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The Little Book of String Theory (Science Essentials) First Edition (US) First Printing Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691142890
ISBN-10: 0691142890
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Editorial Reviews


"The Little Book of String Theory by theoretical physicist Steven Gubser puts into words the abstract maths of some of the most challenging areas of physics, from energy and quantum mechanics to branes, supersymmetry and multiple dimensions."--Nature

"Princeton theoretical physicist Steven S. Gubser opens The Little Book of String Theory with a simple--and highly accurate--sentence: 'String theory is a mystery.' You won't get very far into this excellent book before you'll be agreeing with him completely."--Washington Post

"Gubser does a masterly job of introducing string theory in simple terms and without using math. His goal is not to convert people to the cause but to help them better understand the ideas. Cars on a freeway, the vibration of piano strings, and buoys in the ocean are among the examples from everyday life used to explain difficult concepts. This concise yet clear introduction to a conceptually difficult topic is recommended for lay readers in physics and for popular science collections."--Library Journal

"This is an excellent introduction to string theory for those who are looking for a highly academic explanation. . . . For those new to string theory, this book is full of information and humor and will help readers see the universe in an entirely new way."--ForeWord

"You will probably finish the book more confused than when you started, but in the best possible way: with profound questions and a desire to learn more."--New Scientist

"What sets this book apart is that it has been written by one of the foremost experts on the subject. Many of the analogies from everyday life used to explain concepts from string theory are both original and very communicative. . . . I would recommend The Little Book of String Theory even to seasoned researchers in the field. This is a thought-provoking book. With explanations offered in simple words, imagination can fly faster and perhaps lead to new and unexplored areas in the quest for the fundamental theory."--Times Higher Education

"The Little Book of String Theory succeeds in its mission to carry readers through the tangle of ideas to the intellectual loose ends that physicists love."--Fred Bortz, Philadelphia Inquirer

"But how do we non-mathematicians sort frayed ends from tight theory? Read Steven S. Gubser's book. It's clear, concise, turns formulas into words and leaves readers informed, if still incredulous, at the ability of great minds to imagine the unimaginable."--Leigh Dayton, Australian

"There is much in this book I did not understand, but I've seen plenty of popular physics books over the last few years. This is the first one in a long time that I both wanted to read and finished; it's full of fresh material."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution blog

"With Gubser as our guide science starts to seem less like the exclusive domain of the brainy, and more like a window into the universe that is open for everyone."--Glenn Dallas, San Francisco Book Review

"[T]his book is a concise survey of advanced ideas in particle physics and string theory. But it is also true that every single concept is explained in a very simple and accurate way. This makes the book, while without errors from a physicist's point of view, accessible to a wide range of readers."--Farhang Loran, Mathematical Reviews

From the Back Cover

"This is an engaging and concise introduction to the main ideas in string theory. Gubser gives us a quick tour of the basic laws of physics as we understand them today, and then demonstrates how string theory seeks to go beyond them. He serves as an artful and attentive guide, as the reader explores the mysteries of quantum mechanics, black holes, strings, branes, supersymmetry, and extra dimensions in the pages of this book."--Juan Maldacena, Institute for Advanced Study

"Steve Gubser has written an engaging and thought-provoking account of what was achieved in physics in the last century and how physicists are seeking to go farther in the ambitious framework known as string theory. This is one of the most thoughtful books on this much-discussed topic, and readers will find much to ponder."--Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study

"This book offers a very nice short introduction to some of the basic ideas and implications of string theory. Gubser knows his subject."--John H. Schwarz, coauthor of Special Relativity: From Einstein to Strings


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Product Details

  • Series: Science Essentials
  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (February 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691142890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691142890
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Brian Watkins VINE VOICE on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I quite enjoyed Dr. Gubser's effort to explain in words what can only make sense in higher mathematics. Cutting edge physics is, in this layperson's opinion, a mess of theories premised on ideas that nobody has even begun to figure out how to prove. The author effectively uses simile and metaphor to illustrate an exceptionally difficult topic. As an attorney whose scientific quest came to a crashing halt in second semester Calculus, I think I understood his argument that modern physics is like pre-Mendeleevian chemistry. We are finding all manner of new particles and ideas regarding their relationships and interactions but have not yet found a framework to make sense of the new discoveries as did the Periodic Table of Elements to chemistry. Now, that idea I can understand; not since Dr. Michio Kaku's book on Hyperspace have I encountered an author who is both willing and able to bring such thorny ideas into focus.

If you pick up this book and think you'll even begin to understand string theory--try again. However, my understanding of the field advanced more from this book than from any of the other general science offerings out there. While challenging, it was much easier to read and to understand than any textbook or scientific paper. I believe that anyone who truly masters a field of understanding can teach it to anyone else--the ability to teach is a measure of the teacher's understanding. I sympathize with those who say that the field cannot be taught without equations; however, that should not prevent the physicists from making an attempt to do so and I felt that Dr. Gubser succeeded admirably in breaking some new ground with this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book reads ok up to chapter 5. On the beginning of chapter 5, a sharp student asked the question in 1989, why do you use strings in the first place? "Why stop with strings? Why not work with sheets, or membranes or solids, three dimensional chunks of quantum stuff?". This is a question we would all want to know why do you use strings? what's wrong with wobbling soap bubbles?

Gubser's answer was that six years later the string theory community was electrified by the advent of D-branes. In his words "D-branes are exactly what the sharp student had asked for in 1989. No, definitely not, the sharp student wanted to know why you use strings, not why you have to add additional complications to the string theory.

From there on the whole book went totally downhills, explaining nothing, but simply confusing the reader with absurd terminology, 26, 10, 6 ,5 11 dimensions, you take your pick, no explanation at all why, a multitude of branes, it did not seem to end, totally fruitcake. Why is it that a string theorist cannot answer a simple question; "Why do you use strings?" why not tubes or soap bubbles, they all can be excited and vibrate. The only answer I can find is that the calculations are a lot simpler with strings, they have only one dimension, that's why they use strings. Read the CERN bulletins instead, you will learn a lot more, and you will learn facts.
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This book starts with a brief introduction to the basic laws of physics, and the search for an ultimate theory to explain the physical reality. When the author starts describing the string theory, things get complicated. The reader must bear in mind that this is not an easy field to appreciate since it involves multi-dimensions of space and one time dimension; string theory has 26 dimensions, and superstring theory has 10 dimensions. Besides this, the fundamental particles exist as different vibrations of strings in multi spacetime. It is hard to envision how a four dimensional space would look like, and it would be even harder to appreciate the subject given the amount of mathematics that goes into constructing the theory. Although the book doesn't involve any mathematics but the author does his best to make the difficult subject interesting.

A brief summary of the book is as follows: In string theory, the myriad of fundamental particle types is replaced by a single fundamental building block, a string. These strings can be closed, like loops, or open, like a hair. A string is infinitely thin and has an infinitesimal length of 10e(-34) meters. As the string moves through time it traces out a tube or a sheet (the two-dimensional string worldsheet). Furthermore, the string is free to vibrate, and different vibrational modes of the string represent the different particle types. The particles known in nature are classified according to their spin into bosons (integer spin) or fermions (odd half integer spin). The bosons carry forces, for example, the photon carries electromagnetic force; the gluon carries the strong nuclear force, and the graviton carries gravitational force. Fermions make up the matter like the electron or the quark.
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First time I tried reading this book it was a little over my head, however when I took a intro physics class it made more sense. So overall, its good to read, but previous physics experience is advised.
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