36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2010
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.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2010
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.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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. That's because as our telescopes peer deep into the sky, we see evidence of non-reactive matter or dark matter which makes its presence known in the way galaxies orbit each other. As its name implies, dark matter (and its related cousin, dark energy) remain largely unknown and significantly we have failed to be able to either find or reproduce evidence of what it really is.
In other words, even today, we still have many, many more questions than answers about where we came from, who shares our universe and where we're bound.
I highly recommend this book for a short, accessible and fun introduction to the issues it treats. As pointed out in its general bibliography, excellent examples of further reading would be Flatlands by Edwin Abbot Abbott, Hyperspace by Michio Kaku, and The First Three Minutes by Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
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
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2010
"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. The authors do make an abundance of jokes--there are multiple jokes on every page. I do feel they could have excised some of the jokes and the book would have been just as interesting. Overall, it is an interesting read, especially for someone who took one physics class ten years ago.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2010
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2010
I'm a smart one, but there's always been a hole (a black hole?) in my brain where physics should be. It just never made sense to my narrative-driven brain. All physics seemed to be was optics and carts going down ramps. Bo-ring. Then I picked up Goldberg and Blomquist's book, and it's like I've taken a mental quantum leap. Their funny, story-based book not only makes physics interesting and cool, but it also has made me learn (and made stuff stick). Goldberg and Blomquist take a straight-forward approach, not shying away from difficult subjects; instead, they make these topics interesting through engaging (silly) examples, comic illustrations, and a tone genuinely invested in teaching their readers about the cool abstract ideas that comprise the field. Take the time with this one -- you too can understand special relativity, why Schrodinger needed a cat. You won't be so uncertain about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, either.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2010
As a teacher, I know that anything that is fun or funny, is learned more quickly and easily than dry, boring subject matter. This book has something that I've never seen before in a book about physics- humor! The analogies, drawings and relationship to pop culture all help to bring a tough topic down to earth and make it accessible to a wider audience. This book not only gave me greater understanding and new ways to bring this across to my students, but a lot of fun and laughs. I never thought I would say this about a physics book, but it is so engaging, I would read this book FOR FUN!! I highly recommend it to everyone.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2010
Without a doubt, this is the funniest science book I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Both authors squeeze their personalities amazingly well into each and every page of the book, while maintaining a clear and logical thought process that clearly explains the various physics and astronomical topics discussed.
Should you buy this book? **YES**
The topics covered are generally considered complex: Einstein's theory of general relativity, special relativity, black holes, matter, space, the big bang theory, etc.
The authors slowly build the reader up, through a series of humorous examples and simple explanations, to the complex topics that are most interesting.
One of the other great things about this book is that the topics require no prior mathematical knowledge. While generally, one is unable to discuss general relativity without mathematics, the authors supplement this knowledge with simple examples and logical arguments which are equally effective.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about the formation and design of the universe(s)?, quantum mechanics, string theory, and a wide slew of other topics. It is definitely worth a read, you won't regret it.