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Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions [Hardcover]

Lisa Randall
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 30, 2005 0060531088 978-0060531089 1

The universe has its secrets. It may even hide extra dimensions, different from anything ever imagined. A whole raft of remarkable conceptsnow rides atop the scientific firmament, including parallel universes, warped geometry, and threedimensional sink-holes. We understand far more about the world than we did just a few short years ago -- and yet we are more uncertain about the true nature of the universe than ever before. Have wereached a point of scientific discovery so advanced that the laws of physics as we know them are simply not sufficient? Will we all soon have to acceptexplanations that previously remained in the realm of science fiction?

Lisa Randall is herself making these extraordinary breakthroughs, pushing back the boundaries of science in her research to answer some of the most fundamental questions posed by Nature. For example, why is the gravitational field from the entire Earth so defenseless against the small tug of a tiny magnet? Searching for answers to such seemingly irresolvable questions has led physicists to postulate extra dimensions, the presence of which may lead to unimaginable gains in scientific understanding. Randall takes us into the incredible world of warped, hidden dimensions that underpin the universe we live in, describing how we might prove their existence, while examining the questions that they still leave unanswered.

Warped Passages provides an exhilarating overview that tracks the arc of discovery from early twentieth-century physics to the razor's edge of today's particle physics and string theory, unweaving the current debates about relativity, quantum mechanics, and gravity. In a highly readable style sure to entertain and elucidate, Lisa Randall demystifies the science and beguilingly unravels the mysteries of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond the one we are only now beginning to know.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The concept of additional spatial dimensions is as far from intuitive as any idea can be. Indeed, although Harvard physicist Randall does a very nice job of explaining—often deftly through the use of creative analogies—how our universe may have many unseen dimensions, readers' heads are likely to be swimming by the end of the book. Randall works hard to make her astoundingly complex material understandable, providing a great deal of background for recent advances in string and supersymmetry theory. As coauthor of the two most important scientific papers on this topic, she's ideally suited to popularize the idea. What is absolutely clear is that physicists simply do not yet know if there are extra dimensions a fraction of a millimeter in size, dimensions of infinite size or only the dimensions we see. What's also clear is that the large hadron collider, the world's most powerful tool for studying subatomic particles, is likely to provide information permitting scientists to differentiate among these ideas soon after it begins operation in Switzerland in 2007. Randall brings much of the excitement of her field to life as she describes her quest to understand the structure of the universe. B&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Randall, a professor of physics at Harvard, offers a tour of current questions in particle physics, string theory, and cosmology, paying particular attention to the thesis that more physical dimensions exist than are usually acknowledged. Writing for a general audience, Randall is patient and kind: she encourages readers to skip around in the text, corrals mathematical equations in an appendix at the back, and starts off each chapter with an allegorical story, in a manner recalling the work of George Gamow. Although the subject itself is intractably difficult to follow, the exuberance of Randall's narration is appealing. She's honest about the limits of the known, and almost revels in the uncertainties that underlie her work—including the possibility that some day it may all be proved wrong.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060531088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060531089
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lisa Randall is Professor of Physics at Harvard University. She is one of today's most influential and highly cited theoretical physicists, and has received numerous awards and honors for her contributions. Her work has been featured in Time magazine, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vogue, the Economist, Scientific American, and elsewhere. Randall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society, and is the recipient of several honorary degrees. When not solving the problems of the universe, she can be found rock climbing, skiing, or contributing to art-science connections. Hypermusic Prologue, a small opera for which she wrote the libretto, premiered in the Pompidou Center in 2009, and Measure for Measure, an art exhibit she co-curated, opened in Los Angeles in 2010.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
532 of 563 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT journey into cutting-edge physics! October 10, 2005
Prof. Lisa Randall's new book, Warped Passages, is a grand tour of some of the most important recent developments in high-energy physics.

The book is intended for a popular audience, but is also a very interesting read for anybody with a background in theoretical physics (like myself). The first part contains an overview of modern physics - Einstein's theories of relativity, quantum mechanics and the Standard Model of particle physics. The last part concentrates on the idea of extra dimensions beyond the standard four we know about, which can be motivated by string theory and its discovery of the so-called D-branes. Specifically, she explains the work, pioneered by herself, Raman Sundrum and others, on the so-called "braneworld scenarios". Basically, this is the idea that our four dimensional space-time is embedded in some higher dimensional space, usually called the "bulk".

You might think, that extra dimensions are just part of a set of crazy ideas? On the contrary. You should know, that the idea of extra dimensions is actually not at all new. Already in 1884, the original book, "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" (written by the English mathematician Edwin Abbott) described a world of two-dimensional beings, who only have indirect knowledge of the extra third space-dimension. But, from a mathematical point of view, one can imagine as many dimensions as one wants to. In physics, the story is somewhat different.

In physics, there are basically two distinct ways in which one can add extra dimensions to our four-dimensional universe. Already in the 1920's, Klein suggested that our universe is five-dimensional, where the extra dimension is rolled up in a circle, which is so tiny, that the universe looks four-dimensional at long enough distance-scales.
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92 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I liked Lisa Randall's new book September 17, 2005
Lisa Randall is one of the most important and influential theoretical particle physicists working today and this book tells the story of how she came to her most important ideas. The book is full of detail and takes the reader into the minds of the author and her collaborators as they struggle towards the discovery of a new approach to the key problems in particle physics. What I really like is that she takes the time to tell the real story, and not just some oversimplified version.

