29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Book - It is the best thing of its kind I've read.
I am not a scientist. I'm a writer and former actor. But, ever since I was a kid and discovered Scientific American, I've had an abiding interest in science both for the things there are to learn and the recreation that reading science offers. So, I've read a ton of stuff about science.
I have read some books that have knocked me off my feet over the years. But, Warped...
Published on 4 Oct 2005 by Mr. D. W. Iles
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hackneyed, turgid, indecipherable...
Every chapter of this book is prefaced with a terrible sci-fi vignette. They are like sketches for the most hackneyed episodes of the twilight zone. This gives the impression that the author is a bad B movie writer rather than a top theoretical physicist. She also commits the mistake of creating a mathematical appendix, as a sop to Math geeks, but this is too terse to be...
Published on 18 Oct 2007 by William Shardlow
Most Helpful First | Newest First
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Book - It is the best thing of its kind I've read.,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Hardcover)I am not a scientist. I'm a writer and former actor. But, ever since I was a kid and discovered Scientific American, I've had an abiding interest in science both for the things there are to learn and the recreation that reading science offers. So, I've read a ton of stuff about science.
I have read some books that have knocked me off my feet over the years. But, Warped Passeges knocks their sox off. I admired the book so much that after I read my library copy, I bought it.
The first time I ever heard (outside SF, of course) about dimensions beyond three of space and one of time, was not so long ago when New Scientist did a piece on the idea. The problem was that the article raised too many questions of the wrong kind. What the piece whould have done is deal precisely with the questions that were raised. Those were the simple basic questions. For example, What is a dimension? The answer was not forthcoming in any set of words that made sense.
In Warped Passages, Lisa Randall, not only answered that question but it made sense to me and gave me a good idea of what the teeny, tiny ones are. I could never find anyone to make even the slightest sensible explanation before.
The whole book answers rafts of questions of that nature and a whole lot more as well. I'm grateful to her for that. The book even led to the answer to a question that has bothered me for many years - Why is there only one time dimension?
The answer lies in Randall's field of model making (I didn't even know what model making meant in physics before reading the book) which suffuses her book. For me, it was her historical, beginning, middle, end approach that took me by the hand and led me down a pretty wonderful garden path.
You may not need the most basic questions answered. If so, I suppose you can speed-read those passages. However, I think you will still get a huge amount out of the book.
However, if you are anything like me, you will come out of the other end of the book informed and delighted.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warped Sausages,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)As someone who took an astrophysics degree in the seventies I have tried to keep up to date with developments in the field, at the level of pop-sci books. However as of the late nineties it seemed that Physics was getting bogged down. After a long Golden-Age of prediction and dicovery the Standard Model and the Big-Bang were threatening to unravel. So the last such book I read was Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory which I found unsatisfying in that it just made clear that, if I wanted to really understand what was happening, I was going to have to devote time and energy I just didn't have, to get to grips with some new maths.
So, seven years later I thought I'd give this a try and see if I could get some kind of layman's angle on what was going on these days. The book starts well in reviewing the history of physics. There's a very concise and to the point description of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.
There's a description of the Standard Model that I did find useful. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the Standard Model, but the lady filled in some new areas for me, Electroweak theory and the Higg's mechanism which led me to a more flexible understanding of particle mass than I had had before. It is as part of this that we find that the toughest question for the Standard Model is what is called the Hierarchy Problem, which is about the huge gap between the world the other three forces and SM particles inhabit, all of which can be probed, just about, with our accelerators, and then the world of the Planck distance down at E10-33 m, sixteen orders of magnitude smaller, which is where gravity becomes strong enough to be comparable with the other forces, and which we can never hope to build accelerators big enough to study directly.
We then walk through QED, QCD, symmetry, supersymmetry keeping an eye on how these things might tackle the Hierarchy problem, but that they either fail to solve the problem or yield positive experimental results.
