The Elegant Universe
The international bestseller that inspired a major Nova special and sparked a new understanding of the universe, now with a new preface and epilogue.Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away layers of mystery to reveal a universe that consists of eleven 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. The Elegant Universe makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.

The Elegant Universe Details

TitleThe Elegant Universe
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 11th, 2010
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
ISBN-139780393338102
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Physics, Astronomy, Popular Science

The Elegant Universe Review

  • Manny
    January 1, 1970
    [Original review, written December 2008]When I read this book, I remember thinking it was pretty interesting, but I am surprised how few insights I have retained... to be honest, hardly any. Smolin's The Trouble with Physics, which I read much more recently, suggests that string theory is in big trouble, and right now I am more tempted to side with Smolin.There's this old Nasrudin story, where he's somehow ended up as judge in a court case. The D.A. really makes a good case, and Nasrudin can't r [Original review, written December 2008]When I read this book, I remember thinking it was pretty interesting, but I am surprised how few insights I have retained... to be honest, hardly any. Smolin's The Trouble with Physics, which I read much more recently, suggests that string theory is in big trouble, and right now I am more tempted to side with Smolin.There's this old Nasrudin story, where he's somehow ended up as judge in a court case. The D.A. really makes a good case, and Nasrudin can't restrain himself. "Yes, you're right!" he shouts. Then the defense lawyer gets up and makes his pitch, and Nasrudin is equally impressed. "Yes, you're right!" he shouts again. The court recorder clears his throat and leans over towards Nasrudin. "Your honor," he says respectfully, "they can't both be right!". Nasrudin shakes his head. "Yes, you're right!" he agrees.Well, between Greene and Smolin I feel a bit like Nasrudin, but luckily I am not the judge here. Am I just agreeing with Smolin because I heard him most recently? Maybe. But trying to correct for that, I still think that there is a reason why Smolin seems more convincing and memorable, and why very little of what Greene says has stuck. String theory has become so divorced from experimental reality that it rarely if ever gives you that feeling you get from good science, of suddenly grasping a real physical phenomenon that you have known about for a while, but not understood. I guess the example that makes me least happy is supersymmetry, according to which every particle has a supersymmetric partner. Compare this with the discovery of the periodic table in the late 19th century, or the development of the Standard Theory in the 60s and 70s. There, insightful people gradually realized that objects (atoms in the first case, subatomic particles in the second) were related in a complicated pattern. Most of the time the pattern fit, but there were a few holes, and they were later able to find the things (new elements, new particles) that filled in the holes! I was astonished to read that there is not one single particle which has a known supersymmetric partner - so far, it's all hypothesis, and perhaps none of these "selectrons", "photinos" etc actually exist. I'm not saying that this means supersymmetry is wrong; I'm just saying it means I don't find it exciting. Maybe next year they will get the LHC working, discover a whole slew of supersymmetric partners (even one would be a lot), and put string theory on a proper experimental footing. If that happens, I'm sure I'll go back to reading books on this subject; I won't be able to stop myself. But until then, well, it may be beautiful math, but I feel no emotional connection to it. I'd love to hear from people who disagree, and can explain to me just what it is I'm missing out on.__________________________________[Update, May 2011]We had another particle physicist over for dinner last night. He'd come mainly to play chess, but when I found out that he was involved in looking for supersymmetric particles I took the opportunity to ask how it was going. Well: assuming he's to be trusted, and he sounded pretty knowledgeable on the subject, we should know pretty soon. The LHC is now up to high enough energies. They're collecting data. If supersymmetric particles exist, there is every reason to suppose that we'll have clear evidence of them within a year or two.I wondered what would happen if they didn't find any supersymmetric particles? Would the theoreticians just retreat into saying that they needed a more powerful collider? Not so, said my informant; if the particles can't be found at the current range of energies, the predictions were wrong. Sounds like we're finally getting a straight up-or-down vote.String theory, you can run but you can't hide!__________________________________[Update, September 2011]I knew it was too good to be true. We had yet another particle physicist over, whose PhD topic had been something to do with searching for a supersymmetric quark. I asked her if it really was the case that we'd soon know if supersymmetric particles existed.Alas, it turns out that, although the energies they're now reaching in the LHC are indeed sufficient to find supersymmetric particle according to the mainstream versions of string theory, there are other versions which predict higher energies - energies which are outside the LHC's range. "Of course," she added, "the mainstream version is the one that contains the original motivation for supersymmetry. If they retreat to one of the other versions, then most of the rationale disappears. But people have a lot riding on string theory.""That's terrible!" I said indignantly. She just shrugged her shoulders. __________________________________[Update, May 2015]Browsing the physics section at the South Australian State Library earlier this week, I picked up a copy of Becker, Becker and Schwarz's String Theory and M-Theory (2007). The introduction says clearly that supersymmetry is essential to string theory/M-theory, and moreover that the LHC should be able to reach high enough energies to produce supersymmetric particles, if they do in fact exist. Consulting Google Scholar, my impression is that the book is highly respected: I see 661 citations.Eight years later, no supersymmetric particles have been observed. But no doubt string theorists have an explanation for this inconvenient fact.__________________________________[Update, Dec 2015]Hey, if you think I'm being mean to those poor string theorists, just look at what Randall Munroe said the other day!__________________________________[Update, August 2017]It struck me today that the people who are criticising CERN for spending so much money finding the Higgs boson are wrong on at least two counts. First, $13B isn't actually such a large price tag for making a fundamental discovery about the laws of the universe, the truth of which is obvious only in retrospect; many physicists were unsure that the Higgs existed. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, there's the dog that didn't bark in the night. Many physicists were also expecting to find supersymmetric particles, but none have been detected. This greatly weakens the plausibility of string theory and shifts attention to competing theories for unifying quantum mechanics and gravity, of which by far the most attractive is Loop Quantum Gravity.Speaking as someone who used to work for NASA and was involved with the International Space Station project ($150B and counting), I would say CERN has given the taxpayer value for money and then some. It's a pity that all research funding isn't allocated in such a responsible manner.__________________________________[Update, March 2018]On pages 368-9 of Leonard Susskind's 2008 book The Black Hole War, I find the following passage:... there is a whole collection of particles whose existence is only conjectural, but a lot of physicists (including me) think they may exist*. For reasons that are not important to us here, these hypothetical particles are called superpartners.* We will know within a few years, when the European accelerator called the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) starts operating.Well, there it is again. Susskind, one of the foremost proponents of string theory and a world-renowned expert on fundamental physics in general, said ten years ago that the LHC would soon find the superpartners/supersymmetric particles if they were there. It hasn't found them. Ergo...
