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The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0525953661
ISBN-10: 0525953663
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Editorial Reviews


"The Universe in the Rearview Mirror makes for a great read for anyone interested in understanding what it is that makes our Universe a wonderfully complex system...Goldberg is an excellent guide to bring you to your destination - to a profound appreciation for the beauty of the cosmos." - Nature Physics

"Mathematical symmetries lie at the heart of the answers, but Goldberg offers math-free guideposts along the way in this witty and accessible read. Tip: Don't skip the copious footnotes, packed with geek humor." - Discover

“An informative, math-free, and completely entertaining look at the concept of symmetry in physics…Throughout his fascinating discussion, Goldberg’s writing remains accessible and full of humor…Seasoning his exposé with pop culture references that range from Doctor Who to Lewis Carroll to Angry Birds, Goldberg succeeds in making complex topics clear with a winning style.” - Publisher's Weekly

"Goldberg delivers relentlessly cheerful but comprehensible explanations of a dozen profound features of the universe." - Kirkus

"Goldberg has a fine ear for the absurd, and is deft at revealing why things we take for granted, such as the equality of gravitational and inertial mass, are strange and not obvious at all...it's a bit like a kick-ass rollercoaster built through Dwarrowdelf in Middle-earth." - New Scientist

"Most physics books can't really be described as 'rollicking,' but most physics books aren't written by Dave Goldberg. This is fun, irreverent, and enjoyable, but also very truthful and illuminating. Buy it for your friend who was always scared of physics, especially if that friend is yourself." - Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

"This is a fun and fascinating examination of core physics concepts-and which even includes a look at one of physics' unsung heroines, a giant upon whose shoulders many physicists have stood: Emmy Noether!" - Danica McKellar, actress and author of Math Doesn't Suck

"Unputdownable! This book is tremendous fun for any reader curious about our bizarre and beautiful universe. If only the profound concepts and laws of physics were presented in schools in the clear and fun way Dave Goldberg has in this book, we would attract many more people to science early." - Priyamvada Natarajan, Departments of Astronomy & Physics, Chair, Women Faculty Forum, Yale University

"The scope of this book is almost as vast as the physical universe it does a most impressive job of describing. Perhaps more importantly, Goldberg limns the under-appreciated work of Emmy Noether. Her principle that every symmetry gives rise to a conserved quantity unifies much of physics and Goldberg makes clear why and how." - John Allen Paulos, Professor of Mathematics, Temple University, author of Innumeracy

"Dave Goldberg's masterful explanations of how symmetry shapes the universe are a delight to read. From kaon koans to Antworld, to all the fuss about the Higgs boson, you will be enthralled and enlightened." - J. Richard Gott, Professor of Astrophysics, Princeton University

"Reading this book is like taking a class with the most awesome science professor ever. Goldberg answers the physics questions you secretly want to ask, like whether you'll ever have a TARDIS and what would happen if Earth were sucked into a black hole. A must read for anybody who wants to understand the nature of the universe - with jokes." - Annalee Newitz, editor and time distortion field operator: i09.com

"Dave Goldberg offers a funhouse of fascinating curiosities, mind-bending paradoxes, and clever humor...Magnificently elucidate the importance of symmetry in physics, astronomy, and math. A powerful reflection on the power of reflection!" - Paul Halpern, author of Edge of the Universe

“Who knew symmetry could be so brilliantly entertaining? Physicist Dave Goldberg slings the reader straight in at the deep end of this big physics concept, but with enough masterly wit to keep you afloat.” - Nature