We then get a whirlwind tour of String Theory the Super-Strings, and this is where it all gets really new for me. It would appear particle theorists, trying to extend the Standard Model, and String theorists, working on stuff that can never hope to be proven 'not even wrong', have enjoyed a synergy over the last few years, and as a result various classes of exotic multi-dimensional theories have emerged which just might yield observable consequences, possibly even turning up in the new LHC collider, when it eventually comes online. All of these theories try to tackle the Hierarchy problem by allowing gravity to be the only force that gets out of the 4D space-time 'brane on which we and the other forces and SM particles 'live', thus allowing its effects to be diffused. It would appear that there a quite lot of recipes for higher dimensional models that allow for the dissipation of 16 order of magnitude, and the number is growing year on year. For this reason there is a whole community of physicists anxiously waiting for the LHC to get down to work, and who are hoping, in addition to finding Higgs particles, which the Standard Model predicts, to find completely new and unexpected particles, or energy deficits, that might lend support to one or other of the competing higher dimensional theories.
The book contains a lot of news for someone interested in these things, but it is pretty hard work and not just due to the nature of the material. I know that communicating this stuff to the lay public is a talent in its own right, and I've no doubt as to Randell's sincerity of purpose. However, I found that reading became tougher is I progressed, because I felt myself to be carrying an ever accumulating baggage of questions of elucidation, so that towards the end we were talking so casually in terms of 'branes', curvatures, 'gravitons', 5-D Black Holes and curled-up, or large, or infinite but invisible extra dimensions, that she might as well heve been talking about sausages. Hence my quirky title for this review.
In my opinion, the book is somewhat longer than it needs to be because of frequent repetition of points that are easily grasped. Each chapter is prefixed with a Lewis Caroll like passage intended to provide a metaphor for the material to follow. These become more irritating as the book proceeds, as the metaphors become more strained and eventually plain cryptic.
This book is probably the best of its kind around at the moment, and there's no denying that Randell has tried really hard to explain some mind-bending things, in lay-person terms. But I think there is scope for a presentation of the same material by someone who has a proven track record in popular science writing.
Another point to make is that she has definitely perked my interest in the forthcoming results from the LHC.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reads like a physics thriller....,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Hardcover)On the covers of many modern physics books, addressed to laymen interested in the latest developments, abstract graphics is shown, trying to convey a sort of mystical flavour of the subject. But mostly used with the intention to stand out and get the attention of readers, who nowadays are overwhelmed by these books, especially in this World Year of Physics 2005, in which Einstein's work is highlighted.
The cover of Lisa Randall's book "Warped Passages: Unravelling the universe's hidden dimensions" is very different. The title and her name are printed in her own handwriting, which gives this book a casual, but dead honest look. As if she has just scribbled down her latest ideas and wants the world to take notice as soon as possible, but in my opinion it marks the style of someone who is brutally honest about her work and wants the reader to really understand what she is talking about.
And you will not be disappointed: her passion for her research is well reflected in this book. I read it almost like a 'who dunnit' thriller so I will not spoil your fun by giving away too much details, but, having read quite a few similar books, this one really stands out in the crowd.
All the familiar characters of modern day physics, like quantum mechanics, relativity theory, particle physics, supersymmetry, string theory and braneworlds come on stage. They are properly introduced to the reader in separate chapters, which each start with a little intermezzo to give you a feel for how the story will go on. It serves both as an appetizer and gives you a moment to reflect before indulging in the next scenes.
This all builds up to the last chapters, where all these characters seem to play a part in a mysterious plot: hiding the evidence for extra dimensions !!
Many questions have yet to be completely answered, but I for one am certainly in...
Don't worry, you won't need a formal background in physics or mathematics to fully appreciate this book. After each chapter the main points are summarized with bullets, as easy reminders without interrupting the natural flow of the story. No formulae are presented in the main text, but in the back however is a math notes section where some subjects are further explained. So if you are a newbie, an amateur physics buff (like me) or even a professional physicist, I am sure the enthusiasm and fun with which the author tells this fascinating story will take you on a rewarding and intellectually challenging adventure !!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but repetitive,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)This book introduces in a clear and concise manner many difficult and advanced concepts. To do this without mathematics is an impressive feat, which Randall seems to have accomplished. I study physics and have just completed my Bachelor degree so I found extremely tedious to read what I already knew as it was repeated again and again in a long string of pretty much identical analogies. If you don't understand it the first time it's explained, you might understand it the second, third or even sixth time time it's explained in a very similar way to the first.