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  • Marvin
    January 1, 1970
    Do I understand string theory? Not sure.Do I understand M theory? A little bit but don't ask for any algebraic reasoning.Do I know exactly what a Calabi-Yau is? Not really but I think they look a little like the hair balls from my cat.This is the second time I've equated quantum physics and all its detours to a hair-ball. That's because I can study a hair ball and still have no idea what it is for and why they exist. String Theory and the elusive TOE is in the same category. I could go on my en Do I understand string theory? Not sure.Do I understand M theory? A little bit but don't ask for any algebraic reasoning.Do I know exactly what a Calabi-Yau is? Not really but I think they look a little like the hair balls from my cat.This is the second time I've equated quantum physics and all its detours to a hair-ball. That's because I can study a hair ball and still have no idea what it is for and why they exist. String Theory and the elusive TOE is in the same category. I could go on my entire life not knowing about them but now that I do, I need to know why. Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Hawking, and my cat can't all be right. Or can they?That is essentially the dilemma of string theory and the book. Greene does a great job of putting everything in layman's term but there is a point which he must exceed the intellectual ionosphere and soar into the incalculable. I really like this type of book. The challenge is the fun. But rest assured when the scientists get their act together and write an Idiot's guide to The Unified Theory Of Everything, I'll be the first in line.P. S. Hair balls and string theories have something else in common. Once you tore one apart, you can never get your hands clean.
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  • Alisha
    January 1, 1970
    I left Christianity a few years ago and swore off religion altogether; however, after reading this book, string theory has become tantamount to religion in my life. Brian Greene writes beautifully about particles, planets, and the origins of our universe as we know it today. It is a heavy book- I don't recommend it for anyone who wants a quick, easy read. It took me almost two months to get through, but I learned a tremendous amount and came away in complete awe of the world and the forces at wo I left Christianity a few years ago and swore off religion altogether; however, after reading this book, string theory has become tantamount to religion in my life. Brian Greene writes beautifully about particles, planets, and the origins of our universe as we know it today. It is a heavy book- I don't recommend it for anyone who wants a quick, easy read. It took me almost two months to get through, but I learned a tremendous amount and came away in complete awe of the world and the forces at work in it today. Since Green wrote his book string theory has come under intense scrutiny; despite this, I would still support this book on the basis that it is gorgeously written, based in fact (many of the experiments and proofs were done by Greene himself), and incredibly informative. A vertible Bible of where we came from, where we're going and the incredibly complex way things function in this glorious universe of ours.
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  • Manuel Antão
    January 1, 1970
    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.The Kabbalah: "The Elegant Universe - Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" by Brian Greene(Original review, 2001)The Kabbalah also describes 10 dimensions and beings that inhabit them. Perhaps these beings are real and at certain levels of dimensional perception they have already seen and experienced these advancements in human history like a child being taught 2+2 to the wave compilation of an electr If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.The Kabbalah: "The Elegant Universe - Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory" by Brian Greene(Original review, 2001)The Kabbalah also describes 10 dimensions and beings that inhabit them. Perhaps these beings are real and at certain levels of dimensional perception they have already seen and experienced these advancements in human history like a child being taught 2+2 to the wave compilation of an electron Y=h/mc = 2.43*10-12m.Mathematics, My Daddy says is simply a game or a toy for the mind. I enjoy playing with math though I truly know now that it is not Universal Knowledge. Mathematics is like some sports. It brings Me fun and excitement. Sometimes I get low scores and I feel sad, but My Daddy simply tells Me that if I want to perfect the exams, I have to study harder. As you all can see, all the so called greatest mathematicians and scientists and physicists humans' scholars humans gave so much high regards to have immediately realized that all those books and all those studies and all those "humans once thought of as knowledge" became child's play if not garbage right upon My Daddy revealed this Universal Truth and Knowledge. Literally speaking, humans are among the most primitive civilizations in The Universe and yet we humans are very arrogant, sinful and blasphemous because we, humans do not know any better.
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  • Riku Sayuj
    January 1, 1970
    To think I put all that effort to understand a discredited theory...
  • Daniel Clausen
    January 1, 1970
    For most of my life, physics and the general sciences have seemed beyond me. At the same time, I've been lucky enough in high school and university to have instructors who are willing to let me "give science a try" in a not threatening way. This book is one such attempt to allow ordinary people to give science a try. In this book, you'll get a crash course in physics as an evolving subject, from the theory of gravity, to special relativity, to general relativity, to quantum mechanics, to string For most of my life, physics and the general sciences have seemed beyond me. At the same time, I've been lucky enough in high school and university to have instructors who are willing to let me "give science a try" in a not threatening way. This book is one such attempt to allow ordinary people to give science a try. In this book, you'll get a crash course in physics as an evolving subject, from the theory of gravity, to special relativity, to general relativity, to quantum mechanics, to string theory, you'll be taken on a fantastic journey into the heart of science. A word of warning, though, one of my geeky friends told me that "String Theory" is now a passing fad. That might put you off the book. I still felt like there was a lot of value in reading this book simply as a mental challenge. The book was challenging to read, even if it is supposed to be dumbed down physics.