About the Author

DAVE GOLDBERG, an award-winning professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Physics at Drexel University, writes the “Ask a Physicist” column for the popular science site io9.com and blogs at usersguidetotheuniverse.com. He lives in Philadelphia.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (July 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525953663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525953661
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So the only bad news is that a flight attendant spilled coffee on my book. The good news is it was worth purchasing twice. :) The symmetries in our universe are amazing, and Dave Goldberg goes to great lengths to describe in the very beginning the meaning, and how he plans to explain them. Another reviewer had written that Dr. Goldberg never explained anything, and I'm thinking he skipped the introduction that literally says, "Don't skip, there's some really good things in here". There are a few paragraphs I had to read two or three times, not because it was over my head, but because it was a descriptive paragraph and I wanted to make sure I took it all in. I actually remember a few times putting the book down, looked around, and said aloud, "Wow". It really is amazing learning the things I had questions about, and learning it accurately. A couple times during the book, I sent a Twitter message to Dr. Goldberg, and he replied. I shouldn't have. I was asking questions he was going to answer in his book had I read another five pages or two chapters. I was so enthralled, I had to put the book down and tweet him. Crazy enough, the busy guy tweeted back. And then I apologized after I read another paragraph and got the same answer from him in the book. The point is, this book has educated me, not confused me, and has reminded me of my love of everything science. I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading his others. Filled with an educated, yet understandable vernacular, light jokes, and the self-depricating humor that most nerds have (sorry Dr. Goldberg, but hey, if we're being honest, I read the word "vulcan" more times in two chapters than I'd heard it in my entire life), this book is a must read.
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By WLS on July 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Goldberg has a breezy style for such a deep subject. Some aspects of the deep symmetries (and symmetry-breakings) lend themselves to his jokes and metaphors, but some do not. The last chapter, on unsolved mysteries of physics, e.g., is about as opaque as dark energy. Likewise a lay reader is quickly overwhelmed by the many kinds of symmetries. Still, there are pleasant passages, interesting stories, and grand claims. The style may be breezy, but the author knows his stuff. This is not a classic piece of science popularization, but you could do worse. You may get confused, but you won't be misled.
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Format: Hardcover
When I was in college, I did a couple of cross-country trips with my friend Matt, who was the '80's answer to Neal Cassady (minus the jail-time and the juggled girlfriends/wives). He was a physics major (and now teaches the subject at a university in Texas), and from time to time as we tore across the country at night he'd try to explain the galaxy and its workings to me. But I was too self-absorbed and intent on getting to where we were going for the most part to pay enough attention to his informal lectures on things like black holes and antimatter and stars. I've always regretted that, as these days I often stare up at the night-sky and wish I had a clue to its poetry. Once or twice I've tried to convince Matt to write a book about it, geared to those without a clue about physics, but so far I've had no luck.

Then I won Dave Goldberg's The Universe in the Rear-View mirror in a Goodreads giveaway (I don't enter many, but I really wanted this book), hoping that it would be something like the book I've tried to get Matt to write. Unfortunately (and this is certainly not Dr. Goldberg's fault), even at what I assume is a fairly elementary level of physics, much of it was still over my head--to my embarrassment (I'm actually not sure how I got through high school, college, and grad school without ever taking physics). And I think that I was hoping more for a book that would tell me more about what it's really like "out there" than why it's like that. Again, that's just me.

But, even during the passages in which I got hopelessly lost, I had a really good time reading the book--and I can only assume that readers with more of an aptitude than I have (a low bar) would really enjoy it. I wish that Dr. Goldberg (or Matt) had been my professor in college.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book covers some very heavy material--important concepts that get to the heart of many of the most fundamental questions, but the reader never feels in danger of drowning in the complexity of it all. I'm planning to give this book to my nephew for the following reasons. As a new swimmer (never too late to learn), the best analogy I can think of is going into a pool with an enticing deep end as you are just learning to swim. The danger of the deep end keeps you on the safe (boring) end of the pool, but you know that the deep end is the "real" part of the pool and it's where you want to go. To stretch the analogy, this book is like wearing swim floaties and gliding on down to the deep end of physics. Goldberg is going to take you all the way, and occasionally you may have to pause and re-read a paragraph, but you'll never feel overwhelmed or in danger of submersion. To stretch the analogy even further, if you fall in love with the view, it will give you a strong motivation to learn how to swim (learn more science); if it's not your cup of tea, at least you've learned some great concepts. In either case, it's a thrill to explore.

Also, it is quite refreshing to read a popular science book in which the "hero" of the story (so to speak) is a woman. If you haven't heard about Emmy Noether before, you'll certainly never forget her name after reading this book.
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