Buying Options
Kindle Price:  $12.99 
Sold by:  Penguin Group (USA) LLC Price set by seller. 
Your Memberships & Subscriptions
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer  no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera  scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
The Biggest Ideas in the Universe: Space, Time, and Motion Kindle Edition
Sean M. Carroll (Author) Find all the books, read about the author, and more. See search results for this author 
Price  New from  Used from 
Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
"Please retry" 
$0.00
 Free with your Audible trial 
“Most appealing... technical accuracy and lightness of tone... Impeccable.”—Wall Street Journal
“A porthole into another world.”—Scientific American
“Brings science dissemination to a new level.”—Science
The most trusted explainer of the most mindboggling concepts pulls back the veil of mystery that has too long cloaked the most valuable building blocks of modern science. Sean Carroll, with his genius for making complex notions entertaining, presents in his uniquely lucid voice the fundamental ideas informing the modern physics of reality.
Physics offers deep insights into the workings of the universe but those insights come in the form of equations that often look like gobbledygook. Sean Carroll shows that they are really like meaningful poems that can help us fly over sierras to discover a miraculous multidimensional landscape alive with radiant giants, warped spacetime, and bewilderingly powerful forces. High school calculus is itself a centuriesold marvel as worthy of our gaze as the Mona Lisa. And it may come as a surprise the extent to which all our most cuttingedge ideas about black holes are built on the math calculus enables.
No one else could so smoothly guide readers toward grasping the very equation Einstein used to describe his theory of general relativity. In the tradition of the legendary Richard Feynman lectures presented sixty years ago, this book is an inspiring, dazzling introduction to a way of seeing that will resonate across cultural and generational boundaries for many years to come.
 LanguageEnglish
 PublisherDutton
 Publication dateSeptember 20, 2022
 File size46110 KB
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
 Mass, on the other hand, is an intrinsic property; roughly speaking, mass is the resistance that an object has to being accelerated.Highlighted by 140 Kindle readers
 The most basic kind of predictability is conservation, the fact that some things don’t change at all.Highlighted by 112 Kindle readers
 Speed is a number, a certain number of meters per second. Whereas velocity is a vector—a quantity with both a magnitude and a direction.Highlighted by 104 Kindle readers
Editorial Reviews
Review
—The Wall Street Journal
“Carroll takes readers on a remarkable journey through some of the most important ideas in the field and lays out how those ideas become manifest in mathematical form. It’s a bold move, and through it Carroll is able to take his readers on a much deeper exploration of foundational notions like force, motion, and momentum than other books manage.... If you are interested in physics, you should read this book. It can open a window through which your view of the Universe will be richer, subtler, and way more awesome.”
—Big Think
“If you are trying to find a short treatment of the key ideas of physics that is genuinely accessible to pretty much anyone with a high school math background... Sean’s two big strengths are an easy, informal manner of exposition and a gift for focusing on the physics and not letting the reader get lost in the weeds. The Biggest Ideas in the Universe exemplifies Einstein’s quote that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
—3 Quarks Daily
“Reading The Biggest Ideas in the Universe is like taking an introductory physics class with a star professor—but with all of the heady lectures and none of the tedious problem sets…For those without the [STEM] background, [the result] might feel like a porthole into another world.”
—Scientific American
“Sean Carroll shows… that the essence of physics, including its fundamental equations, can be made accessible to anyone equipped with no more than high school math. Carroll is an accomplished science writer, a talent with few peers… The Biggest Ideas in the Universe brings science dissemination to a new level. In doing so, the biggest and most consequential idea in Carroll’s trilogy might well be that substantive discussions about science can ultimately be had by everyone.”
—Science
“Neat, and extremely simple: only a deep thinker such as Sean Carroll could introduce the complexity of Einstein’s general relativity in such a luminous and straightforward manner.”
—Carlo Rovelli, author of There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
“Sean Carroll is a wizard of empathy. In this short book, the first of three on The Biggest Ideas in the Universe, he anticipates what’s always confused you about physics and then gently guides you to enlightenment… and ultimately, to newfound wonder.”
—Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics, Cornell University, author of The Joy of X and Infinite Powers
“As a tenyearold physics enthusiast, I would have loved The Biggest Ideas in the Universe. With this book, Sean Carroll rejects traditional elitism in physics and welcomes in anyone who knows only a little algebra but wants to understand the whole universe. Carroll, who has long been one of my role models for exposition about the cosmos, dreams of a world where physics is hot gossip. With this book, he takes an important step toward making this idea a reality by giving people the tools they need so they too can understand the biggest ideas—and questions—in the universe. I can’t wait to hear that people are arguing about beyond standard model physics at the Thanksgiving dinner table!”
—Chanda PrescodWeinstein, author of The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred
“Sean Carroll's greatest gift isn't that he's an expert on the fundamentals of physics, which he is, but that he never speaks down to his reader. He assumes that anyone, even the uninitiated, can learn to understand the formulae that underlie complicated concepts like space and time. It is a pleasure to read his work, a greater pleasure still to get a worldclass education from such a witty, thoughtful teacher.”
—Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline and Four Lost Cities
“Do popular books about physics leave you feeling that you’re just getting stories and not real science? If so, this is the book for you. In a clear and nonscary way, it explains the mathematical theories behind what physicists really think. Carroll’s trilogy will plug a big gap in how physics is communicated to nonspecialists—and to judge from this first volume, will do so brilliantly.”
—Philip Ball, author of Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different
“Sean Carroll has achieved something I thought impossible: a bridge between popular science and the mathematical universe of working physicists. Magnificent!”
—Brian Clegg, author of Ten Days in Physics that Shook the World
“Sean Carroll has produced a guide to relativity theory for the 21st century, plugging the gap between popularisations that emphasise the oddities without giving the facts, and textbooks that train students to manipulate equations without providing insight into what it all means. He will open your eyes to the way physicists view the universe, making fundamental ideas accessible without the need for a degree in science, but bravely ignoring the old adage that adding equations will scare readers off. Don’t be scared; this is the best layperson’s guide to the subject, written in an accessible, entertaining style and impeccably accurate. And the author promises to tackle quantum theory next! I can’t wait.”
—John Gribbin, senior honorary research fellow in astronomy, University of Sussex
“Nononsense, notdumbeddown explanations of basic laws of the universe that reward close attention.”
—Kirkus
“Oneofakind…Carroll flips the script and illuminates the form and beauty underlying a discipline that helps us understand all that exists.”
—Booklist
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Conservation
Look around. If you're like most people, you have a body. It's located somewhere. Chances are that you are surrounded by a variety of other objects, located other places. Tables, chairs, a floor, ceiling, walls, maybe trees or a body of water if you're outside. All of these objects exist, with certain locations and properties, and those locations and properties can change with time. You can scoot your chair nearer to a wall, or farther away. You drink a glass of water, absorbing its substance into your body. If instead you put the glass on a table and leave it there, the water will eventually evaporate into the air.
That's how we think about the world from an immediate, humanscale perspective. There is stuff, which is located in space. (By "space" we don't mean "outer space," just the threedimensional realm through which things move.) This stuff might change, or it might remain constant over time. Physics is the study of all that stuff, and its behavior, at the most basic level we can think of. What is all that stuff, really? How do different objects relate to one another? How do they change with time? What is "time," and for that matter what is "space," when you get right down to it?
One of the most enjoyable features of physics is how quickly we go from mundane observationslook at that stuff, behaving in that way!to profound questions about the nature of reality. The key is that things don't just happenall of the happenings fit into certain patterns. It's those patterns that we call the laws of physics, and our job is to uncover them.
The simplest pattern of all is the fact that certain things remain constant even as time passes. Contemplating that basic feature of reality is a great jumpingoff point for our investigations, which will get pretty wild soon enough.
Predictability
We take for granted that the world around us is at least a little bit predictable. If there is a table in a room, and we turn to face away from it for just a second, we expect the table to still be there when we turn back. If we place an apple on the table, we expect the table to support it, rather than the apple falling right through to the floor. As much as we might lament how difficult it is to predict the weather or future election outcomes, we should be impressed by how much reliable predictability there is.