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  • Stephen
    January 1, 1970
    4.0 to 4.5 stars. There is a great quote to the effect that "if you can't explain a subject in non-technical terms so that a lay person can understand it than you haven't really mastered the subject yourself." On that basis, it is clear that Brian Greene has DEFINITELY mastered the subject of general relatively, quantum dynanmics and string theory (at least to the extent present technology allows). For such a complicated and often "non intuitive" subject, Greene does an excellent job of laying o 4.0 to 4.5 stars. There is a great quote to the effect that "if you can't explain a subject in non-technical terms so that a lay person can understand it than you haven't really mastered the subject yourself." On that basis, it is clear that Brian Greene has DEFINITELY mastered the subject of general relatively, quantum dynanmics and string theory (at least to the extent present technology allows). For such a complicated and often "non intuitive" subject, Greene does an excellent job of laying out in understandable terms: (1) the evolution of special relativity into general relativity; (2) the basics of quantum dynamics; (3) the fundamental conflict between general relativity and quantum dynamics; and (4) the amazing development of string theory and (5) the prospects for string theory to be able to resolve the conflcit between general relativity and quantum mechanics and come up with a Unified Theory of Everything (the fabled TOE). Now even with Greene's fantastic explanations, once we got beyond the basics of string theory and onto such concepts as 10 "spatial" dimensions, mirror symmetry and Calabi-Yau manifolds, there were times when the subject matter was just difficult to grasp on an intuitive level. However, Greene was quick to point out that the reader (i.e., me) was not alone in that confusion and it did not prevent me from walking away with a much better understanding of these difficult topics. It also made me interested in learning more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
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  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    AN INTRODUCTION BY WAY OF HYPERBOLIC SENTIMENT: The Elegant Universe is "The Bible" of superstring theory[*:].I close the covers of The Elegant Universe with powerfully mixed feelings. On the one hand, Brian Greene gives us a lucidly-written layman's-terms explanation for high-concept modern physics, providing an excellent survey of 20th century science and painting a vivid picture of a promising strategy for reconciling the discrepancies in the otherwise dominant theories. On the other hand, ab AN INTRODUCTION BY WAY OF HYPERBOLIC SENTIMENT: The Elegant Universe is "The Bible" of superstring theory[*:].I close the covers of The Elegant Universe with powerfully mixed feelings. On the one hand, Brian Greene gives us a lucidly-written layman's-terms explanation for high-concept modern physics, providing an excellent survey of 20th century science and painting a vivid picture of a promising strategy for reconciling the discrepancies in the otherwise dominant theories. On the other hand, about half-way through the text, it devolves into (what feels like) a navel-gazing vanity project that fails to connect that promising strategy with the target audience (i.e., the layman that actually gives a damn about modern science).To be clear: the first third of the book is a remarkable accomplishment. Brian Greene is a cogent writer with a wonderful pedagogical streak that is able to produce a clear image of some otherwise hard-to-decipher concepts in modern physics. Because of The Elegant Universe, I feel like I now have a fairly good understanding of the core concepts underlying Einstein's theories of special and general relativity, and quantum mechanics (e.g., Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle). Greene is also able to give a decent explanation regarding how these theories break down when you try to "merge" them (e.g., like when you come up with "infinite energy" and/or "infinite mass" and/or "infinite probabilities" through calculations of black holes or the Big Bang).This first third of the book is very accessible, very enjoyable, and very informative. Engaging, fascinating, and extremely powerful.Somewhere during that potent 130-150 pages, Greene remarks (something to the effect of): You cannot be said to fully understand something until you can explain both its system and significance to a complete stranger. (Not a quote, but I'm sure you know what I'm getting at...)And with that statement does Dr. Greene undermine the remaining two-thirds of the book. After introducing string theory, after explaining that it is a strategy with the potential to marry relativity and quantum mechanics, after getting you (the lay-reader) excited that you too will have some insight into the critical significance that is superstring theory — he glosses over some math (which doesn't really feel like physics after that first 120 pages) and more/less asks you to "bear with me here, trust me..." EXAMPLE: after introducing the concept of strings, the text rushes into a discussion of 6-dimensional "curled up" Calabi-Yau manifolds without really giving a good way of visualizing that whole mess[†:]. EXAMPLE: after 2 or 3 chapters about string theory where Greene is introducing it and discussing how it might reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics, he starts to segue into reconciling aspects of string theory with itself — looping back (like its own subject strings) on itself in a perverse recursion full of mathematical adjustments and jargon. EXAMPLE: in the midst of discussing how this New Science, and where you expect it to loop back on the promised explanations for the Old Science, Greene veers off into a series of anecdotes about "this one time at Harvard..." and/or "once at Princeton we stayed up all night and..." — which really just seemed a little gratuitous.By the time I realized what was happening, my attitude was already tainted. Perhaps I could have extracted more of the science if my cynicism hadn't kicked in so virulently and so early on in the reading. Perhaps spending more time with the end-notes will prove fruitful. Or perhaps on a future, subsequent follow-up reading I will discover that I was right the first time and we have 150 or so pages of incredible science writing and the remainder is chintzy vanity project[‡:].RATED FOR HYPE: ★★★★★RATED FOR STYLE: ★★★☆☆RATED FOR SCIENCE: ★★☆☆☆---[*:] Let's hear it for faith-based science?[†:] This is partly me being overly critical of Greene's (in my opinion) cavalier treatment of the Calabi-Yau concepts immediately following their introduction. There are some end-notes and citations for further reading, and he does attempt to dedicate some space in the main text to the idea — but his "dumbing down" of the Calabi-Yau manifolds to the "ant in the garden hose" analogy just doesn't really address it with sufficient vigor. Not after the incredible work he did in the earlier chapters re explaining relativity and quantum mechanics. I suppose I may have been more satisfied with something along the lines of "you have your time dimension, your three 'regular' space dimensions, and then these other six are really dedicated to providing reference points to describing the shape and vibration of the string IN THE THREE DIMENSIONS YOU ARE ALREADY FAMILIAR WITH" — but no such explanation was there. If that's even really what he might have meant.[‡:] Which I mean in the nicest possible way...? To be fair, Greene leaves plenty of room throughout the text to permit himself (and his colleagues studying superstring theory) to be "wrong". It reminds me of when Robert Wright hedges his bets in The Moral Animal , saying that the evolutionary psychology approach (as championed by himself, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Robert Trivers, and others) is a strong one that explains a whole lot but you better be careful before you go painting too broad of a stroke with those kinds of theories... Greene seems to do similar hedging, admitting that aspects of superstring theory seem tenuous (esp. when you consider how many "adjustments" they perform while "fine-tuning" a given aspect of the theory(s)) and that they (as scientists) are wise to temper their enthusiasm, to not lose sight of goals like "experimental verification". But then there's Greene's enthusiasm — which can easily electrify the reader but also just as easily undermine all of that careful hedging.
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    My local book club picked this book for our non-fiction month. I've been a part of this group- the largest-best Bay Area Book club!!!!In the 5 years I been part of this group, I can't remember a more challenging book to fully understand. The superstring theory is 'taught' by Brian Green' for those of us with maybe a basic Physics level one course. I can't imagine understanding anything, without having had at least some High School or College physics. This book is not for everyone, yet it's Top N My local book club picked this book for our non-fiction month. I've been a part of this group- the largest-best Bay Area Book club!!!!In the 5 years I been part of this group, I can't remember a more challenging book to fully understand. The superstring theory is 'taught' by Brian Green' for those of us with maybe a basic Physics level one course. I can't imagine understanding anything, without having had at least some High School or College physics. This book is not for everyone, yet it's Top Notch ....If you have a strong desire to read about The fundamental laws of the universe, how they are structured, then by all means, give this book a shot. I took soooo many notes, and I've still a dozen questions, yet the author does do an excellent job in explaining the new advances of the cosmos that have come to light during this last decade. The author explained over and over... So the lay person may understand that we must merge general relativity and quantum mechanics--and make use of string theory. It's the 'teaching' of the ways string theory appears which begins to get more challenging to comprehend. I've done my best... Yet hoping others in my book club might be able to fill in some holes which went way over my head.
