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Black Holes and Time Warps : Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (1994)

by Kip S. Thorne

Other authors: Stephen W. Hawking (Foreword)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1271513,803 (4.24)12
"Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them." "Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time." "Kip Thorne, along with fellow theorists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, a cadre of Russians, and earlier scientists such as Oppenheimer, Wheeler and Chandrasekhar, has been in the thick of the quest to secure answers. In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work of scientific history and explanation, Dr. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads his readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, coming finally to a uniquely informed answer to the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know the things they think they know?" "Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has been one of the greatest best-sellers in publishing history. Anyone who struggled with that book will find here a more slowly paced but equally mind-stretching experience, with the added fascination of a rich historical and human component."--Jacket.… (more)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
The central argument of this book is undoubtedly true. We have lost our sense of wonder, especially in the last 20-30 years.

I watched the first images of that black hole in 2019 (*) in awe wondering how many cosmic phenomena are there yet to discover, but then I grew up in the shadow of the moon landing when the assumption was we would be living on Mars and in space stations by now. I don’t want to over romanticise that period because it was overshadowed by the Cold War and Nuclear War. Many seem to forget that we still live in the shadow of Nuclear War but, unlike the 70s, we no longer live under the occasional sunbeam of hope that we might overcome our problems that formed the narrative of Star Trek and even Star Wars to a lesser degree. Today we are only encouraged to see that Britain has Got Talent rather than the Universe contains wonders. Don’t get me wrong Britain has got Talent is a good watch but does any of it really matter as much of it seems like an attempt to escape from the boredom of everyday life in fleeting pleasures, whereas greater understanding of the cosmos can give yet greater pleasure: purpose, imagining that we too, or our ancestors, may progress to a point where we overcome our problems and will be unable to travel to that black hole much as our ancestors looked up and wondered about the moon. I sometimes feel like many politicians and entrepreneurs don’t want us to look to the sky above but keep our eyes firmly fixed on them as if they can stand comparison with the sheer majesty of this black hole. A sense of awe and curiosity is, in my opinion, one of things that made us even capable of seeing this black hole ( consider the existence of the black hole was ‘discovered’ by someone working with paper and pencil; refined by someone considering those theories; then worked on by a team over a century later to film its existence). If we don’t see the majesty and possibilities this picture shows us; if we fail to learn the lessons of Einstein’s work i.e. we mustn’t stop imagining, pondering beyond the observable but basing our theories on the observable. There is an irony that this vision of what until now may be considered one of the deadliest phenomena in the universe also is a confirmation of possibilities of the continued life of our species as it reflects our greatest qualities: our ability to dream; to work hard on our dreams as a team; and then our ability to start all over again when new possibilities appear.

Give me an unassuming Einstein who, for all his many human failings, strove through hard work he didn’t need to advertise every day, to raise all our understanding so we could all get something out of it and not just feel small and stupid next to him.



NB: I can't speak for anyone else's sense of wonder in relation to Sagittarius A*'s image, but I found it fascinating. I know there is something in the middle, and I have a fairly good grasp of what it is. That's a pretty bloody astonishing thing. To see an actual image of it, with the light cutting off at the event horizon, and that fucking whopping monster of a thing being flat out invisible in the middle of that firestorm. If you aren't amazed by it, you probably haven't got a clue what it represents. Although it is pretty “crappy” image quality (this image is a result of using data from eight radio telescopes sited on Earth and the black hole is 55m light years away from Earth, so we cannot really complain about “crappy” images). It'd look a lot more impressive from one light year away. If you could survive, which you probably couldn't. ( )
  antao | Nov 14, 2020 |
This classic was first published in hardback in 1994. It is one of the best books written on the topic by one of the key players in the field. This book stands out for a number of reasons: 1)quality of the writing,
2)An excellent bibliography, and 3) very well done illustrations. I have lost count of the number of astronomy books published in the last 14-20 years with poor quality photos or drawings. I wish Dr. Thorne would write a revision of the based on the recent discoveries made by the Hubble and Chandra Space Telescopes. This book is worth your time, and a careful reading will give you a good understanding of how our knowledge of black holes developed and what may come next.Christopher Nolan, director of the forthcoming movie "Interstellar" based the movie on some of the ideas in this book. Dr. Thorne was a consultant to the movie and is listed as one of the executive producers of the film. ( )
  Steve_Walker | Sep 13, 2020 |
This book explains, among other thing, a very cool theory about using stable wormholes to create a time machine. Now if we could only make wormholes stable, manipulate them, and pass through them safely without radiation feedback ... then I could go back and create a time paradox. ( )
  Darrell.Newton | Dec 27, 2017 |
An insider view of high energy physics by a hippie. This will explain black holes and quantum gravity. Don't let the publication date fool you. Unless you can do the math (which this book blessedly leaves out) this will bring you up to (nearly) date. And it gives you a look at the people involved. ( )
  Richj | Dec 11, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kip S. Thorneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hawking, Stephen W.Forewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bouquet, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I dedicate this book to John Archibald Wheeler, my mentor and friend.
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Of all the conceptions of the human mind, from unicorns to gargoyles to the hydrogen bomb, the most fantastic , perhaps, is the black hole: a hole in space with a definite edge into which anything can fall and out of which nothing can escape; a hole with a gravitational force so strong that even light is caught and held in its grip; a hole that curves space and warps time.
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"Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them." "Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time." "Kip Thorne, along with fellow theorists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, a cadre of Russians, and earlier scientists such as Oppenheimer, Wheeler and Chandrasekhar, has been in the thick of the quest to secure answers. In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work of scientific history and explanation, Dr. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads his readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, coming finally to a uniquely informed answer to the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know the things they think they know?" "Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has been one of the greatest best-sellers in publishing history. Anyone who struggled with that book will find here a more slowly paced but equally mind-stretching experience, with the added fascination of a rich historical and human component."--Jacket.

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Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them.
Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time.

Kip Thorne, along with fellow theorists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, a cadre of Russians, and earlier scientists such as Oppenheimer, Wheeler and Chandrasekhar, has been in the thick of the quest to secure answers. In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work of scientific history and explanation, Dr. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads his readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, coming finally to a uniquely informed answer to the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know the things they think they know? Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has been one of the greatest best-sellers in publishing history. Anyone who struggled with that book will find here a more slowly paced but equally mind-stretching experience, with the added fascination of a rich historical and human component.
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