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An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe Paperback – 31 Dec 2004

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An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe + The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics + The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design
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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd (31 Dec 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9812561315
  • ISBN-13: 978-9812561312
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 15.1 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 232,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Before beginning the study of the quantum theory of black holes, one must first become thoroughly familiar with the geometry of classical black holes in a variety of different coordinate systems. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ed Spencer on 25 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
It is a little hard to give this an accurate rating because I was unable to follow very much of it. Although I'm a lifelong astronomy and cosmology geek this was far beyond me.

The first page is full of equations (which is fine), but it is assumed that you know what most of the symbols mean already. This is not high school or A level stuff - you'll need a good degree in physics or astrophysics to understand what's going on.

That's not necessarily a criticism of the book, more a warning not to be taken in by the word 'introduction' in the title as I was! You can still glean some information by reading the text around the equations but I'm going to move onto something a bit easier first.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Anthony J. Bentley on 7 Nov 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not the usual dumbed-down offering.
Prof. Susskind has written a couple of populist books on modern Physics but this is not one of them. It is a serious text on physics at the highest level. It assumes at least a working understanding of the mathematics of General Relativity and black holes.
For anyone who is interested, the necessary background can be acquired by following Prof. Susskind's lectures on YouTube.
OTOH, if you don't feel the need to stretch your mental muscles into spaghetti, you can always leave a copy on your coffee-table to impress casual visitors.
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41 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Jim McKenzie on 27 July 2006
Format: Paperback
It's a really great little book. I got half-way through and realized I wasn't understanding the mathematics involved. I was not surprised by this as I am an artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.I have had little opportunity to learn the terms and concepts involved. So I stopped reading this book and read Roger Penrose's "Road to Reality". It is an excellent book from which I was able to learn about the mathematics, and a whole lot more. I then read Susskind's Holographic Universe without much trouble, understanding quite well what he is getting at. I would rate it as "terribly interesting".
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Easy to understand - very simple, no-nonsense style. 6 July 2005
By Anonymous Coward - Published on
Format: Paperback
The title of the book reminds me of the classic physics question: yes, this equation can be expanded for small values of the parameter. But before you whip out that expansion, first tell me what "small" means in this context?

I would venture to say that the title of the book is a misnomer on some level. This is a technical book, there's no question about that. If you are not a physicist, you will not understand a single page. When I say "technical", what I specifically mean is you should have:

* A course on general relativity. The first page dumps the Schwarzschild metric on you. You should be familiar with, say, the Faraday tensor (which any decent GR or even SR course should cover).

* A course on quantum field theory. The book very quickly goes into the massless free Klein-Gordon equation in a Schwarzschild background. You should know the basics of string theory. After all, that's what the book is partially about!

* A course on thermo/statistical mechanics. The book delves into black hole entropy. Be prepared to blow the dust off your partition functions.

In that sense, this book is not an introduction, and is CERTAINLY not for the layperson. Now that I've disparaged this book enough, I'll tell you why this is a phenomenal book that deserves a place on your bookshelf (again, for certain values of "you").

This book is a gentle introduction to the classical and quantum mechanical principles of blackholes. It was beautifully written. It may very well be one of my favorite books. When I say "beautiful", I don't mean beautiful like Wald's classic but impenetrable book on GR. Imagine David Griffiths or Matt Visser writing a book for mid-level grad students going into high energy physics. They go deeply into the different coordinates used for blackhole spacetimes and Penrose diagrams, but in a hand-holding way that emphasizes knowing-by-visualization rather than knowing-by-calculation. Yes, the calculations are all there, but the authors are not content with that. They go into the nitty-gritty type of understanding that seems to be absent in most books on this subject.

Which brings me to the next point: diagrams. This book may contain more diagrams than any other comprable book I've seen (except for the behemoth called "Gravitation", but with the case of the telephone book, half the diagrams are wasteful; do we REALLY need to see a picture of firecracker's world line or yet another picture of Newton?). The diagrams are numerous and effective. Kudos. I wish more authors paid as much attention to visualization.

The authors took a very difficult subject and wrote an extremely accessible and well written book on it. If you are a student of high energy physics, or simply want to see someone masterfully write on the subject, this book deserves a place on your bookshelf. Again, for certain values of "you".