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  • Szplug
    January 1, 1970
    Greene's eminently readable attempt to explain the possibilities for string/superstrings to provide the linchpin for the long-awaited-and-desired merger of gravity with the two nuclear and electromagnetic forces into a Grand United Theory. Frankly, the entire idea of rolled up dimensions—of a universe containing perhaps ten, twelve, eighteen dimensions, of which we are only capable of perceiving four—is suitably mind-blowing and humbling at the same time; and although Greene's low-culture themed Greene's eminently readable attempt to explain the possibilities for string/superstrings to provide the linchpin for the long-awaited-and-desired merger of gravity with the two nuclear and electromagnetic forces into a Grand United Theory. Frankly, the entire idea of rolled up dimensions—of a universe containing perhaps ten, twelve, eighteen dimensions, of which we are only capable of perceiving four—is suitably mind-blowing and humbling at the same time; and although Greene's low-culture themed analogies that frequently pop-up to help elucidate the complex concepts he is trying to convey may irritate at times, he does a bang-up job in making it understandable without blotting the outlines in thick physiquese or mathematics. Surfer-Dude physicist Garrett Lisi submitted an Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything based upon the stunningly beautiful symmetry of Lie Groups as an alternative to String Theory a couple of years after the publication of Greene's follow-up The Fabric of the Cosmos ; it will be interesting to see how Lisi's proposal affects the future of string/superstring theory as the most likely path towards that elusive group-wedding of the four forces. I believe that several physicists have now concluded that Lisi's theory doesn't hold up, but I'm intrigued by the rumblings I've encountered by others who consider string theory to be a corridor that is proving of a confining narrowness, one that has consumed a disproportionate amount of the energy from some of the top minds in this field in pursuit of a theory that more and more appears irreconcilably inelegant and complex for the unifying end that it is meant to achieve. I have some potentially stunning books on the shelf awaiting my attention—in particular, Lisa Randall's Warped Passages , Michio Kaku's Hyperspace , Michael Fayer's Absolutely Small , and Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics —all of which I have unfortunately neglected for some time now, but are ripe with the promise of immense rewards to the mind when their contents are finally consumed.Personally, one of the most stimulating moments in the The Elegant Universe was Greene's articulation of how we, as humans, are travelling through time at the speed of light; thus tickling my brain with the thought that light—immune to the mundane effects of forward-marching time—is a bridge towards an omnipotent godhead. If light is moving at the speed of light through space—not time—is it possible that its entire permutation from Big Bang through to Cosmic Deflation would be accessible in a single given moment of time, i.e, if some manner of consciousness—not necessarily as we conceive of it—was to exist at that level of configuration, would the entirety of past, present, and future—the ticking tenure that provides the structural frame for the playing out of human existence—be available? At temporal lightspeed, can any photon wave/particle duality be positionally known within Space-Time as it cannot to our Time-delimited minds? Would access to this particular modular level of existence—as alien as it may be to comprehend—be the beginnings of omniscience and the hierarchical understanding of how the universe plays out/was meant to play out/will play out? As an object approaches the speed of light, its mass becomes infinite—would the same exponential assault waylay ever-present light as it approaches the speed of time? Would fulgent awareness become infinitely sluggish or limited as it neared this clock-marked barrier? From the—for lack of a better word—point of view of Lightspeed, would there exist differing quantum pathways that wend throughout the four perceivable dimensions, and from a high enough level, will they appear identical at select points of chronological evolution? Thanks Brian, for zapping me like you did into further confused wonder.
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  • Jack Thornsberry
    January 1, 1970
    This book blew my mind countless times as I read through it, so much so that I could usually only read 10-20 pages in one sitting. I had physics in high school, watched Cosmos and tons of other programs on the universe/relativity/quantum physics etc. so I have always had an interest but not enough to have that be my profession - nor am I smart enough in that way. Books like this let you visit that world for a while and this author does a fantastic job explaining general and advanced physics, Ein This book blew my mind countless times as I read through it, so much so that I could usually only read 10-20 pages in one sitting. I had physics in high school, watched Cosmos and tons of other programs on the universe/relativity/quantum physics etc. so I have always had an interest but not enough to have that be my profession - nor am I smart enough in that way. Books like this let you visit that world for a while and this author does a fantastic job explaining general and advanced physics, Einstein, etc with many real world examples. Trust me, your mind will be doing flip flops when he talks about time bending, space travel, etc. After he builds the foundation, he sets the stage to cover string theory which many believe will be the next great leap in figuring out why the universe exists and where is it going. Awesome read to keep your mind sharp.
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  • aPriL does feral sometimes
    January 1, 1970
    ‘The Elegant Universe’ by Brian Greene is a general introduction to cosmology and string theory. It is a beautifully written book! However, it is not for beginners. I think some classes in physics or cosmology, or a long-time subscription to a magazine like New Scientist or Science News would be a necessary educational background before reading this book. So. As far as I can tell, the book is a five-star read in clarity and expert knowledge.From Wikipedia, I learned Greene is a genuine scientist ‘The Elegant Universe’ by Brian Greene is a general introduction to cosmology and string theory. It is a beautifully written book! However, it is not for beginners. I think some classes in physics or cosmology, or a long-time subscription to a magazine like New Scientist or Science News would be a necessary educational background before reading this book. So. As far as I can tell, the book is a five-star read in clarity and expert knowledge.From Wikipedia, I learned Greene is a genuine scientist. He attended Harvard and got his Ph.D. at Oxford. Greene joined the physics faculty at Cornell in 1990 and was appointed to a full professorship in 1995. He joined the staff of Columbia University as a full professor. At Columbia, Greene is co-director of the university's Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics (ISCAP) and is leading a research program applying superstring theory to cosmological questions. With co-investigators David Albert and Maulik Parikh he is a FQXi large-grant awardee for his project entitled "Arrow of Time in the Quantum Universe.Greene does an amazing job of condensing a hundred years of cosmological science and physics into a few chapters. He describes in the first six chapters the most cogent and clear explanation of Einstein’s Special Relativity and General Relativity theories I have ever read. He also links past discoveries about electricity, magnetism, and gravity insofar as how such discoveries led to Einstein’s theories. These past discoveries about gravity and electricity also led to what were concurrent studies in Einstein’s lifetime by other scientists on quantum mechanics. Greene leads readers, gently, into how scientific experiments on quantum particles, especially photons and electrons, led to discoveries about the structures of atoms. These explorations have added hints about further mysteries yet to know surrounding the beginning and current state of the universe.Around chapter five, Greene begins discussing string theories in depth. At first, I could follow. Clearly mathematics is the main source behind string theories (and physics), making real-world descriptions difficult. Green makes a heroic effort at avoiding direct mention of the maths (except in the Notes section at the back of the book). He includes drawings and word-picture analogies (using vivid visuals such as walnuts and donuts and trampolines and beach balls and floating astronauts moving about in space), to illustrate the theoretical conclusions derived from the mathematical view of the universe. I understand the necessity of alternative visual examples - how do you describe and show visually the concept of Time, or show how a Planck length of strings affects an invisible, to us, dimension’s dimensions!Frankly, my history/literature brain burned out. This is an example of what killed neurons in my head:“The particular calculation we were performing amounts, roughly speaking, to determining the mass of a certain particle species — a specific vibrational pattern of a string — when moving through a universe whose Calabi-Yau component we had spent all fall identifying. We hoped, in line with the strategy discussed earlier, that this mass would agree identically with a similar calculation done on the Calabi-Yau shape emerging from the space-tearing flop transition. The latter was the relatively easy calculation and we had completed it weeks before; the answer turned out to be 3, in the particular units we were using. Since we were now doing the purported mirror calculation numerically on a computer, we expected to get something extremely close to but not exactly 3, something like 3.000001 or 2.999999, with the tiny difference from rounding errors.” Page 277Wtf does 3 mean to Greene? Confirmation of space-tearing flop transitions by a mirror mathematical version of normal physics mathematics, which proved part of the physics of string theory.Got it?Or this:“Two related notions underlie these observable consequences; we will explain each in turn. First, as we have discussed, Strominger’s initial breakthrough was his realization that a three-dimensional sphere inside a Calabi-Yau space can collapse without an ensuing disaster, because a three-brane wrapped around it provides a perfect protective shield. But what does such a wrapped-brane configuration look like? The answer comes from Horowitz and Strominger, which showed that to persons such as ourselves who are directly cognizant only of the three extended spatial dimensions, the three-brane “”smeared”” around the three-dimensional sphere will set up a gravitational field that looks like a black hole. This is not obvious and becomes clear only from a detailed study of the equations governing the branes. Again, it’s hard to draw such higher-dimensional configurations accurately on a page, but figure 13.4 conveys the rough idea with a lower-dimensional analogy involving two-dimensional spheres.....Moreover, in Strominger’s 1995 breakthrough paper, he argued that the mass of the three-brane— the mass of a black hole, that is—is proportional to the volume of the three-dimensional sphere it wraps: The bigger the volume of the sphere, the bigger the three-brane must be in order to wrap around it, and the more massive it becomes. Similarly, the smaller the volume of the sphere, the smaller the mass of the three-brane that wraps it. As this sphere collapses, then, the three-brane that wraps around the sphere, which is perceived as a black hole, appears to become ever lighter. When the three-dimensional sphere has collapsed to a pinched point, the corresponding black hole—brace yourself—is massless.” Page 330My brain vibrated feebly, then flopped, and collapsed into a massless black hole, gentle reader.Also: Perturbation Theory, Duality, Quantum chromodynamics, Symmetry, Spins, Supergravity, M-Theory, primordial nucleosynthesis, curled up dimensions (from nine to eleven - they don’t know how many exactly since the math is giving various answers to the question of multiverses, depending on the equation), Entropy, the Big Bang, the fabric of Space/Time, and my favorites, the uncertainty principle, spatial topology and reciprocals - not. None of this is visible to the naked eye, gentle reader, and some of it not to the naked brain in any kind of brane. My bosons are weak, gentle reader, weak, by my gauge. The forces of my framework have been mechanically perturbed into a mass universe of simplified confusion. I am a flatland of one-dimensional fundamentals when it comes to ‘ordinary’ physics, much less possessing a particle of understanding the speculative kind of physics like string theories!There is a Notes section which supposedly is in English, not that I could tell - a native English speaker - and an Index. Thankfully, there is a glossary of scientific terms, of which its pages I wore down to a Planck’s constant. However, maybe too many donuts (whether torus or spherical) and not enough broccoli in my life has annihilated the necessary electrons I needed to shine like an energetic photon. I am clearly reduced in mental energy to the lower spectrums, like ancient photonic microwaves spread out in a vast void of background noise, barely distinguished.*sigh*I found this, gentle reader - a PBS NOVA show about Brian’s Greene’s book. It’s easier. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/t...
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  • Robin Wasserkaise
    January 1, 1970
    This book presents the latest breakdown of empirical existance with string theory- it's really well written and it sugguest how the fundimentals of all existing things come together in a very similar way as our understanding of music (little vibrations). I love this subject because, where the goal of civilization is to appreciate life in some form of organized chaos, some well spoken theorists have the ability to put things into perspective in such a way that the world seems to teem with possibi This book presents the latest breakdown of empirical existance with string theory- it's really well written and it sugguest how the fundimentals of all existing things come together in a very similar way as our understanding of music (little vibrations). I love this subject because, where the goal of civilization is to appreciate life in some form of organized chaos, some well spoken theorists have the ability to put things into perspective in such a way that the world seems to teem with possibility. Food for thought if you read this:
Presentism holds that neither the future nor the past exist—that the only things that exist are present things, and there are no non-present objects. Some have taken presentism to indicate that time travel is impossible for there is no future or past to travel to; however, recently some presentists have argued that although past and future objects do not exist, there can still be definite truths about past and future events, and that it is possible that a future truth about the time traveler deciding to return to the present date could explain the time traveler's actual presence in the present.[5] This view is contested by another contemporary advocate of presentism, Craig Bourne, in his recent book 'A Future for Presentism', although for substantially different (and more complex) reasons. In any case, the relativity of simultaneity in modern physics is generally understood to cast serious doubt on presentism and to favor the view known as four dimensionalism (closely related to the idea of block time) in which past, present and future events all coexist in a single spacetime.
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  • ayden
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book while taking a course (for non-physics students) called Modern Physics in Perspective, which centered on string theory. I learned so, so, so much in this class & the book helped a lot. If you're reading this book unassisted, be aware that there are some very confusing sections that you'll need to read a few times. Sometimes his analogies are a bit too inane. Also, I've discovered that many physicists have an unhealthy obsession with their research pet projects- I'd advise th I read this book while taking a course (for non-physics students) called Modern Physics in Perspective, which centered on string theory. I learned so, so, so much in this class & the book helped a lot. If you're reading this book unassisted, be aware that there are some very confusing sections that you'll need to read a few times. Sometimes his analogies are a bit too inane. Also, I've discovered that many physicists have an unhealthy obsession with their research pet projects- I'd advise that you ignore the sections on Calabi-Yau shapes entirely.These faults aside, The Elegant Universe is the only book about science that I have ever read from start to finish and enjoyed from start to finish. It'll blow your mind.
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    Physics books. Can I understand them properly? No. Am I still absolutely fascinated by them? Yes. String Theory. Do I understand it properly? Hell no. Am I fascinated by it? To the last detail.
