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The World's 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems Hardcover – July 7, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR (July 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131426435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131426436
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,035,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Featuring Original Contributions from Dr. Stephen Hawking

Unfold the mysteries that vex the greatest minds in science

Gain extensive knowledge of the most challenging scientific problems and learn from more than 60 of the world’s foremost scientists—among them, 40 Nobel laureates! Expand your horizons with a wide range of advanced scientific theories and techniques on problems concerning:

  • Permanently storing nuclear waste or eliminating it altogether
  • Harvesting energy from a reaction similar to that of the sun
  • Earthquake prediction
  • The creation of the universe
  • Comprehension of free will
  • The mystery of dark matter
  • The cosmological constant problem
  • The construction of a consistent quantum theory of gravity
  • And much more

Science has reached dazzling heights of discovery, transforming civilization in the process. And yet, some of the most fundamental questions remain unsolved! In The World’s 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems, John Vacca—together with more than 60 of the world’s most highly respected scientists—explains these problems in detail and describes the intellectual and technological hurdles to be overcome in order to solve them.

This book is indispensable for science buffs, teachers, students, and scientists who want to keep pace with the latest developments. The World’s 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems delves deep into mysteries such as the creation of the universe, dark matter, the quantum theory of gravity, protein folding, free will, consciousness, earthquake prediction, Fullerenes, the quantum mechanical vacuum, storing or eliminating nuclear waste, and more. No other resource explains science’s most compelling dilemmas with such clarity and authority, and nowhere else can you share the expertise of so many brilliant minds! You’ll find

  • Complex topics made intelligible, as only experts in their fields can
  • Coverage of the key problems expected to dominate the next 40 years of scientific research

The World’s 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems is must reading for anyone teaching science or performing scientific research. It also will fascinate the moderately technical reader or scientific novice.

About the Author

John R. Vacca is an information technology consultant and internationally known, best-selling author based in Pomeroy, Ohio. Since 1982, John has authored 42 books and more than 550 articles. John has a rich background in technology and science as a former configuration management specialist, computer specialist, and the computer security official (CSO) for NASA’s space station program (Freedom) and the international space station program, from 1988 until his early retirement from NASA in 1995. John was also one of the security consultants for the MGM movie AntiTrust, which was released on January 12, 2001. In addition to his many writing projects, John is a freelance editorial reviewer for online retailers.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By K. C Weatherford on July 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If like me, you know enough about science to be intrigued, but not enough
to understand and contribute to a conversation on scientific topics such as Vacca covers here (Astronomy, Biology, Neuroscience, and many more), you will love this book. Not only is it is a great source of information in many fields of science, but it brings the reader to the brink of extant knowledge and shines a light into the future of what we don't know yet.

The thing I appreciate second best about Vacca's book is how many different topics are covered in enough depth to enlighten and educate me. Here is a wide vista of scientific knowledge, and for each discipline, Vacca brings the brightest minds in the field together. He presents the most current theories from their several points of view, and melds them into a "state of the discipline" discussion on each of the 20 greatest unsolved problems. With input from Dr. Stephen Hawking, a personal hero of mine; Alan Guth, Richard Muller, and many more of the very brightest minds in science today, this is cutting edge reading. And yet, the thing I appreciate the most of all is how easy it is to read and comprehend. For all the tremendously erudite topics this book covers, I feel as if I have a well-educated and very understanding friend sitting with me and explaining the ideas in terms that I can understand.

I highly recommend this book as an exciting and enjoyable read to round out your knowledge base for both personal and professional rewards.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Andrew Howe on May 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't waste your money on this book. I read the entire 650-page book, which should have been much closer to 200 pages. The first several chapters, on physics and astrophysics were decently interesting. However, I had several problems with this book:

1) The author frequently repeats the same statement several times in a same chapter. For example, in the chapter on DNA, the statement that a strand of DNA contained billions of bases was made 3 or 4 times in the same 3 or so pages

2) In many chapters, the most interesting content was only to be found in the conclusion. The content was, of course, only glossed over.

3) In several chapters, advanced subject jargon was used, yet never defined.

4) There were multiple chapters that made me seriously question the value and veracity of the "science". To return to the DNA chapter, he says he'll prove that DNA could not have been created by random (even directed random) changes. This is, of course, true; ironically, he doesn't say anything about it after that statement. Additionally, the entire chapter on "free energy" was a sham. Sure, free energy is possible - as long as you define any currently not / little used energy source as "free energy". Ludicrous sources of truly free (and impossible) energy were presented as supposedly viable. Oh, and don't forget the chapter in which the author presented the theory that ALL problems (including societal ones) are due to breakdowns in natural laws. That person who cut you off this morning wasn't a selfish jerk, her actions are merely due to some natural laws not working correctly. Once again, the word "ludicrous" comes strongly to mind.

It's a shame that such potential to be a very valuable and interesting book was given over to this author to be ruined.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Kallem on June 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm sorry I bought this book. Although I learned a fair amount from it (which is why I am giving it two stars instead of one), reading it was far from an enjoyable experience.

Across chapters, the book lacks a consistent style or conception of audience. Some chapters read like highly technical papers from scientific journals, while others use a more conversational tone. In either case, the organization within chapters is substandard, making the chapters essentially unreadable. Important terms are often defined haphazardly, sometimes more than once, sometimes after they have already been used extensively, and sometimes not at all. The book reads as though its content were pasted together from different sources with little attempt to combine them into a coherent whole.

To add icing to the cake, the book contains some petty factual errors that undermine the author's credibility. For example, the book lists the first few prime numbers as 1, 3, 5, and 7. To omit 2 (which is prime) and include 1 (which very few consider to be prime) is inexcusable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Ellison on July 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book will whet your appetite for science again. Written for students, teachers, and scientists, it is especially good for people like me who could have chosen a science career.

The editor, John Vacca, has done an excellent job identifying and discussing the 20 greatest unsolved problems facing science in the 21st century. He conducted interviews with numerous practicing scientists, identified both the problems to be included and the eminent practitioners in the field.

The book covers more than a dozen disciplines, and the topics are wide ranging: black holes, dark matter, gamma ray bursts, earthquake prediction, protein folding, nuclear waste, free will, consciousness. You can skip around the book to topics that interest you. John Vacca's easy, accessible writing style keeps you interested and makes you want to read further. This is a good book to take on a trip.

Vacca's research is backed by comments from more than 50 scientists, many of them distinguished professors and Nobel Laureates. Recent developments are covered, such as Michael Luken's research in briefly stopping light (Dec 2003) and Stephen Hawking's latest findings on black holes (2004). This is interesting stuff. What is left to explore? A lot. This book just uncovers the tip of the iceberg. A good read. Highly recommended.
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