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A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty [Hardcover]

Dave Goldberg
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)


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Book Description

February 1, 2010 0470496517 978-0470496510 1
Answers to science's most enduring questions from ""Can I break the light-speed barrier like on Star Trek?"" and ""Is there life on other planets?"" to ""What is empty space made of?""

This is an indispensable guide to physics that offers readers an overview of the most popular physics topics written in an accessible, irreverent, and engaging manner while still maintaining a tone of wry skepticism. Even the novice will be able to follow along, as the topics are addressed using plain English and (almost) no equations. Veterans of popular physics will also find their nagging questions addressed, like whether the universe can expand faster than light, and for that matter, what the universe is expanding into anyway.

  • Gives a one-stop tour of all the big questions that capture the public imagination including string theory, quantum mechanics, parallel universes, and the beginning of time
  • Explains serious science in an entertaining, conversational, and easy-to-understand way
  • Includes dozens of delightfully groan-worthy cartoons that explain everything from special relativity to Dark Matter

 Filled with fascinating information and insights, this book will both deepen and transform your understanding of the universe.



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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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)


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470496517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470496510
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #734,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A skeptic is surprised March 29, 2010
By Tim J
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Romp through Space and Time 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Literally the funniest thing I've ever read. 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 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes dark matter a laughing matter 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Tricks you into learning while laughing! 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Awsome book August 4, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a technical person who had an understanding of most of these topics already. This book gave me a much better understanding of the topic and has enabled me to explain it to those not so mathematically inclined.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars a good layman's review of modern theories
This book provides a good basic explanation of modern physics. It is written in an entertaining way, without math. Read more
Published 22 days ago by rleggett
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly funny and still relevant
Definitely a book worth reading - not just for the beginners but even those who have read many other popular science books on the subjects covered here or possibly even for the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by NJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
A little basic, but for the aspiring theoretical physicist ( haha ) a great jumping off point. If you have ever looked at the sky and asked "why" or "how" this is... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Shay+Kiki
4.0 out of 5 stars fun and insightful
Have read many books in this genre, but this one provided some fundamental new insights for me...and was written with levity.
Published 8 months ago by Gregory M. Brill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and easy read
Very informative for a beginner to read and learn about the universe. The writing style will help you read the book in sections and stay awake.
Published 11 months ago by Cross Border Commerce
1.0 out of 5 stars The science is badly obscured by the authors failed attempt at humor
In an attempt to bring science to the masses the author has obscured the science by bad humor and poor illustrations
Published 16 months ago by Mr. R. J. Hamon
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book
All the information presented in this book was very clear and interesting. It was presented in a very accessible way. Read more
Published on May 17, 2012 by thedimmestsong
5.0 out of 5 stars easy enough a theologian enjoyed it
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the users guide to the universe and found the explanations of the difficult topics easy to follow. Read more
Published on April 16, 2012 by ojisama
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books I've ever read!
yeah, this book is definitely amazing! and for a newbie like me who would like to get a grasp on science and physics, this book made everything much easier to understand by using... Read more
Published on June 10, 2011 by zzzspawn
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not exceptional
A User's Guide to the Universe is a good book if you are trying to get a basic understanding of what is going on in the world... Read more
Published on March 16, 2011 by William H. Folk II
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