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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics [Hardcover]

Leonard Susskind
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 27.99
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Book Description

7 July 2008
At the beginning of the 21st century, physics is being driven to very unfamiliar territory - the domain of the incredibly small and the incredibly heavy. The new world is a world in which both quantum mechanics and gravity are equally important. But mysteries remain. One of the biggest involved black holes. Famed physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that anything sucked in a black hole was lost forever. For three decades, Leonard Susskind and Hawking clashed over the answer to this problem. Finally, in 2004, Hawking conceded.
THE BLACK HOLE WAR will explain the mind-blowing science that finally won out and the emergence of a new paradigm that argues that the world - your home, your breakfast, you - is actually a hologram projected from the edges of space.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics + The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 470 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (7 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316016403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316016407
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Entertaining...both lucid and enjoyable....Like the best teachers, Susskind makes it fun to learn. With a deft use of analogy and a flair for language, he tames the most ferocious concepts....He has come up with the best visual metaphor for the multidimensinality of string theory that I've yet come across, one that alone is worth the price of the book' - Los Angeles Times
'Susskind is very down to earth, an easy-going and entertaining guide through the most exciting frontiers of theoretical physics' - New Scientist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The father of string theory recounts his paradigm-shifting debate with Stephen Hawking over the nature of black holes. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A popularisation which mostly works 22 July 2008
By Nigel Seel VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Susskind describes the decades-long battle between the quantum mechanics community and the general relativists as to whether information is lost when objects pass through the event horizon of a black hole and the hole eventually evaporates. According to Prof. Hawking and the GR community, as nothing can ever reappear from inside an event horizon, the information is indeed totally lost.

Susskind and Gerard 't Hooft begged to differ. Loss of information would violate the basic time-reversibility of QM: Hawking's ideas would lead to universe-destroying phenomena (p. 23). Somehow, the information locked the wrong side of the event horizon must leak out via Hawking radiation. But how?

The resolution of this dilemma took many years of conjectures and refutations. Susskind takes us on a tour of entropy, holographic principles and physics at the Planck scale. And the adversarial plot keeps the reader turning the pages.

I am normally very dubious about popularisations. They proceed by raking up endless analogies which never quite fit together, so that by the end of the book, your mind is like that jig-saw puzzle you bought and could never fit together.

This book was never going to be the exception - the mathematics of quantum field theory, general relativity and string theory are just too arcane for popular culture concepts to cohere around. However, there are wonderful insights all the way through this book and we do end up learning something about the large scale map of the territory. Apparently even the experts find it hard to get the whole thing into one focus.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant... 11 Feb 2009
By M B
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a really excellent book, Susskind patiently explains his theory as it takes shape over years, and in terms a layman can understand. I was left, entertained as well as knowing far more about the nature of our universe. Science really is more exciting than fiction, and Susskind really can explain his subject in the simplest of terms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book 18 July 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This is one of my favourite books. It manages to teach cutting edge science but is also funny and entertaining.
Leonard Susskind admires Stephen Hawking's ground breaking work on Black Holes but is surprised when Hawking says that information is lost. He feels instinctively it can't be right even though most physicists seem to agree with Hawking. So Susskind starts to search for the truth. Many other scientists become involved and its a fascinating story.

I must say being a layman whose interested in science this is the most accessible book I've read on the subject. I also bought the audio cds to help me understand the science better and they were first rate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pleasure to read 8 July 2012
By Risto
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author has the rare gift of being able to explain front line physics simply and entertainingly. I feel that I learned a lot about elementry particleas and black holes without having to go through any maths. The holographic principle is a weirdly appealing idea, and it is fascinating to read about the thought processess and human interaction that lead to its discovery.

I was drawn to this book by the lectures by the author Leonard Susskind on youtube about various physics topics. If you are into this kind of stuff, check them out!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book is a great recount in simple (and elegant) writing about cosmology, quantum theory (more to the point about quantum field theory and string theory)

It's a must for whoever want to get to know what theoretical physics (particle physics, high energy physics, cosmology) is about or for those who even having studied a physics grade have gone for another careers so they have lost whatever feeble knowledge they managed to grasp regarding these subjects

The main thread is fascinating: a scientific debate between the author and Hawking about what happens to the information that falls in a black hole... it's re - expelled along with the so called Hawking radiation or is lost forever??

Notwithstanding the interest this subject may raise, you get much more fun reading the colateral explanations the author have to offer to make himself understood regarding the black hole stuff

If you have enjoyed Brian Greene the Elegant Universe I guess you will like this one too

I am not giving the top rate for the poor paper and binding and due to excessive obsession of the author for making it clear that he (and his supporters) won the war... what is the point??? the discussion was fascinating... and without opponent it wouldn't have been possible!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars light from black holes 26 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I saw Leonard Susskind on a BBC tv programme and was amazed by some of the claims made, which led me to buy his book. Having studied physics in school, without great understanding I have to say, I was delighted to reacquaint myself with familiar but forgotten entities such as Planck's constant and E+MC2, to be introduced to relativity, the mysteries of quantum physics and of course the extraordinary phenomena known as black holes, and because of Prof Susskind's elucidation, begin to grasp their remarkable significance. He described 'complementarity', how a phenomenon, such as light, can appear to be one thing (a photon) and quite a different thing (a form of radiation) at the same time! This seems almost metaphysical and seems reminiscent of some of the philosophical struggles of the Greeks, 'essences' come to mind. It is tough going at times, though, not a light read, I had often to refer back to previous chapters to be sure I understood a new insight, but his writing style keeps the reader engaged. As a psychiatrist, it saddens me that the science we rely on seems so soft by comparison, that we can not call on mathematics and formulae, so far, but maybe physics is showing us the way?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Leonard Susskind can teach.
Excellent! Very simple analogies, progressive exposure to this very difficult science - I enjoyed the learning. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this NOW. You WILL understand it.
I know its hard to believe, given the subject matter, but this book is very funny. I read it and as well as learning a lot I had a really good time. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The black hole war
The nature of black hole and controversies about the physics of information paradox is discussed in a lucid non mathematical language. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Most readable, thought-provoking and informative
The title might perhaps put you off, but this book is certainly worth reading. The idea that our world can be described (is actually? Read more
Published 3 months ago by arne
5.0 out of 5 stars Susskind Rocks! It makes you want to go back to school.
I loved this book and I'm not finished it yet. Susskind does what true zen masters do, makes the difficult and incomprehensible accessible. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Leonard Susskind just gets IT... and he might help you get IT
It is not often I find a book on popular physics that grabs me as much as this one did. Using the background of a war of words with Stephen Hawking over a point of principle (the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jack worsfold
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, simple, written with humour.
Susskind's Black Hole War is primarily a clear, simple explanation about black holes and the relevance of string theory. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mark Allin
2.0 out of 5 stars fell into its own black hole
Whilst it starts off promisingly, this book drifts all over the place in an effort to maintain the pace of the 'war', which is only a device to provide a backdrop to the timeline... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Trish
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable book on physics
Susskind is one of the most brilliant and intelligent theoretical physicists of our age and battles one of the most well known physicists, Stephen Hawking. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Amazonian
5.0 out of 5 stars The Black Hole War
I would generally say that if you have read a few 'popular science' books, then you have read them all. Not this one! Read more
Published on 16 May 2012 by Alex
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