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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 1999
Quite frankly, this is the best book of its genre that I have ever read!
Clear, concise, easy to understand (as easy to understand as four dimensional space-time and parallel universes are), fun to read, funny and the narration, like that of a conversation; absolutely superb. This, along with personal views and experiences, gives this book a unique feel like no other.
What I think is so wonderful about this book is the way in which Mr. Al-Khalili doesn't just simply talk about black holes, wormholes and time machines (!). There's a lot more to it than that. Many other aspects of Physics, from Einstein's theories of relativity, super dense material called cosmic string, to the theory of everything not to mention quantum mechanics are all discussed. It's sheer brilliance the way in which he illustrates how all these things tie-up and are related, through the central focus of the book. Of course, relating everything from atoms to the universe is exactly what Physics is all about, but it is not always easy to see how. Mr. Al-Khalili does this very well.
I also liked the section exploring the science fact behind the science fiction. I was particularly impressed by the profound thought which went into explaining and elaborating upon the Terminator paradox (I'm sure you've all thought about it as well) - if Arnie had succeeded in killing Mrs. Connor, then John would never have been born; but if John hadn't been born, then there would never have been any need to send someone back to kill Mrs. Connor; so Mrs. Connor would not have been killed, and so John would have been born. HEH? This is where parallel universes and quantum mechanics comes in to save the day. This is the first time I've come across this idea, and it's fascinating to say the least. All good stuff!
In the week it took me to read "Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines", I spent more time reading than doing my schoolwork! (and a lot of schoolwork is the norm for a hardworking student like myself) - the book is that addictive!
Mr. Al-Khalili has done himself and the university of Surrey proud with an absolutely outstanding book, which is a must read for the interested 'layperson' and Physics student alike.
Mr. Al-Khalili plans to publish another book in about two years time (on quantum mechanics), and I for one can't wait. In the meantime, I think I'll read "Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines" over again a couple more times, just for the fun of it!
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2005
To someone (like myself) who has little or no knowledge of physics, this book is a REAL eye-opener. It is incredibly exciting, and has a deal of humour to boot.
Some parts DO require concentration to get your head around, and I must admit on one or two occasions being slightly lost. Thankfully though 99% of the book was quite easy to follow.
Primarily the book is focused on giving the reader an overview of Einstein's Theories of Relativity, and in particular how these could be applicable to time travel.
My only slight criticism is that the author does seem to concentrate on building/using time machines from a practical viewpoint, as though the reader is a Sc-Fi fan.
Before reading it I thought the universe was born billions of years ago with the Big Bang, and that I was at a certain point in time, and it would carry on ad infinitum after I die. Not necessarily so according to modern physics!
A very small sample of amazing information that I learned was:
Time could start running backwards if the Universe stops expanding and starts contracting.
Time slows down the quicker you go (near the speed of light time almost stops, or speeds up to infinity depending on your viewpoint).
Gravity doesn't pull objects, but bends space itself so objects 'fall' into it.
Gravity bends time and slows it down. Very heavy gravitation can almost stop time.
That the 'present' depends on where you are in space (and your speed), and that all future & past events may co-exist.
The book also touches on Quantum Mechanics, which is even weirder i.e. particles appearing from nowhere and being in 2 places at the same time.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2001
A brilliantly written book for both scientists and non-scientists alike. Unlike most science texts, this one is gripping and informative, written in a clear easy style. Superb.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2002
I find myself coming back to this book over and over again. Everytime you read it you learn something new. The author's writing style is informal, and he explains the various concepts in the book very clearly, with lots of examples and occasional diagrams. Overall, an absoluetly fascinating book to go along with A Brief History of Time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed reading this book, and have just started reading it again. I'm a big fan of Jim Al-Khalili's work, and the attempts he makes to explain seriously heavy cosmological ideas to everyday people.

What I think he does extremely well in this book is to help you build a difficult-to-understand concept in your mind, without a single mind-bending equation. This is all the more amazing, given that a sizeable portion of the information contained in this book is based on theory rather than proven fact.

The only thing that didn't work for me in this book was the attempts at humour. I really like the conversational style, as it really aids your understanding of the information, but the jokey comments remind me of seminars I've been to in the past where the listeners laugh at the speaker's jokes just to be kind and save embarrassment.

But anyway, apart from that, the book is faultless and it thoroughly deserves five stars. I would suggest reading it, even if you aren't interested in this subject. I think it would also work really well as an audiobook too.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2000
I don't need to write a long review. If you want the clearest explanation to relativity theory and to some of its stranger predictions then you just found it!
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on 12 August 2011
Jim Al-Khalili's ambition was to write a book "which would explain some of the ideas and theories of modern physics for anyone to understand" (p.ix) - job (well) done! However, if your ambition is to deepen your understanding of the intricacies of relativity, this may not be the book for you. There are no detailed explanations for the effects of relativity and no elegant proofs to be found within these pages: Al-Khalili simply describes what scientists know - not how they know it.

Strangely, this approach works rather well! The absence of dense passages of scientific explanation allows Al-Khalili to take a light-hearted approach to some of the fundamental concepts of modern cosmology (the nature of time, spacetime, and gravity) and then wrap them (no pun intended!) around the effects of gravitational anomalies - the black holes and wormholes of the title. Given the uncertainty that surrounds these phenomena, he is then free to indulge in speculation about the potential for time travel. It's a refreshing approach to the popularization of modern science and reminiscent of Carl Sagan's approach in works such as Pale Blue Dot.

This is a fun and enjoyable read from start to finish and, although written with teenagers in mind (p.x) and in a humorous style, it's a great place to start if you have never grappled with the ideas of relativity before - no matter what age you are! Nonetheless, if you are ready for something slightly more challenging, try Neil deGrasse Tyson's Death by Black Hole.
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on 25 July 2011
Started reading the book when I was studying physics at A level but found it a little to much at the time.
With a bit more time and space (A shed) to read and think it makes a very thought provoking read.

Would recomend it to anyone.

Oh and does anyone have any flux capacitors... I just need one more to get this thing working.
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on 20 December 2013
I read this book a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Shame there seems to be no copy available of it at a reasonabl price. I did a full review for it here ([...] for anyone interested in what I thought about it, did not want to copy and paste exact text in here. A really insightful book though.
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on 21 July 2014
Love this book. Perfecto for amateurs in the matter.
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