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Nothingness: The Science Of Empty Space [Paperback]

Henning Genz , Translated by Karin Heusch
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 2001 0738206105 978-0738206103 1st
Nothingness addresses one of the most puzzling problems of physics and philosophy: Does empty space have an existence independent of the matter within it? Is "empty space" really empty, or is it an ocean seething with the creation and destruction of virtual matter? With crystal-clear prose and more than 100 cleverly rendered illustrations, physicist Henning Genz takes the reader from the metaphysical speculations of the ancient Greek philosophers, through the theories of Newton and the early experiments of his contemporaries, right up to the current theories of quantum physics and cosmology to give us the story of one of the most fundamental and puzzling areas of modern physics and philosophy.

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Editorial Reviews Review

What can you say about nothing? Paradoxically, it turns out we know quite a lot about emptiness, and physicist Henning Genz fills us in with Nothingness: The Science of Empty Space, a heady and delightful romp through the cold void of space. From Aristotle's horror vacui to modern quantum-mechanical confirmation that nature does indeed abhor a vacuum, Genz rockets us through the inky blackness with clarity and playfulness. The concept of the absolute void is one of the few that touches both the farthest reaches of philosophy and the most intimate corners of experimental physics, and the push and pull between these two fields has never been more plain. Torricelli's demonstration of the vacuum in Renaissance times turned his world inside out; it took hundreds of years for scientists to conclude that the seeming emptiness actually froths with "virtual particles" and the just barely real Higgs field. The stories are uniformly engrossing and enlightening, and while the science can get a bit abstruse from time to time, the narrative thread runs independently of the hard stuff. If you want the dirt on the most ephemeral of scientific subjects, look to Genz; he's done the impossible and created something out of Nothingness. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Can we conceive of such a concept as "nothingness"? In this tour de force, Genz, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, explains that the answer depends on where we draw the line between "something" and "nothing." On a simpler conceptual level, we might wonder if space that is totally devoid of any matter exists: what would space travelers find in the millions of light years between galaxies? Genz demonstrates that even if a cubic meter of this "empty space" were totally free of dust, gas or the occasionally stray atom, it would still be illuminated by radiation. And if we tried to lower the temperature close enough to absolute zero to eliminate all energy, an energy field?what scientists call a Higgs field?would suddenly materialize to spite our efforts. As the ancient philosophers wrote, nature does seem to abhor a vacuum. Genz intricately constructs his case so that just when the reader questions the point of an apparent digression or yet another discussion of ancient Greek theories of matter, he nudges it expertly into the edifice of his argument. Questions about being and nothingness are shown to relate to today's most important questions in physics and cosmology?for instance, whether the large-scale structures in the universe, and the emergence of life itself, can be traced to transitions between various vacuum states. Genz is well served by his translator, who has deftly transformed the original into idiomatic English. This book is not an easy read, but it will repay careful study and is recommended for dedicated science buffs. 140 drawings.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738206105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738206103
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,560,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating but disorganized December 1, 1998
The first law of quantum mechanics is: take an innocent word like "empty" and show that it really means its exact opposite. Genz's ramble through the history of the physics and philosophy of so-called empty space is well worth a read. Practically every page has insights that I haven't seen in any another treatment of this subject. The book is bound to provoke thought and discussion. But brace yourself. It's no easy read. The main problem is organization -- sometimes you feel adrift in a void, with no reference points to tell you where the argument is going and why. The book is a translation from German, and although individual sentences are clear and often engrossing, a stronger editorial hand would have been welcome. The English edition does contain some new information, such as the recent experimental demonstration of the bizarre "Casimir effect", but misses out on new evidence and theories for the cosmological constant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hello reviewer, check the dates of publication June 28, 2006
One reviewer states this is a rehash of "The Book Of Nothing" by John Barrow.

Hello! The Genz book was written several years prior to the Barrow text.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Into the void May 23, 2001
I was excited to finally start reading this book but sadly could barely finish the first two chapters. As other reviewers mentioned, this organization of this book is bothersome and distracting. So much so that I decided not to waste my time but to try Barrow's The Book of Nothing.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A multi-faceted masterpiece. April 9, 1999
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a multi-faceted masterpiece of science and serious philosophy. Not for New Age-ists or the intellectually lazy, this book endeavors to shed light on the perplexing question of "nothing". Nothing ain't nothing. A treasure for science and philosophy advocates, historians of science, and -- by the way -- those who would like to treat their students to a novel approach to the questions of at least two epochs of learning.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book October 11, 2010
This is a fine work. It covers the history, philosophy and physics of empty space. This is not your typical book of fluff, which is normally what you get on topics of this sort. The author is a physicist who has a firm hold of the philosophical concerns that come with it. Very enjoyable and stimulating. The style and organization of the author are fairly poor, but made up, in my opinion, by the content.

The historical account of "nothingness" is fabulously done. He works his way from ancient Greece to modern science. What I really like, although he doesn't say this explicitly, is that this work demonstrates where the separation between philosophy and science occurs. With a minor inference, one can even posit why this occurred, giving the reader some elementary understanding that philosophy and physics have a dynamic relationship. I particularly loved the accounts of the history of science given from the 1500's to 1800's.

I wish he would do a sequel, a slightly more technical version for us physicists.

Very interseting stuff.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some noteworthiness February 1, 2013
Here is a book that I'm reviewing from the vantage point of a great separation in time, but felt I should throw in this two cents worth:

I distinctly remember having recurring satisfactions that here was an author who had thought as I had concerning several aspects of reality. So if you have been pondering the base of things, you too may find much to relate to in this book, and see where Genz takes you. True, the book seriously lacks orginization or cohesion. But one thing has stuck in my mind all these years after reading the book -- that Genz feels strongly that "empty" space is a roiling sea of activity. I've regarded that concept as pertinent to my own philosophy of science ponderings and would bet that cosmologists should take note of it.
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