Brian Greene, professor of physics at Columbia, has written a nice yarn about modern physics (though it is a little dated as I write this), specifically focusing on string theory. As Greene himself admits, string theory has yet to be experimentally validated, but that doesn't stop him. After all, quarks were a theoretical pipe-dream for a few years before they were experimentally observed. Only posterity will tell if string theory will be placed in the same trashcan as phlogiston and caloric, or on the central pedestal of science as Greene and his cohorts hope. Anyway, I'm here to judge "The ElegantUniverse", not string theory itself. String theory is a candidate (though by no means the only one) for the holy grail of physics, a grand unified theory from which all other aspects of physics can be derived.
Even if you aren't science-inclined, this book is quite approachable. Despite the subject matter, no equation appears outside of E=mc˛. Greene works entirely with analogies to explain the subject matter; most work, some don't. To build up to string theory, Greene first presents a review of special and general relativity and quantum mechanics. The section of relativity is, in my opinion, incredibly lucid. I learned more from his explanation than I did in my high school and university physics classes. Quantum mechanics is bizarre in an of itself, but Greene nevertheless does an admirable job explaining the basics. The section on string theory is interesting. Since we are on the bleeding edge of it, I'm not surprised that I found things a little muddy and had to re-read a few passages. Nevertheless, I understand it a great deal more. I won't be able to take on an actual theorist, but I probably could win an argument concerning strings in a bar.
Greene doesn't have the boundless enthusiasm of Michio Kaku or wit (or emphasis on the actual people) of Leonard Mlodinow, but the tone is hardly dry or boring. If you're interested at all in string theory or one part of what modern physicists do, this is probably a book for you. All you need is an open mind and a little background in science.
I just wanted to say that this book is great. I am a newcomer to physics and string theory and so far I have been able to gain a grasp on the concepts rather quickly. Brian Greene explains them in ways that are easy to visualize and understand. His vocabulary is impressive and I have learned a ton of new words to use myself. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning a handful of new material.
This book gave me a very good overview of modern physics and where the physics community is headed in the coming years. Descriptions of physical theories are presented with easy to understand analogies for those with little to no background in physics.
One of my favorite books. Very well written and entertaining. I've got a background in maths so this review is not aimed at people who don't have a similar background.
A new edition of the New York Times bestseller-now a three-part Nova special: a fascinating and thought-provoking journey through the mysteries of space, time, and matter.Now with a new preface (not in any other edition) that will review the enormous public reception of the relatively obscure string theory-made possible by this book and an increased number of adherents amongst physicists-The ElegantUniverse "sets a standard that will be hard to beat" (New York Times Book Review). Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory 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.Today physicists and mathematicians throughout the world are feverishly working on one of the most ambitious theories ever proposed: superstring theory. String theory, as it is often called, is the key to the Unified Field Theory that eluded Einstein for more than thirty years. Finally, the century-old antagonism between the large and the small-General Relativity and Quantum Theory-is resolved. String theory proclaims that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe, from the frantic dancing of subatomic quarks to the majestic swirling of heavenly galaxies, are reflections of one grand physical principle and manifestations of one single entity: microscopically tiny vibrating loops of energy, a billionth of a billionth the size of an atom. In this brilliantly articulated and refreshingly clear book, Greene relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind twentieth-century physics' search for a theory of everything.Through the masterful use of metaphor and analogy, The Elegant Universe makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated viscerally accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works."[A] delightful, lucid introduction to the greatest problem in all of physics, the quest to unify all the laws of nature. Greene does a masterful job in presenting complex materials in a lively, engaging manner. Highly recommended to anyone who has ever gazed at the heavens and wondered, as Einstein did, if God had a choice in making the universe."-Michio Kaku, author of Hyperspace and Visions"Everyone who is curious about the horizons of theoretical physics-past, present, and future-will enjoy this book."-Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study"[A] beautifully crafted account of string theory-a theory that appears to be a most promising waystation on the road to an ultimate theory of everything. His book gives a clear, simple, yet masterful account that makes a complex theory very accessible to nonscientists but is also a delightful; read for the professional."-David M. Lee, professor of physics, Cornell University"[A] tour-de-force of science writing. Perhaps more than any other popular-level account, this book peels away layers of detail and reveals the stunning essence of cutting-edge physics. With a rare blend of scientific integrity and literary flair, the author takes us on a whirlwind journey to the forefront of the search for the ultimate theory of the universe."-Shing-Tung Yau, Harvard University; Fields Medalist, winner of the National Medal of Science"Greene goes beyond Kaku's book [Beyond Einstein], exploring the ideas and recent developments with a depth and clarity I wouldn't have thought possible. Like Simon Singh in "Fermat's Enigma," he has a rare ability to explain even the most evanescent ideas in a way that gives at least the illusion of understanding....