on 8 January 1999
Kip Thorne worked long on this book (originaly published in 1993), but the result is worth his and the readers effort. Both history of science and popular science - written by someone who participated in some of the discoveries it describes - this tells the tale of the mathematical discovery of black holes, the opposition to the idea of a lot of eminent scientists (Einstein among them), and the gradual realisation that black holes do realy exist. Thorne ponders on several of the ramifications black holes have on our understanding of the universe, not in the least the possibility of time travel. However, science fiction readers will be disapointed to learn why time travel through black holes probably is scientificaly impossible. A very enjoyable and thoughtprovoking text; as with all good books, you loath the moment when you reach the last page. A pity Thorne is a careful, slow writer. An update that brings the subject to the present would be most welcome. (The science in this book is not too difficult, especialy if your interested in this sort of subject. I myself studied history and my physics and mathematics background is poor to say the least. The reader with a physics or mathematics background will find lots of technical detail in the many notes.)
on 15 November 2007
Kip Thorne is an eccentric author who reveals scientific enterprise of quantum gravity and black holes research in a simple language. This book is rich in history, and classical (Newtonian physics and theory of relativity) and modern physics (quantum mechanics) are presented in non mathematical form. We get rare first hand insights of scientific styles and temperament, and his personal involvement in various aspects of black holes research and his interaction with scientists all over the world especially those from former Soviet Union and the impact of communism on black hole research. The first part of the book describes theory of relativity, concept of spacetime fabric of the universe and curvature of spacetime in presence of matter (stars, galaxies, etc.) to generate gravity. The author gives us a good historical background to build his case for black hole concept. Theory of relativity predicts the existence of black holes but Einstein refused to accept it and so is Arthur Eddington another leading exponent of theory of relativity. The idea of black holes remained in academic obscurity among few who believed in it and it progressively became clear that dying giant stars undergo implosions in which nuclear force the strongest of all four forces of cosmos buckles under gravitational force creating a blackholes. Black holes have been discovered in the center of dying giant stars and in centers of galaxies, and efforts are underway to detect the black hole gravitational waves carried to earth from distant parts of the universe and to seek the secret of what is inside a black hole: a route to another universe? The author warps up the second part by discussing the possibility of constructing wormholes with exotic matter (tunnels in space connecting two widely separated locations in the universe) through hyperspace for interstellar travel and back to the future. He is one of the leaders in proposing interstellar travel. Physicists and academics are too conservative to get involved in space travel research as it is traditionally linked to science fiction and Star Trek junkies. The author can mesmerize the reader with his incredible knowledge and ease with which he can communicate to the reader; at the same time he is eccentric enough to work in one of his laboratory (Palomar Mountains) nude and draw criticisms from peers. He is also crazy enough to take bet with peers for things such as Penthouse magazine and annoy his wife and family with Mormon heritage. This book is free of marketing strategies of the publisher as the author shares his knowledge with the reader to his best of abilities to make everyone understands it even by offering few simple calculations and formulas. Do not be discouraged by the size of the book (619 pages). The text flows well and it is deeply engrossing. Anyone interested in black hole and space travel must have this book.
on 17 May 2010
This book, written by the great cosmologist Professor Kip Thorne, leads us through some of the wonders and paradoxes of the universe.
If you want to escape from your world, you can do no better than join him. He takes us step by step through the various discoveries that have led to this understanding of the universe in which we have evolved, in our own little corner, on this little planet.
Reading is like living in a movie, so brilliantly and with such passion, does he describe this epic search for truth.
The factual information he gives about the universe and reality itself as we proceed, provides a riveting tableau of our surroundings and universal history.
If you are interested in what lies beyond the horizon of Earth, this book is a must!
on 9 November 1999
This book is a very readable account of the history of reasearching the very limits of our world - the large (cosmic) and the small (quantum). From Einsteins work on Relativity to the latest research into the physics of black holes and worm holes, this account takes us through the emotions all reasearchers have in their work. The elation of new discoveries and heartache of errors uncovered. From the early years of the big players in the US and USSR - through to thier "grand-child graduates" moving the boundaries of mathematics and physics to new depths. Kip has written a enthralling account behind the mathematical and physical discoveries surrounding the limits of cosmology - black holes, worm holes, and ... time warps(!). From the sci-fi prologue (what is the science and what is the fiction ?), I found this book very difficult to put down. For the lay reader there is very little mathematics and a lot of very good descriptions of all the concepts introduced. An excellent book and highly recommended.
on 20 June 2004
This book was my actual first read on physics. That was about 3 years ago, and I haven't stop reading physics since then. Teacher could very well learn from his explaining, just as they would learn by reading ANY Asimov's book. If you like this one, read Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, never have I read a better explanation of the velocity of light and its consequences!
on 28 May 2012
One of my favourite books and also one of the most influential. I read this in my teens, about 12 years ago, in the same summer that I read Hawking's Brief History of Time. Although I skimmed through the book again before writing this review. ;-) This book is perhaps easier to read and like Hawking's book is full of diagrams to aid understanding. Some relativity is covered, including the idea of lightcones and how they relate to causality. This was actually one of the trickier concepts, in that I tried to fully understand what the lightcone diagram meant and what the consequences are of the information displayed upon one. They are key to understanding black holes and how they distort space-time.
There is a fair amount of overlap between this book and Hawking's book. Both cover some of the history of black holes and of cosmology. Both the history of the physical concepts but of the people too. The content is aimed a general audience but with the understanding that some effort is required to grasp some of the difficult concepts. This book did however contain a lot of new material that I eventually met again at university: such as the life cycle of a star, and how these eventually lead to white dwarves / supernovae / black holes etc. It was the first book where I encountered electron degeneracy and at the age of 16 (or so) it was certainly very understandable.
The author is an expert in the field of gravitation and of black holes so there is barely anyone more appropriate to present such a book. While the author is clearly an authority on the subject matter and no point does he condescend the reader but rather makes every effort to explain difficult concepts, combined with his humour and anecdotes about Hawking and of Zel'dovich, this book should be counted as a classic science book for the layman. The anecdotes of the author's interactions with Zel'dovich, a soviet era scientist, are something which are unique to this book. There cannot be too many other westerners that had access to a soviet researcher in the same way, the insight to the conversations are interesting and quite illuminating of the world at that time.
This book covers many topics such as how to generate electrical energy from a spinning black hole, the life-cycle of stars, the concept of space-time as non-absolute entity, black holes, spin foams and, of course, time travel. I cannot name a book that betters this one with regards to the subject matter.
on 18 June 2016
A wonderful introduction
A wonderful introduction to Cosmology told at least partly through the many physicists and astronomers that are behind current theories. It helps that the author, Mr Thorne, is one of the participants.
The book arrived quickly and in good condition. The high quality of this used product and the range of their books makes me feel that they are a company I want to know more about
on 26 November 2012
This book is truly amazing, a great introduction to ideas such as special relativity. Whilst some of the ideas may be a tad out of date the general picture painted by the book is still accurate, and is presented in a very readable way. A great mix of physics and a little bit of history as well.
on 17 December 2014
Its a great book. It's a long book. The intermingling of science with the scientists personal lives and ambitions across the globe makes it a much more animated read. Clearly some of the science is a little out of date now but not much I don't believe.
on 29 September 2015
Given as a present, very happy