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Nothing: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – July 26, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0199225866 ISBN-10: 0199225869

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199225869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199225866
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

`Review from previous edition: All in all, this book makes for some fascinating reading.' Chemistry World, Dennis Rouvray.

`An accessible and entertaining read for layperson and scientist alike.' Physics World

`The Void is well worth reading.' Robert Cailliau. CERN Courier.

`It covers very complicated concepts in a mostly accessible way.' Lawrence Rudnick, Nature

`A fascinating subject covered by a fascinating book.' Marcus Chown, Focus

About the Author


Frank Close, OBE, is Professor of Physics at Oxford University and a Fellow of Exeter College and was formerly vice president of the British Association for Advancement of Science.

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Customer Reviews

I've re-learned much less in much more of a book.
robert johnston
The book is written in an interesting and easy-flowing style, and it does not overwhelm the reader with technical details and arcane jargon.
Dr. Bojan Tunguz
I had previously also purchased Close's book on Antimatter, and am now looking forward to reading it.
Michael N. Krastman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Nothing" seems to be the simplest of all notions, apparently requiring no thought whatsoever. It is what remains where everything is taken away. But a closer scrutiny reveals that "nothing" is not trivial as it may first seem. Is it physically possible to achieve such a thing as the absence of all matter? Even if possible, is what remains a truly empty space? And what is space anyway - is it possible to talk about it in the absence of matter? It is these and related questions that this short book tries to answer. It takes the reader on a journey from philosophical and speculative ideas of classic antiquity, to the most advanced frontiers of modern theoretical and experimental Physics. For a book of its size it covers a lot of ground. It explains where the notion that "the nature abhors vacuum" comes from, and how it took almost two thousand years to refute it by actually creating the first known artificial vacuum. The book explains how the ideas about the vacuum have evolved over the centuries, and in particular what an effect the discoveries of quantum mechanics and general relativity have had on it. Today we believe that even the perfect vacuum is strictly speaking not completely empty, and it is a rather complicated and complex entity. The book concludes with some of the current Physics speculations and how they may pertain to our ideas about "nothing."

The book is written in an interesting and easy-flowing style, and it does not overwhelm the reader with technical details and arcane jargon. There are hardly any equations in it, and the ones that are present are straightforward and used in order to illustrate a point that otherwise would be too cumbersome to describe. Overall, this is a very good book with a fresh and engaging perspective.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Why are there beings rather than nothing?" This seemingly futile question has plagued everyone from philosophers, scientists and anyone who has stopped to reflect on our bizarre existence. Such reflection usually leads to a thought about the state of "nothing." And then the inevitable contradictory questions flow, such as "what would exist if there were nothing?" or "would something need to exist to verify that nothing exists?" And the neurons flap on and on until exhaustion or insanity set in. Apparently, the void sits on the edge of human cognition. Our moist brains have problems going there without falling into slippery logical contradictions. But why rely on logic for such questions? Why keep banging our heads against empty formalism? Frank Close's little dense book "Nothing: A Very Short Introduction" takes off with this very idea. After discussing his own personal confrontation with the void, the book shifts drastically from the philosophical to the scientific. A short history of the void/vacuum science follows, including Toricelli's 1643 experiment that created a vacuum, the Magdeburg Hemispheres that demonstrated the power of atmospheric pressure, and Pascal's trials with water and wine. People were finally creating and experimenting with, seemingly, "nothing." Scientific method, in contrast to pure reason, was able to make something of the void. But was the void really nothing?

To explore this question, the book embarks on a breakneck tour of the history of science. Though it seems to veer from the void in many places, it always returns to nothing. Those familiar with the basic history of Newtonian Mechanics, Relativity and Quantum physics will likely trod familiar territory.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jay C. Smith on October 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Nothing: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
If you are at all scientifically curious this little volume should be a pleasure to read, especially if you know you are not going to be tested on it. Frank Close presents complex subject matter in a manner that is understandable even if you don't have a physics degree. But "Very Short Introduction" does not mean superficial -- the concepts it deals with are quite dense after all.

It is mostly about particle physics and cosmology. Close constructs accessible explanations of, for example, the composition and behavior of atoms and sub-atomic particles, relativity, quantum theory, the Big Bang, and the theory of Higgs bosons.

His unifying theme involves the Aristotelian idea that nature abhors a vacuum, a notion that was not over-turned (seemingly) until the seventeenth century. But it turns out that something is there after all, that all space is filled with energy.

Close renders the material (and energy) comprehensible through clear prose, reconstruction of helpful "thought experiments," enlightening metaphors, and a limited number of pictorial illustrations. For instance, he offers a graphic "mental model" of the uncertainty principle, one which I found very helpful. Yet he never lets the reader off the hook -- you will be required to think throughout.

This is publication number 205 in the Oxford "Very Short Introductions" series, which covers all manner of subjects. It is small and conveniently portable, but not unduly skimpy (I estimate about 43,000 words). An index makes it potentially useful as a reference book.
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