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Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World [Kindle Edition]

Lisa Randall
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.99
Kindle Price: $10.67
You Save: $6.32 (37%)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

“Science has a battle for hearts and minds on its hands….How good it feels to have Lisa Randall’s unusual blend of top flight science, clarity, and charm on our side.”
—Richard Dawkins

“Dazzling ideas….Read this book today to understand the science of tomorrow.”
—Steven Pinker

The bestselling author of Warped Passages, one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,”  Lisa Randall gives us an exhilarating overview of the latest ideas in physics and offers a rousing defense of the role of science in our lives. Featuring fascinating insights into our scientific future born from the author’s provocative conversations with Nate Silver, David Chang, and Scott Derrickson, Knocking on Heaven’s Door is eminently readable, one of the most important popular science books of this or any year. It is a necessary volume for all who admire the work of Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, Simon Singh, and Carl Sagan; for anyone curious about the workings and aims of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest and most expensive machine ever built by mankind; for those who firmly believe in the importance of science and rational thought; and for anyone interested in how the Universe began…and how it might ultimately end.



Editorial Reviews

Review

“Science has a battle for hearts and minds on its hands . . . against superstition and ignorance on one flank, and against pseudo-intellectual obscurantism on the other. How good it feels to have Lisa Randall’s unusual blend of top flight science, clarity, and charm on our side.”

Review

"[A] whip-smart inquiry into the scientific work being conducted in particle physics. . . . [Randall] brings a thrumming enthusiasm to the topic, but she is unhurried and wryly humorous. . . . ["Knocking on Heaven's Door"] dazzles like the stars."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 2935 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004XVN8EC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,034 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
332 of 360 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The last few years have seen a proliferation of popular physics books aimed at explaining the mysteries of modern physics to the layman. This is a worthy endeavor and Lisa Randall is one of its leading expositors. This book is really two books in one. The first part is a clear and spirited discussion of particle physics and cosmology. The second part is an equally clear meditation on the nature of the scientific method and the value of science and reason.

Randall especially shines in explaining the real everyday science (as opposed to just the philosophy) behind frontier research in physics. Thus, she spends a sizable amount of time explaining some of the less emphasized practical aspects of the science like errors and uncertainty in measurements, risk factors, "effective theories" (theories applicable at particular scales) and statistics. She provides a readable treatment of the Standard Model of particle physics and emphasizes why finding the Higgs boson is so important. In addition she has what I think is one of the clearest accounts of the structure and function of the LHC in Geneva. In the part about cosmology, she discusses in detail the riddle of dark matter and dark energy and what the latest telescopes and satellites might tell us about the birth and structure of the universe.

The second half of the book presents a robust defense of science and reason as well as some thoughts on the connections between beauty, creativity and science. Randall understands that while mathematical beauty may be a guiding principle for theoretical physics, ultimately beauty is subjective and the only true test of a theory is a clear connection to experiment.
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146 of 158 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Several string theorists such as Brian Greene or Leonard Susskind and cosmologists such as Alexander Vilenkin have written popular books about physics but as far as I know, Lisa Randall is the only popular writer among the "high-energy phenomenologists", i.e. the theoretical particle physicists who think about Nature from the viewpoint of phenomena that have been observed or that may be observed in a foreseeable future (mostly at the particle accelerators).

And we, the readers, have been especially fortunate because the book about physics from the viewpoint of phenomenologists wasn't written by a random phenomenologist but by one of the most prominent ones. In fact, Randall was identified as the most referred to particle physicist - among both women and men, just to be sure - in a recent 5-year period. She remains extremely active and influential.

