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Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 14, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0345531438 ISBN-10: 0345531434

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Nothing quite prepared me for this book. Wow. Reading it, I alternated between depression—how could the rest of us science writers ever match this?—and exhilaration.”Scientific American
 
“To Do: Read Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn. Reality doesn’t have to bite.”New York
 
“A zany superposition of genres . . . It’s at once a coming-of-age chronicle and a father-daughter road trip to the far reaches of this universe and 10,500 others. . . . Einstein’s Lawn transcends the traditional categorizations publishers try to confer on the books they market.”The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Gefter’s wit, audacity, intelligence and irreverence, her wonderful relationship with her father, and fan photos of the two of them with famous physicists give the book heart. What gives it heft is Gefter’s gift for reducing mind-blowing concepts . . . into plain English. . . . Try Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn. Gefter will take you on an outsider’s tour of the universe’s inside story, and you’ll learn—and understand—more than you imagined you could.”Concord Monitor
 
“In this mix of memoir and science, Gefter chronicles her quest to understand the big conundrums through study of the physics literature and meetings with remarkable theoreticians from John Archibald Wheeler to Lisa Randall.”Nature
 
“Part science writing and part memoir, this adventurous fact-finding romp takes readers across the landscape of ideas about the universe. . . . [Gefter] is a crafty storyteller and journalist. . . . [She] makes even the most esoteric concepts—and there are a lot of them in this book—lucid and approachable. . . . What she discovered about the new frontier of quantum cosmology and the importance of the role of the individual observer is astonishing and awesome, and Gefter’s book is a useful presentation of this thrilling ontological shift for a general audience. Beautifully written and hugely entertaining, this book is a heartfelt introduction to the many mind-bending theories in contemporary physics.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is the most charming book ever written about the fundamental nature of reality. Amanda Gefter sounds like your best friend telling you a captivating story, but really she’s teaching you about some of the deepest ideas in modern physics and cosmology. Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn is a delight from start to finish.”—Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
 
“Amanda Gefter is a remarkable explorer, and Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn takes the reader on a journey into the unexpected. Follow this beautifully written quest as it leads you through the terrain of physics, of family, of history, and you will find yourself pondering all the roads that lead to a richer understanding of ourselves and our place in this endlessly strange and beautiful universe.”—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
 
“I devoured Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn in a weekend, marveling at how the author went from being a coat-check girl at a Manhattan nightclub to going up against some of the greatest physicists alive and explaining their wild and deep ideas often better than they could—and wittily, too.”—Jim Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Why Does the World Exist?

About the Author

Amanda Gefter is a physics and cosmology writer and a consultant for New Scientist magazine, where she formerly served as books and arts editor and founded CultureLab. Her writing has been featured in New Scientist, Scientific American, Sky and Telescope, Astronomy.com, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Gefter studied the history and philosophy of science at the London School of Economics and was a 2012–13 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345531434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345531438
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Gefter is a writer specializing in fundamental physics and cosmology, and author of the book Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn. She is a consultant for New Scientist magazine, where she previously served as Books & Arts editor.

Gefter's writing has been featured in New Scientist, Scientific American, Edge.org, Sky and Telescope, Astronomy.com, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as in the book This Will Make You Smarter edited by John Brockman (Harper Perennial, 2012).

She has a Master's degree in the Philosophy and History of Science from the London School of Economics, and was a 2012-13 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You can find more of Gefter's writing on her website, www.amandagefter.com






(photo by Webb Chappell)

Customer Reviews

Wonderfully clear writing about some very heavy subject matter.
James E. Mcvoy
Amanda Gefter's book tells the story of her and her father's journey to understand the deepest mysteries of physics and existence.
Ash Jogalekar
Actually, it's one of the few books I read that I'm going to wait a week or so, and read again.
Ginnie Siena Bivona

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ash Jogalekar VINE VOICE on January 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amanda Gefter's book tells the story of her and her father's journey to understand the deepest mysteries of physics and existence. In many ways it's comparable to Jim Holt's book "Why does the world exist?" although Holt's book is bigger on philosophy while Gefter's is bigger on the physics. The major questions asked in both the books are the same: How did something arise from nothing? In Gefter's book the related question of what role observers play in the making of the universe also looms large. Gefter's style is highly accessible and entertaining and at times she sounds like a close friend telling you how exciting physics is. Her infectious enthusiasm for science and questions enlivens every page of the narrative.

