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The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for… (1999)

by Brian Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,43878819 (3.98)1 / 151
Relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind the search for the string theory--the ultimate theory which scientists believe is capable of describing all physical phenomena, large and small; and discusses how the theory is impacting human understanding of space and time.
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English (73)  French (2)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
An excellent explanation of a theory we've all heard of but which few non-physicists, I fear, have much grasp of. Building up from the basics, through general relativity and quantum mechanics, Greene paints a phenomenally rich and compelling picture of superstring theory (and its derivatives) with analogies perfectly suited to make this ephemeral set of ideas intuitive. I'm convinced! A must-read. ( )
  KatherineJaneWright | Jul 17, 2022 |
  laplantelibrary | Jul 8, 2022 |
Read 4 times over ( )
  profpenguin | May 3, 2022 |
Not my cup of tea. I have the 1999 edition and had high hopes for gaining insights into the current state of universe, but it was not to be. What I did find was a somewhat self-aggrandizing tome on theoretical notions, guesses and suppositions amid a plethora of name-dropping episodes wholly absent in comparable books such at Einsteins' "Relativity," Feynman's "QED" and Hawking's "The Grand Design." Green's arguments and explanations elbows-rubbing incidents reminded me of those heated theological battles over the potential number of dancing angels on the head of a pin. Like I said, not my cup of tea. ( )
  Renzomalo | Jul 21, 2021 |
My belief is based on the fact that string theory is the first science in hundreds of years to be pursued in pre-Baconian fashion, without any adequate experimental guidance.

Philip Warren Anderson

Since the middle of the 20th century, the fundamental problem of physics has been finding the Theory of Everything: A theory that would reconcile Relativity, Einstein's theory of the very large; to live alongside of Quantum Mechanics, the paradoxical theory of probabilities on the subatomic level. Both worldviews have been proved, insofar as any scientific theory is ever proved. And neither will allow for the other to be completely correct.

Professor Greene (who disdains the title of "Professor" or "Doctor", by omission) explains the two theories very well, even to someone who has read about them innumerable times. (In particular, his explanations of Relativity are extraordinary well done.)

This incredible clarity of purpose and prose continues when he continues into string theory, quantum gravity, and M-theory, although it is dimmed a bit. The book is not math-heavy by any means, relegating such diversions to the endnotes.

(Unfortunately, there are also many fascinating historical explanations relegated to these same notes. Turning to an endnote, the reader never knows if they'll find an historical illumination, or a block of equations.)

Apparently, the world is composed of scores of vibrating, undulating loops of string, looped through dimensions beyond our perception. These explanations are are deftly written, and hold the readers attention well. When the narrative moves along to the five competing string theories, and to M-theory, the One Ring of that will unite modern physics, the story becomes a little difficult to follow. But this is a minor quibble.

When the author details his own small contribution to the field, it is downplayed, giving much credit to his collaborators. A sense of barely contained pride is present in the text simultaneously, giving a wonderful tension to this chapter.

Since string theory is unproven, the book can't help but end on a tenuous note. The author is hopeful that technology will advance to the point where it is possible to prove that superstring theory is more than a blue-sky physicist's dream. ( )
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
In the great tradition of physicists writing for the masses, ''The Elegant Universe'' sets a standard that will be hard to beat.

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian Greeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bartocci, ClaudioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Civalleri, LuigiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother and the memory of my father, with love and gratitude
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During the last thirty years of his life, Albert Einstein sought relentlessly for a so-called unified field theory—a theory capable of describing nature's forces within a single, all-encompassing, coherent framework.
Calling it a cover-up would be far too dramatic.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind the search for the string theory--the ultimate theory which scientists believe is capable of describing all physical phenomena, large and small; and discusses how the theory is impacting human understanding of space and time.

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Physicists and mathematicians all over the world are feverishly working in these years on one of the most ambitious theories that have ever been conceived: the theory of superstrings, or strings, as it is often called. Einstein searched for more than thirty years without ever achieving a unified theory, which reconciled general relativity and quantum mechanics, the two cornerstones of twentieth-century physics. String theory provides perhaps the solution to this profound and fascinating problem, describing all the forces of nature in a single conceptual framework of supreme elegance.
Everything that is wonderful in the universe is the result of the vibrations of individual units, ultramicroscopic strings hidden in the depth of matter. The 'modes of vibration', the 'notes' intoned by these strings, determine the intimate constitution of matter, such as violin strings that perform an ordered and harmonious cosmic symphony.
In this book, Brian Greene tells the story of an extraordinary adventure, talking about it as a protagonist and transmitting all the enthusiasm of scientific discovery. The revolutionary vision of the universe that emerges from his story involves hidden and rolled up dimensions in the folds of space, black holes that are transformed into elementary particles, discontinuity in the weaving of spacetime and universes that generate other universes.
"The elegant universe" describes with intelligence and vivacity the exhilarating discoveries and the still unsolved mysteries of the universe. Through the wise use of analogies and fascinating metaphors, Greene manages to make immediately accessible some of the most complex and sophisticated concepts of contemporary physics.
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Average: (3.98)
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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393058581, 039333810X


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