Knocking on Heaven's Door has two basic goals. One of them is to introduce the reader to the cutting-edge research in particle physics which is dominated by the LHC experiment. Collisions of protons inside the 27-kilometer ring on the Swiss-French border have interrupted decades of theoretical dominance and relative experimental impotence (even though the book describes some smaller colliders or LHC predecessors, too). Randall who constantly interacts with the experimenters offers us an exciting story of the LHC collider from its conception to the first femtobarn of collisions.
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108 of 126 people found the following review helpful
By User
Format:Hardcover
I am a working physicist, 30 years past my Ph. D., and I picked up this book thinking it would be interesting to learn about progress in particle physics and cosmology. I was very disappointed. The meat of the book is Chapters 16 and 17, where Prof. Randall finally gets to describing the theory behind the Higgs boson and other anticipated discoveries from the LHC. These are so poorly written it seems like her editor just figured, "no one will understand this, so why bother trying to make it readable." The sentence structure is convoluted to the point that, even with multiple readings, it's impossible to tell the point she's trying to make. She throws around terms like "weak charge" without ever bothering to explain whether this quantity is a weak version of the electric charge or an analogy of electric charge that conveys the weak force. She frequently makes reference to the Planck length, without ever saying what it is, where it comes from, or how to translate between distance and energy, which she uses interchangeably.

This weakness is illustrated by her explanation of the possible applicability of extra dimensions to explain the 16 orders-of-magnitude difference between gravity and the weak force, one of the few contributions she takes personal credit for. You could just say, "the forces are of different strengths" and leave it at that. Randall says, in essence, "Imagine gravity is 10^16 times stronger on another brane in another dimension, but that dimension is coupled to our world by an arbitrary coupling constant of 10^-16." This adds nothing of intellectual value to the field, but the buzzwords have been used, so it's time to schedule a book tour and let the accolades roll in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening book, but awfully wordy.
Lisa Randall undertakes the task of explaining scientific principles. The first thing I noted is that she would use a whole chapter to explain something that could be explained in... Read more
Published 28 days ago by C. Fullmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn about our world.
I am not a scientist. Knocking on Heaven's Door taught me a lot about the new physics unknown when I was a kid in high school. A lot was unknown even when I was in college. Read more
Published 1 month ago by norvell w. jones
4.0 out of 5 stars will read again and again
If I were a smarter person in the field of physics, I'd love it ! Meanwhile glad to have it to re-read until I can learn more and love this book more with each re-read evie
Published 1 month ago by evie esposito
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clean, Crisp Read
Well written and very informative for the layman struggling to find answers among the hype and hysteria surrounding the so called war on science, or religion depending on which... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be Thrilled
I am enchanted by this book, although I confess I didn't absorb or grasp it as well as I wanted to. It is well written and even a lay person with little science training can fall... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Elaine Carpenter
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic voyage through science
Fantastic voyage through current science

Professor Randall is one of the most brilliant scientist of our times. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gérald Lizée
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about the LHC
Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, but I could not tell from the title, subtitle, or jacket that this is primarily a book about the Large Hadron Collider. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Angela Reis
1.0 out of 5 stars WRONG BOOK
THIS WAS THE WRONG BOOK!! THE ONE I ORDERED WAS ALSO NAMED "KNOCKING OF HEAVEN'S DOO[R", BUT/ IT IS ABOUT A BETTER PATHWAY TO DEATH.
Published 3 months ago by Edward Chalfant
5.0 out of 5 stars I am having a blast reading this book...I wish anyone that doesn't...
Get their hands on it. It is eyeopening for the layman(woman). I haven't found too many problems with it..but being a Medical Technician I was wondering why Ms. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jofishy66
4.0 out of 5 stars All about the LHC and what we hope to learn
I learned a great deal about the LHC and what we hope to learn. The discussion about the Higgs Boson is very informative. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Denise Higgins
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More About the Author

Lisa Randall is Professor of Physics at Harvard University. She is one of today's most influential and highly cited theoretical physicists, and has received numerous awards and honors for her contributions. Her work has been featured in Time magazine, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vogue, the Economist, Scientific American, and elsewhere. Randall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society, and is the recipient of several honorary degrees. When not solving the problems of the universe, she can be found rock climbing, skiing, or contributing to art-science connections. Hypermusic Prologue, a small opera for which she wrote the libretto, premiered in the Pompidou Center in 2009, and Measure for Measure, an art exhibit she co-curated, opened in Los Angeles in 2010.

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