The book is really two books in one. The first part recounts the personal story of her and her father's thirst to understand the origin and meaning of the universe. Gefter's father comes across as a brilliant man, a non-physicst (although a medical doctor) with an unquenchable passion for deep scientific mysteries and a deep, thoughtful imagination. It's a quality that he seems to have passed on to his daughter in spades. He was the one who got Gefter interested in such questions and read physics books with her into the wee hours of the morning, he was the one who attended conferences with her - sometimes using dubious but harmless credentials - and he was the one who encouraged her to follow her heart, to switch careers and talk to the world's leading physicists purely out of intellectual curiosity. Conversations, phone calls and emails between him and his daughter make constant appearances in the book and it's obvious that without him Gefter might have possibly ended up doing something very different.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By T. Considine on February 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What's not to like about the prospects for a book about a touching father-daughter relationship, Einstein et. al. (the probably unintentional irony there is deep, considering Einstein's own view of his relationship with his daughter) and consideration of space, time and...well, everything? My problem was that it didn't take long before I couldn't read the book. The fault was mine: I assumed from the title and few reviews I had read that this was proper reading for the average book fan. It's not. Another reviewer here mentioned getting halfway through the book before the language became "...too abstruse." I didn't make it halfway, though I tried.

I was actually pretty good in math at school, okay in physics and geometry, and I've always been an avid reader. Years ago I developed an interest in amateur astronomy and have been known to drive 500 miles for a good viewing spot of the Perseid meteorites. But less than a third of the way into "Trespassing" I was bumping up against sentences like this: "A particle's position wavefunction and it's momentum wavefunction are Fourier transforms of each other..." and I was lost. And those types of sentences -- whole paragraphs, in fact -- just kept coming. I want to emphasize the problem was mine, not the author's. She writes with clear energy and affection for her subject. Her love for her dad shines through. My mistake was thinking this was a book for someone with a pedestrian understanding of the science involved.

I assigned four stars due to the wit and enthusiasm evident in Ms Gefter's writing, but would not recommend this book to anyone who doesn't have a fundamental grasp of contemporary physics and the language used to describe it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Turtle Guillotine on January 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn is a braid of three strands of narrative -- one part conceptual tour of modern physics, one part philosophical rumination on the metaphysical implications of the pure weirdness that is modern physics, and one part memoir and love-letter to the author's father, with all three modes compelling throughout.

Gefter's journey starts in a Chinese restaurant at the age of fifteen, as her father asks her, "How would you define nothing?" Not content to keep the discussion small, Amanda and her father wonder what it really would mean if the Universe were filled with nothingness -- a completely homogeneous state in which the things we think of as something (Matter? Spacetime? Quarks? Strings?) aren't, or perhaps cease to be meaningful concepts when in a boundaryless soup of blended Universe. Could this homogeneous state, the "H-State", be some sort of clue to the origin of existence?

From this seed, Amanda's journey begins. Early on, she poses as a journalist at a physics conference, simply to get access to the best minds in physics so they might answer a few questions about the mechanisms of how something could come from nothing. Later, her charades become reality as she is hired to write physics coverage for New Scientist magazine. In each stage of her journey, she interweaves the principles of modern physics with her own life story. Early on, she explains special and general relativity, followed by Thomas Young's mind-bending double-slit light experiment. A few chapters further, she contrasts the philosophical concept of scientific realism with its competing philosophies while in the same chapter narrating her battle unseen rats -- rats which may or may not exist -- in her tiny London flat.
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