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Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

4.0 out of 5 stars 211 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This volume should appeal to experts and nonexperts alike intrigued by the latest scientific advances in our understanding of the cosmos." ---Library Journal

From the Back Cover

One of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world and the bestselling author of Warped Passages, Lisa Randall is an expert in both particle physics (the study of the smallest objects we know of) and cosmology (the study of the largest). In this, her most recent book, Randall takes us on an amazing tour through the latest developments in physics—including a new preface explaining the thrilling discovery of the Higgs boson—and the theoretical concepts underlying this work.

Knocking on Heaven's Door also explores the role of risk, creativity, uncertainty, beauty, and truth in scientific thinking. Through provocative conversations with leading figures in other fields, including chef David Chang, forecaster Nate Silver, and screenwriter Scott Derrickson, and through reflections on her own work, Randall makes an impassioned argument in defense of science.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; Library - Unabridged CD edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452634394
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452634395
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,480,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The last few years have seen a proliferation of popular physics books aimed at explaining the mysteries of modern physics to the layman. This is a worthy endeavor and Lisa Randall is one of its leading expositors. This book is really two books in one. The first part is a clear and spirited discussion of particle physics and cosmology. The second part is an equally clear meditation on the nature of the scientific method and the value of science and reason.

Randall especially shines in explaining the real everyday science (as opposed to just the philosophy) behind frontier research in physics. Thus, she spends a sizable amount of time explaining some of the less emphasized practical aspects of the science like errors and uncertainty in measurements, risk factors, "effective theories" (theories applicable at particular scales) and statistics. She provides a readable treatment of the Standard Model of particle physics and emphasizes why finding the Higgs boson is so important. In addition she has what I think is one of the clearest accounts of the structure and function of the LHC in Geneva. In the part about cosmology, she discusses in detail the riddle of dark matter and dark energy and what the latest telescopes and satellites might tell us about the birth and structure of the universe.

The second half of the book presents a robust defense of science and reason as well as some thoughts on the connections between beauty, creativity and science. Randall understands that while mathematical beauty may be a guiding principle for theoretical physics, ultimately beauty is subjective and the only true test of a theory is a clear connection to experiment.
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Format: Hardcover
Several string theorists such as Brian Greene or Leonard Susskind and cosmologists such as Alexander Vilenkin have written popular books about physics but as far as I know, Lisa Randall is the only popular writer among the "high-energy phenomenologists", i.e. the theoretical particle physicists who think about Nature from the viewpoint of phenomena that have been observed or that may be observed in a foreseeable future (mostly at the particle accelerators).

And we, the readers, have been especially fortunate because the book about physics from the viewpoint of phenomenologists wasn't written by a random phenomenologist but by one of the most prominent ones. In fact, Randall was identified as the most referred to particle physicist - among both women and men, just to be sure - in a recent 5-year period. She remains extremely active and influential.

Knocking on Heaven's Door has two basic goals. One of them is to introduce the reader to the cutting-edge research in particle physics which is dominated by the LHC experiment. Collisions of protons inside the 27-kilometer ring on the Swiss-French border have interrupted decades of theoretical dominance and relative experimental impotence (even though the book describes some smaller colliders or LHC predecessors, too). Randall who constantly interacts with the experimenters offers us an exciting story of the LHC collider from its conception to the first femtobarn of collisions.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a working physicist, 30 years past my Ph. D., and I picked up this book thinking it would be interesting to learn about progress in particle physics and cosmology. I was very disappointed. The meat of the book is Chapters 16 and 17, where Prof. Randall finally gets to describing the theory behind the Higgs boson and other anticipated discoveries from the LHC. These are so poorly written it seems like her editor just figured, "no one will understand this, so why bother trying to make it readable." The sentence structure is convoluted to the point that, even with multiple readings, it's impossible to tell the point she's trying to make. She throws around terms like "weak charge" without ever bothering to explain whether this quantity is a weak version of the electric charge or an analogy of electric charge that conveys the weak force. She frequently makes reference to the Planck length, without ever saying what it is, where it comes from, or how to translate between distance and energy, which she uses interchangeably.

This weakness is illustrated by her explanation of the possible applicability of extra dimensions to explain the 16 orders-of-magnitude difference between gravity and the weak force, one of the few contributions she takes personal credit for. You could just say, "the forces are of different strengths" and leave it at that. Randall says, in essence, "Imagine gravity is 10^16 times stronger on another brane in another dimension, but that dimension is coupled to our world by an arbitrary coupling constant of 10^-16." This adds nothing of intellectual value to the field, but the buzzwords have been used, so it's time to schedule a book tour and let the accolades roll in.
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