I'm still in the process of reading this book, but one fault I can find is that I wish the index was a bit more extensive. However, that's small-fry compared to what makes this book great.
63 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Define "Introduction" 6 May 2005
By B. Dwan - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you're into reading about physics but don't have the maths to back it up, this isn't the book for you. This "introduction" is probably aimed at university physics students. I am without a university physics education and am finding the book almost as hard as reading a Japanese newspaper. As with reading a Japanese newspaper, the pictures help a lot. I don't feel I'm getting enough to "rate" the book, but I can warn others as innumerate as myself.

Update: I've made it ~halfway through. There's a great deal of uncertainty as to what I'm actually understanding as opposed to what I'm just filling-in with intuitive fictions. But I can live with that (as we all must at some point).
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
If you want this book: buy the paperback 3 Feb 2009
By J. Koelman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in black holes, but don't have a rock-solid math/physics background, this is NOT your book. Buy Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program) instead.

If you are a physics student familiar with relativity theory and quantum mechanics, and interested in knowing more about the Bekenstein bound and the intriguing holographic principle, this is YOUR BOOK. However, save yourself some money and buy the paperback edition: An Introduction To Black Holes, Information And The String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe (I bought the hardcopy edition, but see below).

There is no other introductory text that goes as deep into holographic theories and entropy bounds as this one. Furthermore the book is well-written, contains clear illustrations, and appeals to the reader's intuition. Would be close to 5 stars, would my copy not have deintegrated (the binding quality is so poor that after some reading the hardcover gets detached from the pages). Hence the above advise to buy this book in paperback edition for well less than half the price.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Black hole spirit according to a true leader 5 July 2008
By Lubos Motl - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is an exciting review of the most important ideas that have emerged in our quest to understand black holes - essential labs that tell us a lot about quantum gravity and the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

It is an introduction but an introduction for a person who is serious about black holes, not just a person who wants to impress his friends with two emotional sentences about them!

Nevertheless, ordinary people should give it a try, especially plumbers because the author is also an ex-plumber whose father was a plumber and wanted his son to continue in the tradition.

It just happened that Susskind also became one of the top 5 black hole experts in the world. Please don't ask me to tell you who are the remaining four because it could be a tough task.

He's been waging a war against some superficially acceptable but wrong ideas - such as the information loss - and he became the winner. Meanwhile, he also co-discovered string theory and other things.

I don't know James Lindesay too well, so let me talk about Susskind as the author.

At the beginning of the book, you are presented with the geometry of the Schwarzschild black hole - especially what is its causal structure. Equations but also pictures are included. Various coordinates are used to find out who can escape from where etc. i.e. what is the causal diagram.

Following chapters are dedicated to quantum fields in this curved background and particle production, Unruh radiation and density matrix etc. When they have everything, they can finally explain why black hole evaporate (they're not quite black) and why they have a temperature and entropy.

Charged black holes differ in some details and they are explained, too. But all these semiclassical pictures are so 1970s. The laws of Nature must be unitary so something must be slightly different.

Susskind dedicates more than 1/2 of the book to the most modern interpretations and insights that have occurred in our research of string theory and closely related paradigms such as stretched horizons, baryon number violation by black holes, complementarity, holography (he is a co-father of both), related entropy bounds, the concise description of black holes in Maldacena's AdS/CFT, and light-cone descriptions of black holes.

If you want to know how black holes really work according to the best science we have as of 2008, read this book in detail. The author is one of the funniest top physicists and he writes in a no-nonsense style.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
String Theory Describes Black Holes 29 Jan 2011
By TS - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a real path-breaking study by one of the founders of String Theory and author of "Black Hole Wars," a more historical narrative detailing the debate with Stephen Hawkings about whether information is lost in black holes. This book, in contrast, is less conversational and more like a thin text packed with intellectual diamnods. It is brief and action packed with formulas and simple explanations, a great balance of theory and narrative which very succinctly covers the topics of black holes and how they are described by string theory.

Not like the usual book which is fluffy with no mathematical details, or a heavy textbook that is impossible to follow. The math is light but challenging for a non-physicist. Cool book and very informative. Cutting edge.
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