Physics is made possible by this predictability. It may not be absolute, but we can somewhat anticipate what's going to come next in the world if we know what's going on right now. The most basic kind of predictability is conservation, the fact that some things don't change at all.
Conservation is just what physicists call "staying constant over time." You may have heard that energy is conserved, for example. Energy isn't a kind of substance, like water or dirt. It's a property that things have, depending on what they are and what kind of situation they're in. There is no "energy fluid" that flows from place to place. There are simply objects that have positions and velocities and other properties, and we can associate a certain amount of energy with them because of those facts.
An object can have energy because it is moving, because it's located at a high elevation, because it's hot, because it's massive, because it's electrically charged, or for other reasons. Under the right circumstances, those forms of energy can be converted back and forth between each other. The energy that a wineglass has just from being located on a table can, if the glass is knocked off the edge, rapidly be converted into energy of motion as it falls, and then into heat and noise and other forms of dissipated energy as it breaks on the ground. Conservation of energy is simply the idea that the total energy, given by adding up all the individual forms, remains constant throughout the whole process.
(Waitis this circular reasoning? Are we merely inventing a bunch of quantities that add up to a constant number by definition, calling that "energy," and congratulating ourselves for discovering a law of physics? No. There is an independent way to define energy and then show that it's conserved, based on the fact that the laws of physics don't themselves change over time. But you're asking the right kind of question.)
As simple an idea as we can imaginethere is a quantity that doesn't change, it stays the same as time passes. But conservation of energy and other quantities isn't just a gentle, unintimidating place from which to launch a survey of all of physics. It's logically the right place, since an understanding of conservation was the first step in the transition from premodern to modern science.
From Natures to Patterns
Put yourself in the mindset of humans trying to understand the world before physics in its modern form came along. The Greek philosopher Aristotle is usually chosen as an exemplar, though other ancient thinkers would have thought similarly. To greatly simplify a complex and subtle set of ideas, Aristotle separated the way things move into "natural" and "unnatural" (or "violent") motions. He thought of the world as fundamentally teleologicaloriented toward a future goal. Objects have natural places to be or conditions to be in, and they tend to move to those places. A rock will fall to the ground and sit there; fire will rise to the heavens.
Here on Earth, in Aristotle's view, if everything were in its natural state, things would be motionless. It requires some external influence to get things moving, and even then the motion will only be temporary. You can pick up a rock and throw it; that's an unnatural or violent motion. But eventually the rock will come back down, maybe bounce around a bit, and return to its natural state at rest on the ground.
He's not wrong, at least in a wide variety of circumstances. If you're sitting with a coffee cup on the table in front of you, by itself the cup will just sit there. You can make it move by pushing it, but when you stop pushing, it will come to rest again. We can extrapolate this, Aristotle imagines, to a basic feature of the universe. Objects are naturally at rest, and motion only occurs when something pushes them away from this natural state.
This picture fits less well with other cases that were known even in Aristotle's day. Ancient Greeks were well acquainted with arrows flying through the air. The initial force may be applied by the bowstring, but it's clear that the arrow keeps going long after it has left the bow. Why doesn't the arrow just fall to the ground? What keeps it from expeditiously returning to its natural state?
This was a question that great minds puzzled over for hundreds of years. It took a while, but the answer ultimately led to a wholesale overthrow of Aristotle's teleological view of the universe. It was replaced with a picture in which objects don't evolve toward ultimate goals; instead, they obey laws that predict what will happen the very next moment based on what's happening now.
Conservation of Momentum
An important step was taken by John Philoponus, an Alexandrian thinker in the sixth century. He suggested that the bowstring imparted a certain quantity, later dubbed "impetus," to the arrow, which kept it moving for a while before eventually dissipating away. A simple suggestion, perhaps, but an important move away from thinking in terms of forwardlooking purposes and replacing them with properties that exist in the moment.
