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Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World Hardcover – September 20, 2011
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“Startlingly honest [and] beautifully written. . . . Randall’s calm authority and clarity of explanation are exemplary. . . . Like being taken behind the curtain in Oz and given a full tour by the wizard.” (New Scientist)
“[Randall is] one of the more original theorists at work in the profession today. . . . She gives a fine analysis of the affinity between scientific and artistic beauty, comparing the broken symmetries of a Richard Serra sculpture to those at the core of the Standard Model.” (New York Times Book 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))
“The general reader’s indispensable passport to the frontiers of science.” (Booklist (starred review))
“[Randall’s] eloquent book details the trials and tribulations of the [Large Hadron Collider], from conception to implementation, and takes us on a grand tour of the underlying science.” (Nature)
“Offers the reader a glimpse of the future. . . . An enlightening and exciting read.” (San Francisco Book Review)
“Valuable and engaging. . . . Randall’s generous cornucopia of ideas, her engaging style, and above all her deep excitement about physics make this a book that deserves a wide readership.” (American Scientist)
“Full of passion and jaw-dropping facts. . . . A fascinating account of modern particle physics, both theoretical and practical.” (The Independent on Sunday)
“Beautifully written. . . . An impressive overview of what scientists (of any kind) get up to, how they work and why science is an inherently creative endeavor.” (Times Higher Education (London))
“Randall’s witty, accessible discussion reveals the effort and wonder at hand as scientists strive to learn who we are and where we came from.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Randall manages to transform . . . experiments at distant and unfamiliar scales into crucial acts in a cosmic drama.” (Daily Beast)
“An exciting read about the very edge of modern science. . . . [Knocking on Heaven’s Door] inspires a sense of awe, appreciation and excitement for what the future holds.” (Daily Texan)
“Very accessible, readable, and appealing to a broad audience. . . . Randall’s passion and excitement for science and physics is infectious and welcome in our digital age.” (New York Journal of Books)
“Lisa Randall has written Knocking on Heaven’s Door in the same witty, informal style with which she explains physics in person, making complex ideas fascinating and easy to understand. Her book . . . just might make you think differently—and encourage you to make smarter decisions about the world.” (President Bill Clinton)
“A deep and deeply wonderful explanation of how science—and the rest of the known universe—actually works.” (Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness)
“Lisa Randall is the rarest rarity—a theoretical physics genius who can write and talk to the rest of us in ways we both understand and enjoy. This book takes nonspecialists as close as they’ll ever get to the inner workings of the cosmos.” (Lawrence H. Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University)
“Science has a battle for hearts and minds on its hands: a battle on two fronts—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.” (Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion)
“Randall’s lucid explanations of . . . the frontiers of physics-including her own dazzling ideas-are highly illuminating, and her hearty defense of reason and science is a welcome contribution. . . . Read this book today to understand the science of tomorrow.” (Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought)
“Lisa Randall does a great job of explaining to the non-physicist the basic science approaches of modern physics and what the latest experiments might reveal. . . . This is a must read to appreciate what is coming in our future.” (J. Craig Venter, sequencer of the human genome and developer of the first synthetic life)
“I didn’t think it was possible to write a complex, detailed look at the world of physics that the non-scientist could understand, but then Lisa Randall wrote this amazing, insightful, and engaging book and proved me wrong.” (Carlton Cuse, award–winning producer and writer of Lost)
From the Back Cover
From one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, a rousing defense of the role of science in our lives
The latest developments in physics have the potential to radically revise our understanding of the world: its makeup, its evolution, and the fundamental forces that drive its operation. Knocking on Heaven’s Door is an exhilarating and accessible overview of these developments and an impassioned argument for the significance of science.
There could be no better guide than Lisa Randall. The bestselling author of Warped Passages is an expert in both particle physics (the study of the smallest objects we know of) and cosmology (the study of the largest). In Knocking on Heaven’s Door, she explores how we decide which scientific questions to study and how we go about answering them. She examines the role of risk, creativity, uncertainty, beauty, and truth in scientific thinking through provocative conversations with leading figures in other fields (such as the chef David Chang, the forecaster Nate Silver, and the screenwriter Scott Derrickson), and she explains with wit and clarity the latest ideas in physics and cosmology. Randall describes the nature and goals of the largest machine ever built: the Large Hadron Collider, the enormous particle accelerator below the border of France and Switzerland—as well as recent ideas underlying cosmology and current dark matter experiments.
The most sweeping and exciting science book in years, Knocking on Heaven’s Door makes clear the biggest scientific questions we face and reveals how answering them could ultimately tell us who we are and where we came from.
Download an excerpt from Knocking on Heaven's Door [PDF].
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a great book to read for those who want to understand what current research tells us about quantum physics and cosmology. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Metaprof
Very interesting book and written in a very accessible writing style.Published 3 months ago by Amazon customer
She makes physics and the universe understandable (as much as possible for those of us with limited knowledge) and enjoyable - well written.Published 3 months ago by dbmnj
Many explanations in this book help reduce my skepticism of concepts that seem counterintuitive and far fetched. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tom Greenhaw
Lisa Randall has written an excellent look into the daily application of the fruits of scientific method. Knocking on Heavens Door has been a pleasure to read.Published 4 months ago by Michael L Blackford
A broad and deep sweep over ~37 orders of scale, with much more attention to the very small, but also connecting cosmology with particle physics without equations. Read morePublished 4 months ago by jinindy
The book is out of stock. The people who can't get it don't realize how lucky they are. I'm a retired NASA engineer who loves to read about physics and found David Deutsch,... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Leanne Jump
Good overview of the state of particle physics and cosmology as we enter the era of the Large Hadron Collider. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Keith D. Maw