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The Search For Superstrings, Symmetry, And The Theory Of Everything [Hardcover]

John Gribbin
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 5, 1999 0316329754 978-0316329750
Few areas of current scientific investigation are as intriguing, contentious, or bizarre as physicists' search for a Grand Unified Theory that would unite all the forces and particles of nature in one coherent mathematical package. Since Einstein's time, this "theory of everything" has become the Holy Grail of physics, and its pursuit has resulted in some of the most extraordinary conceptions in the history of science. In "The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything," best-selling science popularizer John Gribbin explores the field of particle physics, the most exciting area of research in physics today and the key to uncovering the Grand Unified Theory.

Editorial Reviews Review

In days of yore, educated men and women would avidly follow new developments in the world of science; these days it seems to be too much trouble--relativity was bad enough, but "N-dimensional space"? Fortunately for those of us who have trouble visualizing parallel parking, much less quarks and gluons, John Gribbin is back with an up-to-date primer on subatomic physics. The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything refers as much to the reader's search for understanding as to the physicist's search for clever theories and experimental evidence to back them up, and Gribbin's prose is up to both tasks.

While meeting luminaries from Einstein to Steven Weinberg, we are treated to clear explanations of what in the world they're talking about, whether it's the "collapse of the wave function" or "high-energy particle acceleration." This material is especially fascinating to those of us without much mathematical inclination, as Gribbin manages to show the state-of-the-art in modern physics without forcing us to go back to school for a few years. (There is an appendix, "Group Theory for Beginners," for interested parties.) Writers like Gribbin are helping us reclaim the time when a little learning was all it took to understand science--and The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything might just convince you that it's not so hard, after all. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Ever since Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, the Holy Grail of physics has been a "Theory of Everything" that would explain the behavior of all the particles and forces in nature in one set of equations. Popular science writer Gribbin tackles this quest in a thorough yet palatable primer geared to the serious reader. He starts with a clear introduction to the subatomic particle zoo (the subject of his last book, Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality). Where once protons, neutrons and electrons reigned, there is now a "periodic table" of particles, and physicists have to worry about a potentially infinite number of types of particles with names like W and Z bosons, red up quarks, blue down quarks, etc. From there, Gribbin moves on to supersymmetry, a theory that attempts to bring Einsteinian space-time back into the quantum-mechanical fold of contemporary particle physics. Many physicists now treat particles not as points but as strings, tiny one-dimensional entities vibrating in 10-dimensional space-time. Gribbin helps us get our bearings in a universe of 11 dimensions, and while he refrains from the cosmic speculations of, say, Paul Davies, diligent readers without any specialized knowledge of physics or mathematics will come away with a flavor of the latest ideas theorists are grappling with, including the six major rival contenders for the TOE (Theory of Everything). An appendix previews the experiments scientists are planning in their attempts to create "little bangs," particle-accelerator collisions that may reveal what types of matter arose during the primal Big Bang. Overall, this is an exciting tour de force. 23 drawings.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316329754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316329750
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,321,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a disapointing book........... May 10, 1999
By A Customer
My biggest problem with this book is that the title suggests material that is only covered in the last 10% of the book. I purchased it to get a lay person's view of string theory but the book hardly refers to string theory at all. It covers a lot of material in the first 90% that I was already familiar with and did not need another book to explain it all to me again. I was expecting a book that concentrated on events over more recent years, and not another book going right back to the beginning of quantum theory. In my opinion, the title misrepresents the content.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not very good and overpriced! January 31, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was so enthused after reading John Gribbin's "SCHRODINGER'S KITTENS AND THE SEARCH FOR REALITY" that I placed an order for Dr. Gribbin's latest effort on August 24; that's four momths before its scheduled release....that's enthused! I started reading the book just as it cleared the shipping container. Pure unadulterated and uninspired fluff! There's nothing in the book that an interested layman (that's me) doesn't already know. One could live with "already knowing" but the writing is so uninspired and so dull that getting shot at sunrise would be an eagerly anticipated option to having to read this book more than once.... I can only guess that Dr. Gribbinn and the publisher wanted to immediately cash in on the success of his previous books, particularly the superb "SCRODINGER'S KITTENS AND THE SEARCH FOR REALITY." Unfortunately their hell-bent haste for economic rewards is reflected in the final product. This book is not worth the money. It's hard to believe that the guy who wrote this book also wrote "...The Search for REALITY" which is worth every penny of its selling price!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of a challenging topic July 14, 2001
