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A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty Hardcover – February 1, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0470496510 ISBN-10: 0470496517 Edition: 1st

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A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty + The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470496517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470496510
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a large measure of humor and a minimum of math (one equation), physics professor Goldberg and engineer Blomquist delve into the fascinating physics topics that rarely make it into introductory classes, including time travel, extraterrestrials, and "quantum weirdness" to prove that physics' "reputation for being hard, impractical, and boring" is wrong by at least two-thirds: "Hard? Perhaps. Impractical? Definitely not... But boring? That's where we really take issue." Breaking up each topic into common sense questions ("How many habitable planets are there?" "What is Dark Matter?" "If the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into?"), the duo provides explanations in everyday language with helpful examples, analogies, and Blomquist's charmingly unpolished cartoons. Among other lessons, readers will learn about randomness through gambling; how a Star Trek-style transporter might function in the real world; and what may have existed before the Big Bang. Despite the absence of math, this nearly-painless guide is still involved and scientific, aimed at science hobbyists rather than science-phobes; it should also prove an ideal reference companion for more technical classroom texts. 100 b&w photos.
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Review

* With a large measure of humor and a minimum of math (one equation), physics professor Goldberg and engineer Blomquist delve into the fascinating physics topics that rarely make it into introductory classes, including time travel, extraterrestrials, and ""quantum weirdness"" to prove that physics' ""reputation for being hard, impractical, and boring"" is wrong by at least two-thirds: ""Hard? Perhaps. Impractical? Definitely not... But boring? That's where we really take issue."" Breaking up each topic into common sense questions (""How many habitable planets are there?"" ""What is Dark Matter?"" ""If the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into?""), the duo provides explanations in everyday language with helpful examples, analogies, and Blomquist's charmingly unpolished cartoons. Among other lessons, readers will learn about randomness through gambling; how a Star Trek-style transporter might function in the real world; and what may have existed before the Big Bang. Despite the absence of math, this nearly-painless guide is still involved and scientific, aimed at science hobbyists rather than science-phobes; it should also prove an ideal reference companion for more technical classroom texts. 100 b&w photos. (Mar.) (PublishersWeekly.com, March 29, 2010)

""If you've ever wondered what happened before the big bang or where the universe is expanding, then the new book A User's Guide to the Universe is for you. A hilariously serious journey through all the big questions (Can I build a time machine?) with answers from real-life physicist David Goldberg and sly illustrator Jeff Blomquist, this indispensable window on modern science makes a great nonfiction companion to the beloved, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."" (Christian Science Monitor)


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Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book for a short, accessible and fun introduction to the issues it treats.
Steve Reina
I found that the authors did a good job of explaining the concepts in great detail and made it easy to follow.
William H. Folk II
If you have any questions about the crazy things of the universe, this is definitely the book to read.
Courtney Slocum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tim on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As somebody who is not usually a fan of pop-science books, I started reading this book expecting the usual mixture of one part science, thirty parts filler. Instead I got one part science, one part quirky fun. The humor worked here. It didn't feel like a half-hearted effort to make the reader laugh, it was instead a clever strategy to disarm the reader of their natural intimidation in the face of some of the most profound and profoundly confounding problems in physics. The book is laced with pop culture references (if anything you will be impressed that the author, having consumed so much pop culture, managed to become a physics professor). When I knew the references, it made the science stand out even more, and when I didn't, it didn't matter, as the explanations don't directly depend on the references. The drawings are goofy and manage to violate every single standard of scientific figure production known to humanity. I found my eyes drifting to them whenever my brain needed a moment to digest what I had just read. Whether they made me chuckle or groan (yes, some of them are boldly and unapologetically cheesy), the drawings perfectly match the attitude of the text--chill out and learn something.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen J. Yenchik on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a degree in English but I admit to a healthy fascination with the physical sciences. If A User's Guide to the Universe had been published when I was in high school, that fascination may have turned into a vocational choice. In the book, Goldberg and Blomquist inject the dreaded subject of Physics with a healthy dose of humor and awe. They deliver the material how it should be delivered, heavy on the fascination and light on the math (although I dare say the two could make math fun as well!). I've read a number of popular physics books, Hawking, Feynman, etc., but none have demonstrated an understanding of their audience's trepidation as much as A User's Guide. They know where we laymen stumble and they help us through it. If you want to truly understand more about the strange universe in which we live (and beyond) and have ball along the way, this book is for you.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Courtney Slocum on February 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a physics major, and I actually found out about the book because Dr. Goldberg was my physics professor! I literally read the introduction and was hysterical laughing. This is almost like taking his class, except it's just in simpler words. If you have any questions about the crazy things of the universe, this is definitely the book to read. You'll not only get tons of information, but you'll get a laugh (or two, or three, etc. ) on every page.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on February 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book.

