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The Edge of Physics: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Cosmology Hardcover – 22 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (22 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715637045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715637043
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A travelogue that celebrates the blood, sweat and tears that drive our understanding of the universe' -- Guardian. 'An excellent book. The author has a great knack of making difficult subjects comprehensible. I thoroughly enjoyed it' -- Sir Patrick Moore. 'A remarkable narrative that combines fundamental physics with high adventure' -- New Scientist. 'Ananthaswamy displays a writer's touch for the fascinating detail... whether he is in an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota's Mesabi Range or the frigid Siberian expanse of Lake Baikal, he finds intrepid physicists and explains to us why these weird places are the only locations on the planet where these experiments could be done' -- Washington Post. ''The Edge of Physics'... is, quite simply, the ultimate physics-adventure travelogue... as an adventure story and a fly-on-the-wall account of remote places that most of us will never visit, 'The Edge of Physics' is brilliant' --PhysicsWorld

'A grand tour of modern day cosmology's sacred places... evocative... engaging... refreshing... a taste of science in the heroic mode' -- Sky At Night magazine. 'Smoothly weaves together the stories of people who help push science forward, from principal investigators to research institute gardeners, with exquisitely clear explanations of the questions they hope to solve - and why some research can be done only at the edge of the world' -- ScienceNews. 'Ananthaswamy's investigation of current experiments in physics bypasses the mathematics of the field, making it easier for the average reader to dig in and enjoy the amazing discoveries and research methods that he encounters. The author has a knack for intertwining an overview of the purpose of these experiments with a finely balanced dose of related history and trivia. He also exhibits poetic touches here and there as he shares colorful vignettes from each of his destinations' -- Curled Up With A Good 'While Ananthaswamy... focuses heavily on the science, 'The Edge of Physics' reads like a travel-adventure story or a work of fiction' -- Failure Magazine. 'From the top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea to Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider and more, Ananthaswamy paints a vivid picture of scientific investigations in harsh working conditions... even for readers who don't know a neutrino from Adam, these interesting tales of human endeavor make 'The Edge of Physics' a trip worth taking' --The BookPage

'Clean, elegant prose, humming with interest' -- Robert MacFarlane, author of 'The Wild Places'. 'An accomplished and timely overview of modern cosmology and particle astrophysics' -- Nature. 'A stirring, scenic narrative... Ananthaswamy journeys to several geographically and scientifically extreme outposts, and returns not only with engaging portraits of the men and women who work there, but also a vibrant glimpse of how cutting-edge research is actually performed. Part history lesson, part travelogue, part adventure story, 'The Edge of Physics' is a wonder-steeped page-turner' -- Seed magazine. 'Physicists are trying to understand the furthest reaches of space and the furthest extremes of matter and energy. To do it, they have to trek to some of the furthest places on Earth from deep underground, to forbidding mountains, to the cold of Antarctica. Anil Anathaswamy takes us on a thrilling ride around the globe and around the cosmos, to reveal the real work that goes into understanding our universe' -- Sean Carroll, Caltech physicist, author of 'From Eternity to Here'. 'Ananthaswamy's juxtaposition of extreme travel and extreme science offers a genuinely novel route into the story of modern cosmology... A well written and genuinely accessible tale of what it takes to push past the edge of human knowledge' --Thomas Levenson, author of 'Newton and the Counterfeiter'

About the Author

Anil Ananthaswamy is a consulting editor for 'New Scientist' in London. He is also a contributor to 'National Geographic News'. He has a Master of Science degree from the University of Washington, Seattle and worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley before training as a journalist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. Comisso on 7 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
What a great read! The author travels up mountains, down mines, across ice and deserts to meet some of the world's most awe-inspiring physicists and their ingenious contraptions.

Geeks may be disappointed; the book is not a dry text on what we know or don't know about particle physics and cosmology. Instead it is a readable and entertaining account of the author's travels, the characters he meets and the painstaking experiments they are carrying out.

The author does not shy away from giving clear explanations of the physics behind the research, but Ananthaswamy also tells us about the detectors and telescopes that do the work and the reality of designing, installing and operating them. We hear of bumps in the Atacama desert being smoothed before physicists would allow the trailers carrying their precious telescope mirrors to pass, and of Christmas trees being used to mark out the safe route across a frozen lake.

Among all this are more personal details of Ananthaswamy's travels, such as his host laughing at the smooth-soled "European summer shoes" the writer had thought would be suitable footwear for Siberia.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jenny on 21 Feb 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book does a very good job of explaining the physics being researched in the context of the places where the research is carried out. He gets to visit locations that have to be remote in order to get the conditions in which such delicate experiments are most likely to succeed. It's fascinating stuff, told with great enthusiasm.

I read this a while back and the author's descriptions of some of the places he visits have remained with me. I've chosen to write this review now as I'm slightly annoyed at the other reviews which seem to criticise the author for not writing the book that they wanted to read! This book is what it claims to be, if you like the sound of that, give it a read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By P. G. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It is a work of popular science, (albeit at the top end of popular science) which seeks to make the frighteningly complicated and esoteric world of modern cosmology accessible to the intelligent lay reader. The author, Anil Ananthaswamy, does this by exploring three parallel themes, the physics, the places in which the experiments are being undertaken, and the physicists, engineers and technicians doing the work. Thus we visit optical astonomers in Hawaii, Chile and California, radio astronomers in South Africa, frighteningly complex particle detectors in Siberia and Antarctica and the Large Hadron Colider in Europe.

The people who work on these are a diverse, but driven, and frequently hard drinking band of theorists, innovative implementers and hardy observers. Together they dream up, build and operate giant telescopes, submarine and sub-ice particle detectors, radio arrays, and subterranean race tracks designed to obliterate the building blocks of matter.

The author uses these people and places to give an understanding of the major theories and challenges of modern cosmology, the search for dark matter and dark energy, string theory, super symmetry, the multiverse and the anthropic principle.

He doesn't always succeed in giving a full understanding of the subjects, but that is entirely understandable given the mind blowing nature of his source material. If the lay reader cannot understand all the rules of the game, Ananthaswamy at least gives an understanding of its basic purpose and the major strategies being employed.

The three pronged approach of the book works well, and is particularly successful in the chapter about the Large Hadron Collider.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By rhht on 20 Oct 2010
Format: Hardcover
The concepts of an entertaining read and particle physics textbooks are often as mutually-repellant as the particles they try to describe. However in this instance the writer manages to smash apart the stereotype. This is a novel, informative and fun explanation of the laws of the universe that will have you rushing out to buy a thermos-flask and one-way ticket to the South Pole in no time. Some of the most intriguing and complex aspects of physics are explained with grace and humour, making the mathematics and scientific principles very intelligible to the non-scientist. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an open mind and sense of adventure. You will be rewarded.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Fergal Macalister on 3 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book fully expecting (as it's title indicates) a book on cutting edge physics. Yes, there is some cutting edge physics in here, but mostly it is a travel book. He spends more time talking about how he got to certain places, what he did there, who he met there etc.

So if I had wanted a travel book I'd have bought a travel book. However, when I buy a book entitled "The Edge of Physics" I expect it to be full of ... well, mostly physics!
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