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Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions 1st Edition

226 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060531089
ISBN-10: 0060531088
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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.
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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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060531088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060531089
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,002 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

555 of 588 people found the following review helpful By Kasper Olsen on October 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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.
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98 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Lee Smolin on September 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Joe J. Kern on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am shocked that so much of the praise of this book is centered on its readability for popular audiences. I regularly read philosophy and popular physics and biology books and articles, and I took a modern physics course in college and quite enjoyed it and did well (I did a degree to be a secondary science teacher), but I did not learn what I wanted to learn from this book. I just don't think Randall is a good writer.

I understand the basic ideas of quantum mechanics and particle physics, and I want something more, a deeper understanding. She states the facts that can be found in an encyclopedia (e.g., "the uncertainty principle means that position and momentum cannot both be measured"), but when she tries to go deeper and into more detail, I found her explanations incomprehensible. They seem to me to be both too simple (and her tone often condescending) and too complex. I beat my head against the wall re-reading sections of the text trying to grasp her meaning, which she is maddeningly confident that she has conveyed, but finally concluded that in many of the sections the words simply were not there that needed to be there. Sufficient bridges are not created from one idea to the next, and in her effort to avoid scaring people away with long explanations, she has instead given insufficient explanations. A lot of space that could have been given over to actual explanation is taken up with literary fluff and the typical popular-science-book encouragements of "don't worry if this seems hard, I know you can do it!" I have stopped halfway through, and haven't even gotten to the parts about extra dimensions. Maybe I should just skip to those.
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180 of 213 people found the following review helpful By Dennis R. Meyer MD on September 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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