Philoponus's idea was developed further by Ibn Sn (Avicenna), an eleventhcentury Persian polymath. It was Ibn Sn who took the crucial step of arguing that impetus is not just temporary. Every object has a certain amount of impetus (equal to zero for a stationary object, some larger number if the object is moving), and that amount remains constant unless a force somehow pushes on it.
In this new picture, the reason why rocks and coffee cups come to rest is not because that's their natural state; it's because forcesfriction, air resistancegradually degrade the impetus from the body. In the vacuum of empty space, Ibn Sn suggested, there would be no air resistance, and a moving body would keep moving at a constant velocity in perpetuity. This was a wildly speculative thought experiment one thousand years ago, but today we regularly build spacecraft that move between the planets at basically a constant velocity (apart from the gentle tug of gravity). In the fourteenth century, French philosopher Jean Buridan proposed a mathematical formula for the impetus, equating it to the weight of an object times its speed.
What we have here is the birth of a law of physics: conservation of momentum. The rough idea of some "quantity of motion" being conserved came along before anyone could pinpoint precisely what that quantity was. This is a standard story of progress in theoretical physics: We put forward a new concept, work to characterize it in quantitative terms, then take that quantitative expressionan equationand ask how it comports with other phenomena we observe in the world. Today we know that momentum is mass times velocity (at least until relativity comes along and complicates things a bit).
One problem with Buridan's definition of impetus as "weight times speed" is that "weight" isn't an intrinsic property of an object, because it depends on the amount of gravity pulling on ityour weight would be lower on the moon than it is on Earth, and you would be weightless if you were in a spaceship coasting between the planets. Mass, on the other hand, is an intrinsic property; roughly speaking, mass is the resistance that an object has to being accelerated. It takes a lot of force to accelerate a highmass object to a certain speed, and only a little force to accelerate a lowmass object to that speed.
Similarly, speed and velocity are subtly different. Speed is a number, a certain number of meters per second. Whereas velocity is a vectora quantity with both a magnitude and a direction. In fact, the magnitude of the velocity vector is precisely what we call "speed," but the velocity also points in some specified direction. So you have the same speed if you're driving north at 90 km/hour as you do if you're driving south at 90 km/hour, but your velocity is different.
We denote vectors by drawing little arrows over an appropriate symbol, so the velocity of an object is typically written . We very often care about the size, or magnitude, of a vector, which is written with the same symbol but without the arrow: The magnitude of a vector is simply v.
The arrow notation makes sense because we often represent a vectorial quantity by literally drawing an arrow that points in the direction of the vector, and whose length is proportional to the magnitude of the vector. Alternatively, we can represent a vector in terms of its componentsthe contributions it gets from different directions. If you are traveling exactly northward, the component of your velocity in the east/west direction is zero.
It is easy to add vectors together. Just imagine placing the beginning of the second vector at the end of the first, so we define a third resulting vector by traveling down the first and then the second. If the two vectors we're adding together point (almost) along the same direction, the total vector will be (almost) as long as the sum of their magnitudes, but if they point in (almost) opposite directions, the resulting vector can be much shorter.
Buridan and his predecessors didn't think in terms of vectors, which were gradually developed by a number of thinkers in the nineteenth century, including German mathematician August Ferdinand Mšbius (of "Mšbius strip" fame); Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton; German polymath Hermann Grassmann; and English mathematician Oliver Heaviside. So it's no surprise that it took a while to get the right definition of momentum.
These days the momentum vector is usually denoted . (The letter m is reserved for mass, so we take the symbol from the Latin word for momentum, petere.) With all that in mind, the expression for momentum is the simplest thing in the world:
(1.1)
Our first official equation. The momentum vector points in the same direction as the velocity vector, and their magnitudes are proportional. Proportionality will be a crucial concept for us: It means that a multiplicative change in one quantity implies a multiplicative change in the other. If you double the velocity, you double the momentum. The factor relating the two is called the "constant of proportionality," although in some equations it might not actually be constant. In this case it is: It's just the mass of the object.