This element of irritation aside, the book still gave me useful insight into a world of physics I have but scratched the surface of. I think the target reader is the scientifically interested / scientifically aware person who would like to get into the "juicy bits" of physics without going through the long and winding academic road. For physics or mathematics undergraduates, you can easily skip the first hundred or two hundred pages without missing a thing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Randall's Universe is far more bizarre and beautiful than we could imagine.,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)This is the first book I have read from the physicist Lisa Randall and it didn't disapoint. The book is a facinating and exciting journey through our current knowledge of physics and cosmology which will perplex and impress the lay person and student alike.
Lisa Randall is at the cutting edge of theoretical physics and these new ideas on higher demensional space, strings and branes, which Randall writes about so enthusiastically, makes one realise the Universe - or indeed, Multiverse - is far more bizarre and beautiful than we could imagine.
A very enjoyable read.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To join the quantum club you have to read this book,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Hardcover)In keeping with the overwhelming majority of readers of this book I found it too a delight to read. To say read is an understatement for this book bristles with basic fundamental quantum theory that forces one to put pen to paper, regularly, and take notes. Yes, this is a book that is not only to be read but also to be studied. Leaving you with the feeling that, without a struggle, you have learnt something special in physics to a level that most of us laymen would not think possible. If on the subject of science you wish to be sounding cleverer than those around you, especially when at your place of work, then don't let them know about this book, keep it under lock and key once you've finished reading it.
A precursor to each chapter in the book was a short story line revolving around a couple of young people by the names of Ike and Athena. Each story is a fantasy situation revolved around the topics to be learnt in that relevant chapter. This worked very well for it simplified and made easier to absorb and understand those quantum theory facts raised and discussed within..."Thank you, Professor Randall"
Since reading this book and others too, extra dimensions to those generally known plus warped space are topics regularly touched on by myself when talking to work colleagues. They look upon me as if I'm mad, (they might be right)? Yet through reading this book it has confirmed in me that I'm right to believe in, " this planet of ours is round", for I'm sure that I've discussed science with people who might still be thinking, "it's flat". This book takes you away from that realm of "flat earth" thinking, takes you away from the old world of science and introduces you to that of the new, one not many people clearly seem to know much if anything about. So don't be one of them, blow out your Bunsen burners and permit, if you dare, (The) Processor Randall to take you on an educational trip to the end of our universe. On the way she will unravel our hidden extra dimensions and touch on other universes beyond. They are all there waiting to be discovered and through her work with quantum theory it shows that at least Professor Randall is on the right track here theorising in there existence. See if you agree too, I think you will and don't worry that you might get lost on the way for that's impossible with this book.
This is an every day mans/woman's/young girls/boys book for all who share an interest in the sciences and who would enjoy a little bit of extra simplistic education.
If you have a child thinking of taking a degree at university and they are not sure what they would like to study then buy them this book to read. For if their abilities veer towards the sciences then taking the quantum road should lead them to a very exciting and rewarding lifetime's career. Lets make no mistake, we are on the verge of making a major discovery in the field of quantum physics, a discovery that when eventually adapted will turn this planet not only upside down but inside out too. So, keep up, keep reading and if you're new to or have an enthusiasm for the sciences then start here and join the club by reading this book first - by the foremost expert on (the) subject.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important nonfiction books of 2005,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Paperback)ne of the most important physicists of our time, Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics, Harvard University, has written a spellbinding account of contemporary physics in her first book "Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions". Hers is a saga that requires no great understanding of either mathematics or physics, though she does provide some equations at the end of her book in a terse appendix, along with a handy glossary of physics terminology. It is a fine popular introduction to modern physics which should appeal to those interested in recent advances in high energy physics, string theory and cosmology for which Randall has earned already much renown. Indeed, I will not be surprised if she is awarded a Nobel Prize in the future for her excellence in research in these aspects of physics.
