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We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe Illustrated Edition
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“This witty book reveals the humbling vastness of our ignorance about the universe, along with charming insights into what we actually do understand.”
—Carlo Rovelli, author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Reality Is Not What It Seems
“[A] lucid and irreverent survey of the many unsolved mysteries of our universe... Cham and Whiteson mesh comics, lighthearted infographics, and lively explanations to painlessly introduce curious readers to complex concepts in easily digestible chapters. This fun guide is just the ticket for science fans of any age.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Cham and Whiteson perfectly balance hilarity and serious science.” —Chemistry World
“[A] lively, agnostic book on physics and its discontents... An entertaining and educational review for anyone seeking to brush up on or build his or her knowledge.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Science! Nerdy goodness! Cute illustrations! Big questions about the universe that we still can’t answer! … Did I mention the cute illustrations?” —Book Riot
“You couldn’t ask for better guides to the mind-bending mysteries of cutting-edge physics than Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. They bring a whimsical light touch to some very heavy topics, and the result is a sheer delight for the reader.”
—Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries and Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the Science of Self
“Science knows a lot about the universe, but the real excitement is in what we don't know. And it's hard to imagine a more enjoyable way to explore the unknown than by reading this book. Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson will guide you through the biggest mysteries of the cosmos, smiling all the way.”
—Sean Carroll, author of The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself
“A delightful combination of comedy and cosmology that is as charming as it is informative.”
—Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
“Not often do you encounter such an optimistic and fun exploration of human ignorance.”
—Henry Reich, creator of MinutePhysics
“Accessible and hilarious (the two best things it is possible for a book to be), We Have No Idea not only explores WHAT we don't know, but WHY we don't know it. You'd think that'd be plenty, but Cham and Whiteson also provide the most credible and up-to-date scientific explanations as to what some of the answers to these huge (and hugely important) questions might possibly be, PLUS puns.”
—Ryan North, author of Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be or Not To Be
About the Author
Daniel Whiteson is a professor of experimental particle physics at the University of California, Irvine, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. He conducts research using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
- Lexile measure : 1110L
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0735211515
- ISBN-13 : 978-0735211513
- Dimensions : 6.2 x 1.15 x 9.23 inches
- Publisher : Riverhead Books; Illustrated edition (May 9, 2017)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #35,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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-Paul Halpern, author of The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality
It is rare when I feel compelled to write a review for a book that I'm reading WHILE I'M STILL READING IT. Yes, this such a book. I heard about this book on NPR just before Christmas 2017, as I was about to enter my local library. I found the book on the "New Non-Fiction" shelf and immediately began reading it. Four weeks later (last Friday), I had to return the book because another library patron had requested it. So I bought the book here on Amazon, and it arrived today, only three days later: YAY.
Last night, anticipating the arrival of the book, I ordered a second copy for my friend, who always talks about "black holes" (which I learned is not a good term to describe it - yes, in this book).
It has been much slower to read this book than I thought it would, because I find myself constantly putting it down to ponder what I just read. And also to look up the footnotes in Wikipedia and Google. Remember (for you old timers) when you used to refer to a dictionary for a definition or spelling of a word, and you would get lost reading the dictionary? That is happening to me again. When I research something in this book, I find myself getting more curious by the minute, and it takes me a long time to get back to the book. This process is taking longer and longer the more I read. That is not a complaint, but it is a fact.
I'm only 60% through the book and I've already found that it helps to go back and read an early chapter to brush up on the terms and concepts because some of the ideas are unusual and can be challenging to accept. That being said, if one were to "just read the words", one could quickly finish it since it is only about 350 pages long. So don't worry, if you think this book is anything like a regular text book! That is very far from the truth. The pair who wrote this book, a comedian and a scientist, do an excellent job of keeping one's interest. There are frequent one liners and cute drawings on almost every other page.
Ok, back to the book, and to the profound discoveries that I did not know human kind had made AND BEYOND THAT to the concepts and information that humans have yet to figure out, which as it turns out (spoiler alert) is still about 95% of the universe.
The science is deeply fascinating and remains mostly beyond my comprehension, but I remain very curious about the physical universe, hence why I bought this book. The book did a decent job of feeding that interest without being condensing or by use of impossible to understand jargon.
But, the book is full of jokes. Way too many jokes and some of them questionably low brow given the subject matter they support. I made it nearly to the end, but got tired of cringing. To be fair, not all of the jokes were insipid or off topic. In fact, a few were very clever. But all amounted to speed bumps in the narrative and made for an unpleasant read.
Anyone can write obtuse technical papers on their chosen field. A few truly accomplished people can explain their subject in small words. But it takes deep understanding, a talent for writing and a heaping portion of wisdom to be able to simultaneously explain your topic in small words, maintain a witty pace, and wink at the wonderful hubris of the human race at the same time.
My favorite things I hesitate to mention, because nobody ever wants to eat the cupcakes if they are told about the vegetables first. But I do love the way they introduce the vocabulary and basic concepts of physics in an extraordinarily effective way. One barely even notices the learning, yet somehow each time they build on a previous concept the recall feels effortless. Not once, in this remarkable book did I say, "Wait, what?" and have to go backwards to re-read something. Like magic, they would say "Remember x?" and I would.
But most of all, this book was fun. I own a sum total of three physical printed books (excluding textbooks - may Pearson Inc rot in eternal damnation for their unholy war on trees and pocketbooks), and this one earned it's place in my tiny bookshelf with it's humor.
Top reviews from other countries
You will not learn much by reading this book; it is, afterall, about what we do not know. You will have fun exploring the subjects where our lack of knowledge is most certainly lacking.
Readig on my Kindle paperwhite, some of the illustrations are very small and difficult to read but they are secondary to the main text. Some of the jokes are so bad that, in some cases, it might considered a blessing.
The topics covered in this book succeed at explaining often complex/abstract/theoretical subjects in a fairly simple way.
I've always had few of these ideas/questions wandering about in my head ever since I was a young teen. And now, an almost a PhD graduate in toxicogenomics, and still physics never fails to amuse me!
A big bonus is me being a big fan of Jorge's PhD comic strips as well.
After all, what do I know..