The power of even a basic equation like this should be evident. We're not saying that the momentum of some particular object just happens to be equal to its mass times its velocity; we're saying that there is a universal relationship between momentum, mass, and velocity, which always takes precisely this form for every object. (When relativity comes along, some of the explicit forms of the equations we'll see here are going to have to be tweaked, but the basic principles are largely the same.)
An equation like this has no "causality" built into it; it's a rigid relationship between the quantities involved, and it reads equally well lefttoright or righttoleft. We can manipulate the equation in any way that does the same operation to both sides, such as dividing by m to get . We can therefore say, "If I know the velocity of an object, I multiply by its mass to get the momentum," or equally well, "If I know the momentum of an object, I divide by its mass to get the velocity." This text refers to the hardcover edition.
Product details
 ASIN : B09NXV9W12
 Publisher : Dutton (September 20, 2022)
 Publication date : September 20, 2022
 Language : English
 File size : 46110 KB
 TexttoSpeech : Enabled
 Screen Reader : Supported
 Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
 XRay : Enabled
 Word Wise : Enabled
 Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
 Print length : 303 pages
 Page numbers source ISBN : 0861546148
 Best Sellers Rank: #20,691 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
 Customer Reviews:
About the author
Sean Carroll is Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and Fractal Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. His research focuses on fundamental issues in quantum mechanics, gravitation, statistical mechanics, and cosmology. He has wideranging interests, including in philosophy, complexity theory, and information.
Carroll is an active science communicator, and has been blogging regularly since 2004. His textbook "Spacetime and Geometry" has been adopted by a number of universities for their graduate courses in general relativity. He is a frequent public speaker, and has appeared on TV shows such as The Colbert Report and Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. He has produced a set of lectures for The Teaching Company on dark matter and dark energy, and another on the nature of time. He has served as a science consultant for films such as Thor and TRON: Legacy, as well as for TV shows such as Fringe and Bones.
His 2010 popular book, "From Eternity to Here," explained the arrow of time and connected it with the origin of our universe. "The Particle at the End of the Universe," about the Large Hadron Collider and the quest to discover the Higgs boson, was released November 2012, "The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself" in May 2016, and "Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime" in 2019. His next book project is "The Biggest Ideas in the Universe," which will consist of three books. The first, "Space, Time, and Motion," appears in September 2022.
More information at http://preposterousuniverse.com/
Customer reviews
Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.
To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Learn more how customers reviews work on AmazonReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2022

Top reviews
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Contrary to what the Wall Street Journal writes in its Amazon review, however, this book is not “readerfriendly,” assuming, of course, you do not have an advanced degree in physics or some variation of advanced calculus. For the rest of us, it is a very challenging read. And while that is not meant with any disrespect to the author, who is obviously brilliant and sincere, it is a warning to any potential reader looking for a comfortable winter read in front of the fire.
I will, however, give Carroll great credit for not overplaying the hand of physics. He openly admits that physics, and by implication, science in general, is not the hard, granitelike “truth” that contemporary society often portrays it to be. “The science says” is often used today, with great exaggeration, in many news articles attempting to reinforce a conclusion that is far from conclusive in any final sense. Science is not like the ancient bone we dig up at an archeological dig. It is more like the conjecture we assign to that bone.
Science, in fact, is not a body of knowledge at all. It is a methodology, or the outline of one, for discovering knowledge. But it is the equation, not its solution. And it is an equation that can take many different forms. There is not one equation, or very, very few, that rise to the level of “law.”
Mathematics is no different. We didn’t “discover” it buried deep in the earth somewhere. We – humans – developed it. As the author notes, equations are “just a way to compactly summarize a relationship between different quantities.” And “A function is simply a map from one quantity to another quantity.” Mathematics, in other words, is simply a system or notation used to attempt to understand the world around us – emphasis on attempt.
As a result, there are several models of reality, all mathematically “sound”, but often burdened by gaps and even contradictions between models. As Carroll notes, “We don’t know the final laws of physics, so we should be open to different possibilities while we think about what they might be.”
And that, to me, is the money line of the book, which extends far beyond physics itself. “Science is empirical and fallibilistic – any of our scientific theories could be wrong, no matter how much evidence we have so far accumulated for them.” Which is why so many, and I do mean many, scientific theories are ultimately proven wrong and why things like clinical drug trials are often impossible to replicate.
