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The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory Paperback – February 29, 2000
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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"The Elegant Universe is compulsively readable.... Greene threatens to do for string theory what Stephen Hawking did for black holes." -New York
"[An] important book.... The Elegant Universe presents the ideas and aspirations-and some of the characters-of string theory with clarity and charm." -Scientific American
"As good as it gets.... [A] thrilling ride through a lovely landscape." -Los Angeles Times
"[Greene] writes with poetic eloquence and style.... [He] does an admirable job of translating a wholly mathematical endeavor into visual terms." -The Washington Post Book World
"[Greene's metaphors oftten provide beauty and power.... The Elegant Universe is a rewarding read." -Discovery Magazine
"String theory is the hottest idea to emerge in physics since Stephen Hawking gazed into a black hole.... [Greene] explain[s] it in terms that anyone can understand." -San Francisco Chronicle
From the Inside Flap
"[Greene] develops one fresh new insight after another...In the great tradition of physicists writing for the masses, The Elegant Universe sets a standard that will be hard to beat." --George Johnson, The New York Times Book Review
In a rare blend of scientific insight and writing as elegant as the theories it explains, Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of 11 dimensions where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter-from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas-is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy.
Green uses everything from an amusement park ride to ants on a garden hose to illustrate the beautiful yet bizarre realities that modern physics is unveiling. Dazzling in its brilliance, unprecedented in its ability to both illuminate and entertain, The Elegant Universe is a tour de force of science writing-a delightful, lucid voyage through modern physics that brings us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.
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For one thing, I do not share Greene's enthusiasm for string theory. No matter how elegant the various forms of string theory may appear to the physicist, the simple fact is that there is no experimental proof for any of it nor is any forthcoming at our present level of technology. In fact, to the best of my (limited) knowledge, I am not sure that string theory offers any testable predictions or explanations of physical phenomena that cannot also e explained with other theories.
Brian Greene generally does a good job of explaining but parts of The Elegant Universe were a little difficult to get through, probably more because of the extreme opaqueness of the subject, rather than to any lack of skill of the author. The last several chapters, however, seemed to be increasingly esoteric as Greene used string theory to explore such subjects as the interiors of black holes and the very beginning if the universe, and before.
Overall, I would recommend this book, but not wholeheartedly.
Even if you aren't science-inclined, this book is quite approachable. Despite the subject matter, no equation appears outside of E=mc². Greene works entirely with analogies to explain the subject matter; most work, some don't. To build up to string theory, Greene first presents a review of special and general relativity and quantum mechanics. The section of relativity is, in my opinion, incredibly lucid. I learned more from his explanation than I did in my high school and university physics classes. Quantum mechanics is bizarre in an of itself, but Greene nevertheless does an admirable job explaining the basics. The section on string theory is interesting. Since we are on the bleeding edge of it, I'm not surprised that I found things a little muddy and had to re-read a few passages. Nevertheless, I understand it a great deal more. I won't be able to take on an actual theorist, but I probably could win an argument concerning strings in a bar.
Greene doesn't have the boundless enthusiasm of Michio Kaku or wit (or emphasis on the actual people) of Leonard Mlodinow, but the tone is hardly dry or boring. If you're interested at all in string theory or one part of what modern physicists do, this is probably a book for you. All you need is an open mind and a little background in science.