"Warped Passages" is a big tome subdivided into six distinct parts, with individual chapters that start with brief, though often silly, fictional introductions, and conclude with briefer summaries emphasizing the main points of each chapter. Part I. Dimensions of Space (and Thought) covers the possibility of extra dimensions of space from both a Newtownian (Classical Mechanics) and Einsteinian (General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics) perspective. Furthermore, this chapter discusses the limitations of classical mechanics and its eventual replacement by two theories: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics in the early 20th Century. She also introduces branes - distinct regions of spacetime that occupy slices of space - that have been important to string theory in the past decade. Part II. Early Twentieth-Century Advances is a splendid two-chapter historical review of the development of the theories of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Part III. The Physics of Elementary Particles is an extensive overview of quarks and the search for observable heavier high energy particles, as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics.
"Warped Passages" becomes less of a standard popular textbook on modern physics and more a personal odyssey of scientific discovery in its concluding sections. Part IV. String Theory and Branes not only is an intriguing overview of the importance of branes to String Theory, but is too a succinct overview of string theory research in the past twenty years. Part V. Proposals of Extra-Dimensional Universes describes the important mathematical breakthrough made by Randall and her collaborator Raman Sundrum, during the summer of 1998, whereby they introduced a hierarchical solution to string theory via warped geometry, and places it into context with other current research on extra-dimensional theories. In Part VI. Closing Thoughts, Randall waxes eloquently about how extra-dimensional theories will influence the future of research in physics, with major implications for both high energy physics and cosmology.
"Warped Passages" is the best book I have read in recent years by anyone formerly associated with Stuyvesant High School (Speaking of which, it is a sad commentary on the state of intellectual discourse in current American cultural life when our high school is best remembered as the former abode of a best selling memoirist who was once a popular teacher of creative writing there instead of - and I think, much more accurately - as a preeminent American intellectual birthplace for brilliant scientists such as Professor Randall; I also strongly criticize the judgement of the National Public Radio commentator who thought that Professor Randall resembles actress Jodie Foster; not only do I don't see any actual resemblance at all, but if there is indeed a comparison, then without question, Professor Randall is a lot brighter than Ms. Foster. At Stuyvesant High School Professor Randall was the first female captain of the school's internationally acclaimed math team and won first prize in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search for her mathematics research.). Her book is unquestionably one of the most important nonfiction books of 2005. This splendid huge tome may also be remembered as one of the classic works of popular science, with Lisa Randall's prose rising amazingly close to the literary eloquence attained by the likes of Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan. Anyone interested in embracing some of the sense of wonder experienced by Randall in her research will share her infectious enthusiasm for her work by the very end of "Warped Passages".
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.,
However, I am also a life-long physics nut. I knew what dimensions are, what the standard model is, the four forces, brain theory, string theory, Kaluza Klein modes etc before reading this book, but I still learned an incredible amount all the same.
I learned about the art of mathematical model making, about the challenges of high energy particle physics from the perspective of a theorist. I learned that Lisa Randall is more than just a looker, she has a brain to be reckoned with, and a gift at communicating the excitement of the challenge.
Since Richard Feynman first showed how it was possible to discuss deeply complex subjects in a way which enthralled the listener, and engaged them, many writers have tried to imitate his brilliance. Lisa goes nowhere near imitating such greatness, and at the same time maybe succeeds in getting closer than anyone else to that reverent (of reality) yet irreverent (of convention)attitude in her writing.
I did have to re-read the occasional paragraph when I found that whatever I ws supposed to have picked up on had not gone in, and there might have been an analogy too far here and there, (for my preferences anyway), but these are minor flaws. If you want to understand how Einstein and Shroedinger's world are understood by modern physics - without any of the woo-woo and mumbo-jumbo which often accompanies such exposition - then this book is a great place to start.
If you're looking to find out about string theory from someone who both knows it and is critical of it, someone who remains grounded in the reality - and authority - of experiment yet understands and can communicate in lay terms what such theorising is all about, this is the book for you.