I attribute this to the infinitely broad umbrella of context. Nothing that we can observe or measure exists in total isolation. Context cannot, and in my mind never will be, reduced to notation, no matter how complex that notational language may be. Context is of infinite breadth and, perhaps more importantly, depth.
Which is why I believe the title itself, with its use of the concept of “ideas”, is a bit inappropriate. Spacetime, to me, is not an idea. Beauty is an idea. Spacetime is a system for explaining one component of reality, but not, of and by itself, a piece of reality we found while hiking in the mountains. Ideas, to my way of thinking, are like shiny objects we discover in the rumpled fabric of reality.
Having said all that, this is a very sound book for the right reader. If you are not already proficient in the notational language of calculus and physics, however, you will find it a difficult read. I will confess, however, there are moments of entertainment if you define entertainment as anything that brings anything positioned “beyond” us down to our very human level of understanding.
Perhaps its greatest contribution, however, is that it does distill the greatest “laws” of physics posed to date into one modestsized book. And it makes a valiant effort to tie them all together with a bow. That’s no small undertaking given that tomes have been written about most of them individually. For that the author is deserving of our thanks and our admiration and, if you’re up to it, our purchase.
"The Biggest Ideas in the Universe is dedicated to the idea that it is possible to learn about modern physics for real, equations and all, even if you are more amateur than professional and have every intention of staying that way. It is meant for people who have no more mathematical experience than high school algebra, but are willing to look at an equation and think about what it means. If you’re willing to do that bit of thinking, a new world opens up."
The Biggest Ideas series (this one is intended as the first book of a trilogy, which he likens to The Lord of the Rings  no hubris here!) will present the Biggest Ideas in the Universe together with the math necessary to understand them. He proposes to do that using this One Weird Trick,
'Most popular books assume that you don’t want to make the effort to follow the equations. Textbooks, on the other hand, assume that you don’t want to just understand the equations, you want to solve them. And solving these equations, it turns out, is enormously more work and requires enormously more practice and learning than “merely” understanding them does.'
And,... We're Off! Starting with firstyear calculus and proceeding all the way to tensor calculus, Carroll teaches you the mathematical basis of classical physics, up to and including General Relativity.
I am a 66yearold retired professor with a PhD in Applied Mathematics. There was little here that was new to me. (But I was happy to read because Carroll is an insightful thinker who frequently manages to tell me something I already knew but didn't know I knew.) I asked myself, as one does, "Who is this book intended for?" And in a flash I realized, "I would have loved this when I was in high school." It would have been extremely challenging for sixteenyearold me, mindbreakingly hard work, but in return I would have perceived (accurately) that I was being initiated into the Deep Magic That Makes The Universe Run. Mind blown, I'd have gobbled it down and asked for more.
There is almost nothing out there like this. Two other books come to mind, Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe and Leonard Susskind's The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics. The Road to Reality is to 66yearold me what The Biggest Ideas would have been to 16yearold me: superchallenging, but full of insight. It is not accessible to most readers. As for The Theoretical Minimum, although there is a book, it originated as a series of truly excellent YouTube lectures, and should really be consumed in that form. It is aimed higher than The Biggest Ideas: Susskind assumes his watchers are facile with basic calculus. 16yearold me would not really have been able to follow. It's also a big time commitment. I estimate the entire series comes to well over a hundred hours of lectures. This first installment of The Biggest Ideas took me two evenings to read, perhaps six hours, or, say, twenty when the full trilogy is available.
Some of the footnotes of The Biggest Ideas were a delight. For instance, I learned that Carroll is responsible for Natalie Portman's mentioning EinsteinRosen bridges in the 2011 film Thor. Also, one footnote is a joke that literally made me laugh out loud. I won't spoil it.
Thanks to Penguin Group Dutton for an advanced reader copy. This review expresses my honest opinions.