Not only does it tackle age old questions like where do we come from and is there anyone else out there but it also does so with a pitch perfect sense of charm and humour.

In the first four chapters the book bring the reader up to date with relativity and the standard model of physics, the traditional theories which have governed physics for the better part of the past one hundred years.

Building on those foundations, the book then tackles the fun questions:

Will we ever be able to teleport like they do on Star Trek? Maybe, an in fact we can even do it with single atoms even now. However, humans have more than a few atoms so we probably won't be looking at teleportation anytime soon.

Can we time travel? Sure, they say, quoting Einstein's theory, but it's a different kind of time travel than what you see in the movies. The closer you get to the speed of light, the slower you age relative to objects and individuals not moving quite as fast. In this way, a time who departs at the speed of light could return to Earth in the prime life only to visit their twin at the old age home. Time travel? Sure. Like what they show in the movies? Not exactly.

When will we meet E.T. the extra terrestrial? So far, our most distant ambassadors, our radio waves, have only reached out to a mere 400 stars. That means that even if E.T. has seen our early broadcasts and wants to reply we still may not have even gotten their answers, let alone getting hellos from even more distant stars.

And what of the future, will science ever be able to tell us the real nature of substances like dark matter? As we sit here, our physics only explains a mere four percent of the matter in space.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amelia M. Tahaney on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked-up a copy this weekend and was laughing from the beginning. I work in a high school and struggle with students who too quickly get turned off from learning because they don't understand what is being taught. Goldberg and Blomquist have a real gift for providing clarity to issues that confuse many adults let alone students. I plan on recommending this book to my students studying physics. In the meantime I am enjoying jumping from chapter to chapter to better understand things that have confused me about the universe. A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amanda B. on April 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty" walks the curious lay reader through the intricacies of physics as it applies to many different situations, some realistic and some completely theoretical and "out there."

I was extremely excited to receive this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers; it was on my Amazon.com Wish List and I had planned to purchase it for my birthday, but was lucky enough to snag it through the program. I eagerly checked my mailbox every day and once I received the book, began reading it immediately. Imagine my surprise when I realized this is actually a book one can read anywhere--on the couch, on breaks at work, in the bathtub, in bed, etc. The writing is remarkably easy to understand and flows along quite readily.

At some points, the concepts did go beyond my grasp--for instance, in chapter two, when the authors began discussing light particles and Schrodinger's cat. However, the book propels the reader along so that if the reader does not fully grasp a concept, it does not matter--the reader can still understand enjoy the book, as I did.

The authors discuss such topics as: special relativity (the speed of light and characteristics of such), quantum "weirdness" (qualities of light particles and quantum mechanics), randomness, the standard model of atoms and particles, time travel (which will make you go "wow"), makeup and characteristics of the universe, the Big Bang, extraterrestrials, and other stuff (dark matter and miscellaneous).

Throughout the text, author-generated sketches are interspersed to inject humor and some concepts; I especially enjoyed the sketches of the fundamental particles.
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