is an extremely balanced tome not only on String Theory, but on other notable alternative approaches on rational speculative theories as well, concerning what takes place at the level of fundamental particles and small length scales: notably LQG = Loop Quantum Gravity and CDT = Causal Dynamical Triangulations = "Buckyspace". I suspect it was originally submitted as "Quantum Gravity" but overruled at the Editorial level as "String Theory" for Marketing reasons, which may have been a wise decision but nevertheless would confuse those seeking the broader view this book expounds.

One embarrassing consequence of leading QG research is the many "wars" going on among our world's top theoretical physicists, and Musser does a fine job explaining these differences in his chapter on "The String Theory Wars." Other books on this subject are informative yet one-sided; this book gives equal balance to all sides explaining the Pros and Cons of all parties.

He eschews mentioning the particular scientists involved in the theories in favor of focusing on the theories themselves. This is a refreshing approach in its own right and makes the book as tight and concise as possible. His writing style is informative, interesting, entertaining, and lucid; one walks away from this book feeling a mastery of the issues at hand, and well prepared to read more detailed works on these subjects with an open-minded attitude to other authors' bias. As a science journalist, he has done this aspect of his job splendidly.

As a researcher, he has also excelled. He has consulted the experts on all sides, notably String Theorist Keith Dienes, Loop Gravitationist co-founder Carlo Rovelli, CDT co-founder Renate Loll, and dozens of others in these fields such as Polchinski and Witten.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Bebop Brain on August 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
A chunk of the book covers relativity.
Quantum mechanics is presented with its incompatibilities.
With these formalities over with, string theory is discussed.

There are some difficulties here.
Profound conclusions are presented without much background.
The conflicting view points get tiresome.
There is not much of a climax at the end.
But these problems are inherent to the subject matter.

The digressions and historical bits are always interesting.
The endless analogies to everyday life are better than you would expect.
There is a joy about the audacity of the subject which comes through.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Van Mayes on November 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely good introduction to a very complicated subject that will be of great use to those with limited knowledge of string theory and, more generally, high-energy physics. The book successfully gives a conceptual description of a somewhat esoteric area of physics without the requirement of a mathematical background. Readers of the book will come away with a good understanding of cutting-edge physics, including Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, the Standard Model, Grand Unified Theories and Supersymmetry, all of which are relevant to experiments currently being performed at the Large Hadron Collider. Readers will also learn how these topics are related to string theory and how everything fits together. The book does a good job of presenting information in a pedagogical manner building from the simpler concepts up to the discussion of string theory. Thus, the reader gains a clear picture of where our current knowledge stands and the problems that still need to be addressed. The book accomplishes this without getting lost in a discussion of rather exotic things like parallel universes and extra dimensions, although the reader will see how such concepts arise in string theory. The book also gives a discussion of the current 'controversy' over string theory which has played out in popular books and blogs in recent years. Overall, this is an excellent starter book for anyone who wants to get a basic picture of string theory. If one wants to gain a deeper understanding, one can move on from this book to one of the more technical treatments available.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Aeronuatics Doc on September 22, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I give it my highest rating. The title is misleading because it is more about the connection of relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory. For those who have read Brian Greene's books, this is a excellent supplement. It is a must read if Greene's books may have left you wanting more explanations and examples.
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