While the early chapters of this "Biggest Ideas" volume were for me strictly review, by the time it reached special relativity I started paying a lot of attention because of the quality of the discussion. I actually bought the book for the promise of gleaning an understanding of the meaning of Einstein's field equation for General Relativity. And indeed I can testify that the book accomplishes that.
As astounding as the text is for breaking down the complex for comprehension by an engaged nonprofessional reader, there is definitely a discernable line which the author does not cross. Inevitably many details are left out or merely hinted at. Even so, the book achieves its basic objective in a very readable even entertaining fashion.
I'm still enough of a nerd to have found this enjoyable. I liked the evolutionary descriptions from Newtonian to Lagrangian to Hamiltonian mechanics. The break down of the inverse square law as a result of our 3 dimensional space, and area being 2 dimensional was pretty cool and made me have one of those well, duh, why didn't I think of that before moments.
Top reviews from other countries
Sean Carroll ist theoretischen Physiker am Caltech in Pasadena, er befasst sich mit fundamentalen Fragen der Physik und Kosmologie, darunter zum Ursprung des Universums, zur Quantengravitation und der Natur der dunklen Materie und Energie. Aber Carroll beschäftigt sich auch mit der Popularisierung aktueller Erkenntnisse seines Fachgebiet, nicht nur als Autor von Büchern wie 'From Eternity To Here', 'The Particle at the End of the Universe' und 'The Big Picture', sondern er ist auch ein bekannter Protagonist von Wissenschaftssendungen auf History Channel, PBS und in der von Morgan Freeman moderierten Serie 'Through the Wormhole' (dt. 'Mysterien des Weltalls').
Carroll rekapituliert zunächst die Basiselemente der Newtonschen Mechanik, den Erhaltungsgrößen Impuls und Energie, einschließlich der notwendigen mathematischen Konzepte wie Ableitung und Integral. Gefolgt von einer ausführlicheren Erörterung der Gesetze der Dynamik in Newtonscher und Lagrangescher Form. Für diese Theorie sind die Begriffe von Raum und Zeit von fundamentaler Bedeutung. Newton hatte zu diesen Begriffen eine ganz pragmatische Sichtweise. Der Autor geht kurz auf alternative Interpretationen ein, bevor er den Begriff der Raumzeit vorstellt.
Carroll gelangt vom – nicht weiter reduzierbaren  Konzept der Raumzeit, ausgestattet mit der Minkowski Metrik, in einem TopDown Ansatz zu den Phänomenen der Speziellen Relativitätstheorie. Nach einem Intermezzo zur Riemannschen Geometrie und der Analysis auf Mannigfaltigkeiten, gelangt der Autor zur Einsteinschen Theorie der Gravitation.
In einem abschließenden Kapitel diskutiert der Autor Schwarzschilds exakte Lösung der Einsteinschen Feldgleichungen für einen Massepunkt, die den Ausgangspunkt für die Theorie Schwarzer Löcher bildet.
Sean Carroll ist mit seiner Gratwanderung zwischen Allgemeinverständlichkeit und theoretischer Exaktheit sicher ein schönes Buch gelungen, das für alle, die einen ersten Blick auf die mathematischen Grundlagen der klassischen Physik wagen möchten, ohne sich allzu sehr in die Tiefen des theoretischen Apparates verstricken zu müssen, besten geeignet zu sein scheint. Allerdings dünnt der Detailgehalt gegen Ende der Darstellung zunehmend aus. Leider fehlen dem Buch jegliche Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur, nicht einmal vertiefende Anmerkungen zum Text sind vorhanden, geschweige denn eine Bibliographie; es gibt lediglich zwei technische Anhänge zu Funktionen, Ableitungen und Integralen, sowie zu Zusammenhängen und Krümmung, im letzteren werden Christoffel Symbole und Ricci Tensoren kurz betrachtet.
‘The Schwarzchild radius defines a surface called the event horizon, and the region of spacetime inside the event horizon is a black hole. Let’s dig into what that means, imagining a spacetime that is everywhere described by the Schwarzchild metric, with no extended object like a star or planet getting in the way.’ ‘Spacetime’ is discussed at pages 140141 in equally dense terms.