  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    The first few chapters are fascinating as Greene recounts the history of modern physics, its departure from classical, Newtonian understanding. Then, he moves into string theory, and I found the arguments and explanations harder to follow. As Greene wrote the book just a few years after the Second Superstring Revolution, it makes sense that the arguments aren't as well-developed as those describing theories and experiments perfected and refined over the past 100 years or so. I really enjoyed the The first few chapters are fascinating as Greene recounts the history of modern physics, its departure from classical, Newtonian understanding. Then, he moves into string theory, and I found the arguments and explanations harder to follow. As Greene wrote the book just a few years after the Second Superstring Revolution, it makes sense that the arguments aren't as well-developed as those describing theories and experiments perfected and refined over the past 100 years or so. I really enjoyed the last few chapters: one on black holes, one about cosmology, and the final chapter, entitled "Prospects," in which Greene discusses the implications of string/M-theory on future thought and the possible questions string/M-theory may be able to answer. Overall, I really liked this book. It took me a while to get through because of the subtlety of the arguments and the density of the subject matter (no pun intended), but it was extremely informative. I also enjoyed Greene's writing style, especially the examples/metaphors/analogs he presented the reader with for help in understanding the extremely subtle topics he discusses. The only thing missing for me from Greene (and from Hawking and K.C. Cole) is: why did the Big Bang happen when it did, and where did the materials constituting the singularity (or the "Planck-size nugget") come from? My only problem with non-Christian, scientific accounts. The physicists never do offer a possible explanation of the origins of the origins. I recommend this book to anybody interested in astrophysics, to fans of Greene, and to anybody looking for a book geared towards general readers that is more updated than Hawking's A Brief History of Time but that still offers insight into points that Hawking discusses in his famous book.
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  • Genia Lukin
    January 1, 1970
    I never really got the hang of String Theory. I find it awfully weird and almost nigh-unscientific. Not being a physicist, I try not to make judgments about it, since I clearly don't understand it one bit - at least on the math level! - but I have to say that Brian Greene didn't endear it to me.I also fervently found myself wishing for the Nth time that science books were not so firmly divided between "professional, terrifying math texts" and "written for people who never figured out the Theory I never really got the hang of String Theory. I find it awfully weird and almost nigh-unscientific. Not being a physicist, I try not to make judgments about it, since I clearly don't understand it one bit - at least on the math level! - but I have to say that Brian Greene didn't endear it to me.I also fervently found myself wishing for the Nth time that science books were not so firmly divided between "professional, terrifying math texts" and "written for people who never figured out the Theory of Relativity". I think we need "Science for the Educated Sci-Fi Reader" or something like that. As it is, unless you're Stephen Hawking, who pretty much has the right to do anything he liked, if you're trying to explain relativity to me, again, you will put me off.
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  • João Vaz
    January 1, 1970
    Dear God, Will you ever allow us folks down here on Earth to come up with Einstein’s dream of a Theory of Everything (ToE)? The fact of the matter is that there are essentially two opposing theories upon which rests our knowledge of the universe: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. That is, the world of the large and the world of the miniscule. But whenever we try to unify them, our calculations just fall short; or better, fall large!, for we bump into infinity. Oh wait!, this book has jus Dear God, Will you ever allow us folks down here on Earth to come up with Einstein’s dream of a Theory of Everything (ToE)? The fact of the matter is that there are essentially two opposing theories upon which rests our knowledge of the universe: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. That is, the world of the large and the world of the miniscule. But whenever we try to unify them, our calculations just fall short; or better, fall large!, for we bump into infinity. Oh wait!, this book has just told me that String theorists already have! They claim that all fundamental particles are composed of tiny vibrating strings of energy whose movement gives rise to all those different particles that we know of. And in so doing, not only do these strings fit into Quantum theory, but they're also able to accurately predict the whys and wherefores of the big bulks of matter, like those of stars and galaxies! TADÃÃN!BUT, not only are there five different versions to the theory, but also, and because we are talking about excruciatingly small objects, it is impossible to test it! Not really a theory is it? (daimn!) It shamelessly enters the realm of Philosophy… Oh those naysayers! Tell me of one thing that we take for granted today that hasn’t started as Cartesian doubt! You go get them my fairy little oscillating strings, which so happen to explain black holes! But back to you old man, you never really cease to surprise me! So you’re telling me that the universe is this big cosmic symphony whose musical notes are the sounds exuded by the movement of strings? Oh you shrewd mayster!, I always knew you had a bend for drama! With my heart in your stars, J
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  • Zaid
    January 1, 1970
    Brian Greene had put all his efforts to write this book as much simple as he can and he succeeded to do so.The way he describes the technical terms in this book with such a great simplicity is really very appreciating.Several examples are also taken into account to profoundly explain some of the subtle concepts in this book.It takes us back to Relativity and then to Quantum Mechanics before proceeding to String Theory.It is hard to tell whether I believe in String Theory or not. There are ample Brian Greene had put all his efforts to write this book as much simple as he can and he succeeded to do so.The way he describes the technical terms in this book with such a great simplicity is really very appreciating.Several examples are also taken into account to profoundly explain some of the subtle concepts in this book.It takes us back to Relativity and then to Quantum Mechanics before proceeding to String Theory.It is hard to tell whether I believe in String Theory or not. There are ample evidences that proves this theory to be correct.but this theory is still in its premature form and due to its complexity, its hard to prove it experimentally.I learn many new things in this book and even made a notebook to prepare notes regarding the theory.I believe that time is not far enough when our physicist can finally prove whether The String Theory is really an Ultimate Theory of Universe or not.
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  • Mohamed al-Jamri
    January 1, 1970
    This is the first book by Brian Greene that I read. The first chapters were amazing and engaging, however later chapters about string theory were very hard for me to understand and I actually didn't finish the whole book, because I could not understand what I was reading.The author uses many metaphors to make his ideas simpler. He starts with a very easy to understand telling of history of scientific discoveries reaching to the theory of general relativity and quantum physics and the unification This is the first book by Brian Greene that I read. The first chapters were amazing and engaging, however later chapters about string theory were very hard for me to understand and I actually didn't finish the whole book, because I could not understand what I was reading.The author uses many metaphors to make his ideas simpler. He starts with a very easy to understand telling of history of scientific discoveries reaching to the theory of general relativity and quantum physics and the unification efforts. He maintains that string theory could be the one that finally unifies them and explain the number of particles we have and their specific masses and properties.My understanding of special and general relativity theories was greatly enhanced after reading it here as well as that of quantum physics. However when he got the details of string theory I was completely lost and gave up on it.
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  • Majo's Library.
    January 1, 1970
    Readers who have not discovered Greene should no waste one minute more!