She is also refreshingly honest. She explains the motivation for her work, but unlike many of our colleagues, she does not oversell. You can think of her as a reliable climbing guide. With her help you can get to the top of a mountain you could not climb yourself. But you never forget about the difficultyies and the risks that both professionals and amateurs take when we try to advance our understanding of the laws of nature.

As a theorist myself, I am aware of how far we are from solving the problems in elementary particle physics thyat Lisa Randall's work addresses. But I am sure we will get there and my optimism is due in no small part to the fact that Lisa and her colleagues are on the case.
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177 of 209 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bright Light in a Dark Passageway... September 11, 2005
The popularization of Cosmology through recent television (PBS's

"Elegant Universe") and cinema ("What the BLEEP Do We Know?")as well as an extant excellent press by actual Cosmologists such as Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking have "softened up" an avid readership for this book. Dr. Randall is "spherically exquisite", to paraphrase Fritz Zwicky: She is perfect from any angle;cutting edge benchwork researcher; top line theorist; most-quoted author; Harvard Professor....PLUS she's a HOTTIE (my son's words). As she walks you through the requisite historical and theoretical building blocks for armchair Cosmology, her clarity is best ever. Her expansion into extradimensional physics verges upon the philosophic, without straying into the "touchy/feely" quasi religious miasma of cult fiction. Elucidating the Multidimensional Brane Theory of Everything is a task she accomplishes with clarity, wit and a mere hint or Feminism (quite appropriate in her male-dominated field). This is a Great Book. I'm giving it to all my colleagues on our Medical Faculty as well as my friends who share my fascination with Physics, but lack the requisite Math. ( Dr. Randall even supplies much of that onerous mathematical work,unburdened in her unique style, which makes the most stygian topic clear as daylight). Brava, Dr. Randall!

Dennis R. Meyer MD, FACP
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
There is nothing like the thrill of hearing about the latest developments in a field from a leader in that field, and Lisa Randall is that. This is a book that explains some of the biggest questions in physics today (offering some possible answers, as well), and it is written for the ordinary reader to understand it. Leavened with humor, helpful diagrams, and the perspective of a woman who clearly lives to probe the mysteries of our universe(s), the book is designed to transmit to us her excitement about the discoveries she describes. Short of a brain transplant, she does everything possible to make clear to the non-scientist a host of arcane concepts. The book has a whole different tone from so many of these pop science books that I‚ve picked up and then put down a short time later because I‚m just not getting it. Warped Passages has a down-to-earth (no pun intended), humane, personal feeling to it, even though it‚s chock full of information, so it draws the reader in and makes him or her feel capable of understanding these momentous concepts. Randall actually makes it fun. Which allowed me to feel like I was, indeed, sharing her adventures in extra dimensions with her. Without having to do the math. An excellent read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to the cutting edge.
This text presents a lot of advanced topics in particle physics and cosmology in easy to understand text. While it is a little wordy at times, it's rightfully so. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Boris
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and entertaining
Randall explains complex subjects by entertaining with humorous introductory dialogues between two characters, and then teaches the difficult concepts by repeating in different... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Advocate
5.0 out of 5 stars finally complicated issues in a simple way! Great book for non...
great book explaining in simple words complicated issues I could never grasp. Makes you feel very smart and understand the science. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Anna Aizic
1.0 out of 5 stars Dey took er JERBS!!!!
Really enjoyed this book. Here's one star from backwards retarded Florida. The chads for the other stars I gave you must still be hanging on the ballot. Read more
Published 1 month ago by RobK
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book and Sale Experience
I desired to read all of Lisa Randall's books and wanted this one for my collection. I recommend this book and others she writes. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jim DeHaven
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Published 2 months ago by Norbert Lee Bartochowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended read for anyone interested remotely in getting the current...
Go to source if you want the best info and seek out a talented communicator to enjoy the experience. Check and CHECK!
Published 2 months ago by rob0bOy
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated Popular Science
This book is a great intro toward unraveling complex science. The problem is, it's out of date! The Hedron collider has done its work, and the Higgs Bosun has (apparently) been... Read more
Published 3 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force (pun intended) in modern particle physics!
Warped Passages is an excellently written and engaging review of the current state of particle physics. Read more
Published 3 months ago by H. D. Sosnoff
3.0 out of 5 stars I am determined
Although this is older information, it seems to give a good background into the field of particle physics. Read more
Published 4 months ago by suzieQ
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Topic From this Discussion
Albert Einstein's theory of gravity is generally explained in a wrong way
Admittedly, space-time as an entity is difficult to picture, as you point out. The example of a ball deflecting a grid laid out on a cloth (two-dimensions) is only an analogy of the warping of three-dimensional space. However, the warping is real and space-time is real as an entity through... Read More
Jan 17, 2012 by Jmoss |  See all 3 posts
Read the Reviews from our cousins in the U.K.
I did like the book even though may have had some mass appeal. Lisa Randall did provide a solid background leading to her groundbreaking model of the universe based on warped geometry and 5 dimensions.
What I found missing is any reference to Loop Quantum Gravity.
Clearly one of the Achilles... Read More
Apr 12, 2006 by Eren Kuraner |  See all 3 posts
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