I discovered John Gribbin relatively recently and have been going through any of his books that I could find. Even though his enthusiasm leads him into the realm of speculation at times, he is a very competent source of exciting and important information and remains a consistently good writer for whom clarity comes naturally.
This book is shorter and more succinct than many others by the author, and he mostly remains within the mainstream boundaries. It can serve two purposes: as a quick refresher in modern physics, and as an overview of some of the latest developments in force unification efforts.
For me, the writing was of just the right level of difficulty to make it worth-while to put in the effort necessary for the enjoyment of understanding the ideas it is trying to convey. Usually, they made good sense on the second reading of a given section (allowing for some inevitable vagueness of the subject as explained in words without the underlying mathematics).
I would advise, however, that the complete neophyte starts elsewhere (maybe some earlier books by the same author); on the other hand, people who are interested in much more detail of string theory in popular form could read e.g. "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Recently I have found myself a student of all things science with a tremendous appetite for the abstract. I've enjoyed the works of many talented authors such as Richard Feynman's "Six Easy Pieces", Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", James Gleick's "Chaos" and of course Albert Einstein's "Relativity". As a laymen, each of the above books presented it's own challenges in appreciating and understanding the text. However, each was gratifying, fulfilling and difficult to put down until the last page was finished...
Contrary to the good writing I've grown addicted, is John Gribbin's work in "The Search for SuperStrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything". I found the book to be like a visit to a planetarium that insists on keeping the lights on during the show, interesting facts but impossible to follow. Worse, I was insulted by the authors frequent references to his other works; this book felt like a cheap commercial.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overview of particle (not astro) physics since quantum November 22, 2003
If you haven't had a solid introduction to quantum physics, this book is not the place to start -- Gribbin's excellent earlier book (Schroedinger's Cat) is the place to start. However, if you've read about the Cat and have a decent conceptual grasp, this book is a good update. Gribbin's strength is explaining the concepts, independent of the intense math that's involved in physics. The science is so complicated that this is clearly not an easy task, yet Gribbin is, in my opinion, quite good at bringing the concepts to a level that I can mostly, usually, get a grasp of. On this level, this book covers what's happened in physics from the quantum revolution up to the present. Superstrings, Symmetry, & TOE is really not the best title for it though, because I read the first half of the book waiting for Gribbin to get to any of the title concepts.
I don't think Superstrings is nearly as solid an effort by Gribbin as Cat was. I had a hard time grasping the symmetry concept. I was solid on the review of quantum mechanics (which was well done, but was not enough information to make me suggest skipping Schroedinger's Cat). I was right with him through the spin function, and I was doing pretty well all through quarks. When he (finally!) got to strings, I could understand again. Unfortunately, all through the discussion of symmetry -- which I read and re-read several times -- I just wasn't getting it.
All in all, I think this is a pretty solid book for covering the physics concepts of the last 70 years or so, but I recommend reading Schroedinger's Cat, or at least having a conceptual understanding of quantum mechanics first.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear guide to understanding particle physics
This book has a very clear explanation of the basics of particle physics. The introductory chapter on quantum physics goes beyond the usual popular treatments. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Steve Brosnan
2.0 out of 5 stars Very little information about strings
This book was a disappointment, while there is some excellent background on the structure of matter and quantum mechanics, there is very little on the topic of superstrings. Read more
Published on April 10, 2007 by Charles Ashbacher
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but outdated and rambling
If you are looking for an introduction to the newest theories in astrophysics, this is not the book for you. Read more
Published on May 15, 2006 by Jesse Rouse
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book but not for beginners
Yes, perhaps a little slow on the introduction and a drag for those of who had a beginners course in quantum physics or a college physical science background. Read more
Published on June 14, 2005 by Oleg V. Petrakovsky
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and informative
If you are looking for more than " Oh, Golly" physics with some real mathematics, then this will be disappointing, but if you like Richard Feynman type informative... Read more
Published on August 4, 2001 by Roger Bagula
5.0 out of 5 stars A clear nonmathematical treatment of quantum theory, and TOE
Popular books on quantum theory are like cheap toilet paper, they fall apart easily. Gribbin's latest book is a triumph for the quantum wanabees who think they know some of the... Read more
Published on April 13, 1999 by
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated and readable.
I've been a Gribbin fan for a long time, and am of the opinion that each of his offerings is better than the last. Read more
Published on March 7, 1999 by Mary Messall (
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing
I enjoyed "In Search of Schroedingers Cat" and "Schroedingers Kittens" & was really looking forward to this one. Read more
Published on February 18, 1999 by Michael Shaw
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