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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics Paperback – 5 Nov 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (5 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316016411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316016414
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.1 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 314,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

Book Description

The father of string theory recounts his paradigm-shifting debate with Stephen Hawking over the nature of black holes.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
This is an interesting and readable book. Susskind sure-footedly guides the reader through a labyrinth of modern physics, presenting increasingly complex and cutting-edge ideas in a non-mathematical way, and illustrating them with a plethora of thought-provoking analogies. I read the book quickly - for the most part the story is compellingly told - and ended it much better informed about, not only black holes, but also the ways in which theoretical physicists think and behave.

Although I would thoroughly recommend this book I do have some quibbles, principally about the narrative style. The grandiose title catches the eye but presenting this conflict of ideas as a 'war', scientists as 'foot soldiers' and so on becomes irritating. For Susskind, however, this seems almost to have been a conflict of good versus evil. He and his fellow free-thinking scientists (interestingly, almost exclusively from the 'new world') are painted as heroic figures battling against the reactionary (old world) forces of Svengali-like Stephen Hawking. Although Susskind acknowledges Hawking's profound influence on his work, his portrayal of him is almost unremittingly unflattering. This depiction is at odds with Hawking's clearly pivotal role in the debate. Just how his work managed to keep the argument live for so many years is unexplained - a major hole in the story as told.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a story about a disagreement about information loss in black holes. Stephen Hawking insisted that information about anything that falls into a black hole is lost forever; the author - Leonard Susskind - disagreed.

The black hole war lasted many years and author Susskind tells the tale. On the way we learn much about physics in general and about the physics of black holes in particular. The story encompasses Einstein's relativity, quantum physics, the holographic principle, string theory and many other areas of modern physics.

The author writes well and it's an entertaining read; possibly one of my favourite popular science books. The physics is explained well, mainly without resorting to mathematics (although there are one or two equations in the book), but be prepared for some mind-bending concepts.

I really enjoyed this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cannot recommend this book highly enough! Bought it for my husband's birthday and he's read it twice in 3 weeks!! It is very clearly written and accessible to people with limited knowledge of physics, so much so I am going to read it myself - where none of the others in his collection has tempted me. Even without the use of mathematics Susskind manages to convey deep meaningful ideas in an understandable way and I shall definitely be buying my husband some of his other titles. It is quite a sizeable book and not a short read like lots of others. If you have an interest in theoretical physics you won't be disappointed by this book!
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