If you're wondering what the Large Hadron Collider is all about, or even what atom smashing is all about and why it is necessary, then this is the book for you.
If you're wondering how all it all comes together, from Einstein to Hawkins, this is the book for you.
In short Lisa Randall opens up all of these fields and more, and shows how the modern physicist (both the theorist and the experimentalist) goes about investigating the physical world, from how the questions are framed to testing the models. As such it is also an epistemological powerhouse for anyone needing to get to grips with exactly what science is, and what it does.
5.0 out of 5 stars Is gravity weaker than other three forces? A solution to the hierarchy problem in physics,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Paperback)Gravity is the weakest forces of all the four forces of our universe, because, according to the author, it is concentrated in another spatial dimension of the universe, and these extra dimensions could be infinitely large. The summary of this book is as follows: We live in a three-dimensional pocket of higher dimensional space, also called branes. It is like a bead on a wire that can only move along one dimension, a brane may restrict our motion to three dimensions although other dimensions exist around it. The theory of supersymmetry also explains the hierarchy problem by postulating that every fundamental particle has a heavier partner, but the theory currently predicts particle interactions that don't occur in nature. The author predicts that if extra dimensions exist, particles could be separated to prevent unwanted interactions, and that gravity could be concentrated somewhere in an extra dimension. The force's strength becomes exponentially weaker further from the gravity brane. The model consists of a pair of universes, four-dimensional branes (three space and one time), thinly separated by a five-dimensional space called the bulk. The mathematical solutions for this setup suggested that the space between the branes is warped, and objects could grow larger or smaller (less massive or more massive) as they moved back and forth between two branes, a direct result of higher gravitational force. The fifth dimension could be so warped that the number of dimensions you see would depend on where you are in the bulk. In addition, gravity is as strong as the other forces, because it is much stronger on one brane than the other. Therefore our universe is located on a brane where only weak gravitational force is felt. This idea of the author is not new since string theorists, Arkani-Hamed, Divali and Dimopoulos (group A.D.D.) suggested that if one or two of the curled-up extra dimensions of string theory had sizes as big as a tenth of millimeter, then gravity would be similarly diluted and weakened thus explaining the hierarchy problem.
There is increasing perception among some leading physicists like Ed Witten that space and time could be illusions, or it is perhaps made of simpler yet undiscovered physical parameters. We are still long way to clearly understand the concept of space and time, but the author's theory may be a step in the direction of advancement. However, one of the major problems of this theory is that it is all talk (theoretical) but no substance (no experimental evidence). We have to wait a little longer after the LHC data is completely analyzed and understood.
The book is very well written and easy to understand; the author has explained the relevant physical concepts in a simple and lucid manner; highly recommended.
1. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
2. A First Course in String Theory
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hackneyed, turgid, indecipherable...,
This review is from: Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions (Paperback)Every chapter of this book is prefaced with a terrible sci-fi vignette. They are like sketches for the most hackneyed episodes of the twilight zone. This gives the impression that the author is a bad B movie writer rather than a top theoretical physicist. She also commits the mistake of creating a mathematical appendix, as a sop to Math geeks, but this is too terse to be useful to anybody. I pity the lay reader who is immediately caught between bad science fiction and unedifying trips to a tagged on appendix full of indecipherable symbols.
The actual text of the chapters does not improve matters. As John Gribbin says in his Sunday Times review, "Randall is at best a workmanlike writer". Turgid and prolix might be more apt descriptions.
The first half of the book is a laboured introduction to relativity and quantum theory, which are covered far more entertainingly, and accurately, by John Gribbin, Paul Davies Brian Greene, and everyone else. She commits another sin of bad popularisers by frequently encouraging readers to skip ahead if the going gets tough. One of these 'skip arounds' produced the most confusing description of the Higgs particle that I have ever encountered and wish I had skipped ahead! This preceded an incredibly stultifying account of the standard model. Around page 220 I skipped ahead to the end of the book...
There are far better popular accounts of the topics covered in this book, so I suggest readers look elsewhere.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions by Lisa Randall (Hardcover - 6 Jun 2005)
Used & New from: £1.11