  • Marius
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I am not a physicist. I have a MSc in environmental sciences which is 20 years out of date.Brian Greene describes elegantly special and general relativity as well as important aspects of quantum physics in the first third of his book. It is worth its money for these first few chapters.Unfortunately, his writing about the five string theories and their meta-theory called M-theory is almost unreadable and loses its focus very rapidly. Brian Greene seems to be so intimately and uncondit Disclaimer: I am not a physicist. I have a MSc in environmental sciences which is 20 years out of date.Brian Greene describes elegantly special and general relativity as well as important aspects of quantum physics in the first third of his book. It is worth its money for these first few chapters.Unfortunately, his writing about the five string theories and their meta-theory called M-theory is almost unreadable and loses its focus very rapidly. Brian Greene seems to be so intimately and unconditionally in love with string theories that there remains no hope for an objective assessment of their ability to stand up as a collection of scientific theories. As far as I understand, none of the string theories makes falsifiable predictions or suggests doable experiments compatible with today's technology.Greene admits by his own writing that string theories have not delivered what they have been invented for, in spite of intense research for more than 15 years (the book was written in the 90s'):- the seemingly arbitrary values of the standard model masses and force charges have not been explained- the number of possible implementations of the theories is so big that any specific real world observation can be explained by at least some of the myriad of possible solutions these thought models allow.In spite of these facts, the reader is invited to believe that string theories are the only way forward for physics in the 21st century. The main arguments I have retained are as follows: string theories are beautifully elegant. Hence, they must be true in some important and overarching way. And if the most clever mathematicians and physicists believe this, the not so gifted have no choice than to support their view.Well, I disagree.
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  • Shamana Ali
    January 1, 1970
    I have copious notes where I disagreed with the author. While I understand he is probably the leading public proponent of string theory, I felt that his oversimplification lead to some really problematic axioms and it was upon these shaky foundations that he tried to map out string theory. I'm afraid I think that the Theory of Everything (or Grand Unified Theory) will be articulated in a much more coherent way if one sets aside the supposition that is string theory. This may also be an oversimpl I have copious notes where I disagreed with the author. While I understand he is probably the leading public proponent of string theory, I felt that his oversimplification lead to some really problematic axioms and it was upon these shaky foundations that he tried to map out string theory. I'm afraid I think that the Theory of Everything (or Grand Unified Theory) will be articulated in a much more coherent way if one sets aside the supposition that is string theory. This may also be an oversimplification, but the theory strikes me as designed to be mathematically expedient, so while most theories are tested to find out if the equations work, this theory has the equations designed to work in the framework before it is even tested. Not my definition of true scientific work.
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  • Wolf
    January 1, 1970
    Dr. Greene, unfortunately, imagines himself to be a much better writer and expositor than he actually is. Far too much time is wasted on silly examples to explain his points; so much that the analogies not only break down but become absurd. These concepts are not very difficult. Dr. Greene fairly well crosses the line into talking down instead of explaining things.However, this book has some rather well laid out charts and diagrams and other visual aids. Importantly these come with a gracious de Dr. Greene, unfortunately, imagines himself to be a much better writer and expositor than he actually is. Far too much time is wasted on silly examples to explain his points; so much that the analogies not only break down but become absurd. These concepts are not very difficult. Dr. Greene fairly well crosses the line into talking down instead of explaining things.However, this book has some rather well laid out charts and diagrams and other visual aids. Importantly these come with a gracious degree of explanation. It almost makes up for the long-windedness.The universe & Dr. Greene's charts are elegant; Dr. Greene's writing is not.
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  • Omar Abdelaziz
    January 1, 1970
    او اتفرج على السلسله اتعملت 2003 الجزء الاول http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV_X2B...الجزء التانى http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9giLn...الجزء التالت http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36tGKr...
  • Bettie☯
    January 1, 1970
    Read it twice now - I love it even though I don't understand it all, the snippets I do 'get' are wowsicles.
  • Alex Zakharov
    January 1, 1970
    Picked this one up in preparation for an event with Brian Greene. Written over 15 years ago, it is missing the latest developments and consensus, which seems to be that the original vision for String Theory (ST) as a TOE didn’t pan out, yet it is still the only TOE we got. It's a bitch we can’t test it, and a shame we can’t find the shape of the Calabi-Yau manifold that corresponds to reality that we live in, but otherwise ST is quite beautiful indeed. On the plus side - ideas from ST are now fi Picked this one up in preparation for an event with Brian Greene. Written over 15 years ago, it is missing the latest developments and consensus, which seems to be that the original vision for String Theory (ST) as a TOE didn’t pan out, yet it is still the only TOE we got. It's a bitch we can’t test it, and a shame we can’t find the shape of the Calabi-Yau manifold that corresponds to reality that we live in, but otherwise ST is quite beautiful indeed. On the plus side - ideas from ST are now firmly embedded into quantum field theories, condensed matter physics, and cosmology. Also, in select areas, but in an unprecedented fashion, ST forged away ahead of mathematics by providing the intuitions that weren’t available to the latter. Anyway, back to the book - regardless of where we are today, Greene gives a nice intro into the historiography and basic tenets of ST, and provides a nice expose on the challenges that any TOE would have to grapple with sooner or later. Rest are notes to self.Starts off with Einstein’s resolution to Maxwell-Newton incompatibility (via special relativity), and then Newton’s gravity as force-at-distance paradox (general relativity); frames ST as an attempt to resolve GTR and QM. Brief, fairly conventional overview of SR/GTR and QM. Nice stories of how SR logically falls out of fully appreciating the absoluteness of c, and similarly how QM falls out of fully accepting implications of h (Planck’s constant) . Feynman sum-over-history interpretation is rarely covered, so that was cool.Unification attempts. Must explain all 4 fundamental forces at quantum level. Quantum Field Theory(s) do it for 3. Issues with G: Schrodinger’s equation blows up at sub-Planck level, Heisenberg’s “borrowing of energy” resulting in “constant creation and destruction” is a real nuisance, and zero-gravity flat space is no longer flat due to quantum foam. Enter ST. Standard Model’s zero-dimension point particles blow up math with zero distances and infinite energies at the limit. But Strings are 1-dimensional, and end up quantizing size with a minimum non-zero value, and so quantum foam is masked. Now zero-g space is actually flat, ‘cause smallest building block (1D string) is too coarse. QM and GTR play nicely together.Crap, infinities are avoided, but you still get probabilities going negative in Schrodinger’s equation… Not to worry – add 6 curved dimensions to spacetime and you are home free! But where is “home” in the 10D Calabi-Yau landscape of possibilities??Btw, “String Theory”’s full name is Superstring Theory with “super” for supersymmetry. Quite nifty with particles, antiparticles and spin symmetries. But it gets even better with symmetry, you see – with ST when you collapse something you don’t shrink to zero (minimum size constraint), but you go through the minimum and blow it out on the other side. And so you got “mirror symmetry” Calabi-Yau manifolds – geometrically different, yet physics-wise equivalent. And boy, ST gets a lot of mileage out of minimum size and mirror symmetry – seems like whenever there is an issue, just transform it into a different geometric space where it is easier to solve. And if math blows up, dig up that minimum size constraint and avoid that pesky singularity. For example, in the 90s there were 5 legitimate and different formulations of ST (“Type I”, “Heterotic” etc.), a tad hard to maintain a straight face when you are shooting for an ultimate TOE… But in ’95 Edward Witten himself unifies them all into M-theory, by throwing in another (11th!) dimension and demonstrating the equivalence of the 5 ST theories. Not to be complacent he even throws in a bonus 6th one - 11D supergravity!Now let's launch ST into outer space and see what sticks. Black Hole as elementary particle? No problem, ST got you covered via Calabi-Yau equivalence. Hawking radiation and black hole entropy? ST jumps in with black hole thermodynamics. And now, for the encore - what happens when black hole swallows Schrodinger’s wave function!? Is information lost? Not sure about ST, but I distinctly hear Claude Shannon’s muffled moan coming from his grave… Curtain falls.
