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Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines Paperback – 1 Jan 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis; 1 edition (1 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750305606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750305600
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.9 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 215,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Jim Al-Khalili has written a splendid popular book ... The book would be an excellent resource for school teachers in both maths and physics to enrich their teaching, and to enthuse their students. ... Many physicists will enjoy this easy to read book ... I highly recommend it for teenagers with an interest in science and for non-scientists interested in the deep questions of our universe.

From the Author

(What's this book is about and who I am.)
The book is meant for all those people--which is pretty much everyone I know--who are curious about such exotic sounding concepts as black holes, space warps, the Big Bang, time travel and parallel universes. In writing the book I have asked myself whether complete non-experts can learn a little about some of the ideas of modern physics without feeling the urge to check that their IQ is up to the task before embarking.

The subject matter of the book has been covered elsewhere at many different levels. At the very top is the advanced text or monograph for the practitioner in the field. This is the sorcerer's spell book, decipherable only by the privileged few. Then comes the textbook aimed at the university physics student. It too contains some spells, but nothing very powerful. Below that comes the top end of the popular science market. Such books are aimed at the non-scientist in that they contain little or no mathematics. However, they appeal only to those who are either (a) other scientists or (b) fans of such books already, who have invariably read similar books on the subject. So, when writing this book I have made every effort to cut out as much scientific jargon as possible.

I hope this book is entertaining as well as informative. I never set out to write an introductory course in relativity theory, but what I offer is a glimpse of what modern physics is about and an opportunity to share with me the sheer excitement of contemplating some of the deepest questions of existence. I hope you enjoy it.

I had also better introduce myself I suppose. I am a theoretical physicist at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England where I carry out my research as well as teach undergraduate classes in quantum physics, relativity theory, mathematics and nuclear physics.

I performed the 1998 UK Institute of Physics Schools and Colleges Lecture Tour. The lecture ended up as this book. I also seem to have been involved quite a bit recently in various TV and radio programmes discussing the subject matter of my book. I appeared with Roger Penrose on the BBC's Flow of Time documentary earlier this year and will appear later this Autumn on another BBC documentary, with Paul Davies, called A Life of Time. My recent radio work has involved discussing topics ranging from the nature of Free Will and the meaning of truth in science to the physics behind the Star Wars movies. Earlier this year I was nominated for the Royal Society Michael Faraday Award in the Public Understanding of Science.


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Format: Paperback
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!
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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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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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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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