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  • Y. L
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit this has been a book I have had a love-hate relationship with for a good few months. I may have had it a lot easier than others as the friend who graciously loaned me this book had preempted me with a few documentary videos of Stephen Hawking and BBC as an introduction to the subject. Nevertheless, the universe is (as always) a long and lengthy subject to grasp and claiming that reading this book was a breeze would do the universe no justice.Thanks to three hours or so of videos, I have to admit this has been a book I have had a love-hate relationship with for a good few months. I may have had it a lot easier than others as the friend who graciously loaned me this book had preempted me with a few documentary videos of Stephen Hawking and BBC as an introduction to the subject. Nevertheless, the universe is (as always) a long and lengthy subject to grasp and claiming that reading this book was a breeze would do the universe no justice.Thanks to three hours or so of videos, reading the first few chapters of this book was like reading revision notes on a day's worth of lecture. I wouldn't say I made every effort to understand each mathematic equation or even appreciate the technicality of physics and quantum mechanics that make the most part of this book, but I can now truly appreciate how mind-blowing it is to perceive the universe to be so much more than a big black blanket of space. Greene offered a glimpse of how quantum physicists and mathematicians look at our universe and writes eloquently on the slow and painstaking process of discovering the universe and the mechanics of it through decades of theories, collaboration and backsteps. I especially love how he details the life of himself and his colleagues as they accept each others strength and weaknesses on the subject and push each other to their limits to solve the mysteries that the universe has set at their doorstep. That itself would have probably made it a much more enjoyable book for me. As much as I am grateful for being given the opportunity to appreciate this subject via layman standards, I still feel that the book needs to be expressed a little better. Introductions on some parts of the subject could have been spared as the selling point of this book seems to be the concept of possibilities rather than dry science.I ended this book feeling a little overwhelmed - not sure if it is because of all the unnecessary fluff leading up to String Theory, the anticipation of whether String Theory will live up to its potential of a unified theory, or the fact that Greene had unsuspectingly dumped all his hopes and ideologies into the last few pages of the book to sell his idea of String Theory to the masses. I am all set to read Paul Davies' take on this...just as soon as I recover.
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  • Jason
    January 1, 1970
    I was given this book as a gift. I typically don't go for the sort of fluffy stuff you'd find in the "Science" section at Barnes & Noble, which I figured this would be. I'm much more into mathematics than physics and have devoted most of my academic career to math shit rather than physics shit. So I was already prepared to lose my footing at some point in this book. I have a pretty good grasp on Special Relativity though so I tried to use that as a gauge for how well this dude was describin I was given this book as a gift. I typically don't go for the sort of fluffy stuff you'd find in the "Science" section at Barnes & Noble, which I figured this would be. I'm much more into mathematics than physics and have devoted most of my academic career to math shit rather than physics shit. So I was already prepared to lose my footing at some point in this book. I have a pretty good grasp on Special Relativity though so I tried to use that as a gauge for how well this dude was describing the more recent stuff beyond the point where my eyes just glazed over. I was happy that this fella got into stuff that lost me. It worries me when I finish a book about a complex or abstract thing and it's not a struggle to understand the material. I wonder whether the writer is just that good or that bad. What I found about this dude is that his wanting to illustrate everything with a metaphor or an analogy wound up confusing the stuff more. I mean, some were cool and I think I gleaned something of the rough shape of an idea. There were other spots where he used 3-4 different metaphors to get across an idea that was already pretty damn abstract. I think at those spots I'd have preferred more elaboration in the form of the notes in the back for "the expert reader" or for "the mathematically inclined". I basically read this as a starting point. I kept a book for notes as I read and now I have a bunch of pages of leads for further investigation. On a superficial level, I liked this guy's writing style. And the book was somewhat enjoyable while discussing bananas shit. I think there was a chapter or 2 where my reading was as productive as staring at the floor. All in all I don't know who I'd recommend this to. I'm part of a math club and no one there would take it off my hands when I was done because they don't like "rock star physicists" who write fluffy science books. But at the same time I can't give it to my mom because it does get into stuff within the first page that would lose her. I'm not sure if all this explains why I gave it 3 stars, but I felt the need to be lengthy.
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  • Mark Laflamme
    January 1, 1970
    For me, "The Elegant Universe" is the book that started it all. Greene has such a smooth way of easing the novice into the complexities of string theory, the reader feels almost acquainted by the time the science is introduced. Never boring or tedious, Greene deftly guides us through the basics of relativity, explains the importance of frames of reference, and eases us into the almost magical world of gravity and timespace.Like Einstein, Greene presents the science through simple visuals - balls For me, "The Elegant Universe" is the book that started it all. Greene has such a smooth way of easing the novice into the complexities of string theory, the reader feels almost acquainted by the time the science is introduced. Never boring or tedious, Greene deftly guides us through the basics of relativity, explains the importance of frames of reference, and eases us into the almost magical world of gravity and timespace.Like Einstein, Greene presents the science through simple visuals - balls and bicycles, funny cars and cartoon spaceships. The reader will never feel as though he sits in a classroom with a boring professor droning away the afternoon. Instead, Greene describes the physics in a real world way and in doing so, prepares even the most casual student for the truly strange world of strings.String theory appears to be the road to a unified theory, the long sought Theory of Everything that will unite relativity and quantum mechanics. Along the way is a wonderous world of possibilities, with extra dimensions, parallel worlds, and all the while, tiny strings vibrating the symphony of the universe.I read this book with a zeal normally reserved for action novels. Each night was a new lesson and a new glimpse at a different part of the universe. Greene's gift is a clear and friendly writing style that makes this heavy science accessible to those of us without a string of initials at the end of our name.Many physicists came before Greene and others have followed suit. But for me, "The Elegant Universe" is the book that opened my eyes to the mind blowing world of strings and the possibilities they present. And I've been hooked on string theory since. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever looked at a sky full of stars and wondered what it's all about.Mark LaFlamme, author of "The Pink Room"
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