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How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks; Unabridged edition (Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143322965X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433229657
  • Package Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.8 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product description


"If the universe is infinite, then its possibilities are infinite as well. But in How the Universe Got Its Spots, the astrophysicist Janna Levin insists that infinity works as a hypothetical concept only, and that it is not found in nature."--Lauren Porcaro, New Yorker

"The intellectual-emotional balance, and the finely tuned prose, are what makes this different from the very many other books on cosmology. And Levin has found an interesting way to do this; the book is in the form of letters to her mother."--Toronto Globe and Mail

"Often elegiac in tone like a premature swansong from a young scientist with much to say--How the Universe Got Its Spots is a genuine attempt to break down barriers, both intellectual and emotional, between scientists and their wished-for-audience."--Ken Grimes and Alison Boyle, Astronomy

"This intimate account of the life and thought of a physicist is one of the nicest scientific books I have ever read--personal and honest, clear and informative, entertaining and difficult to put down."--Alejandro Gangui, American Scientist

"In an engaging, quirky collection of letters originally intended for her mother, Levin describes her quest as a cosmologist to understand both the topology of the universe and her place in it."--Discover (20 Best Science Books of the Year)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Is the universe infinite or just really big? With this question, the gifted young cosmologist Janna Levin not only announces the central theme of her intriguing and controversial new book but establishes herself as one of the most direct and unorthodox voices in contemporary science. For even as she sets out to determine how big "really big" may be, Levin gives us an intimate look at the day-to-day life of a globe-trotting physicist, complete with jet lag and romantic disturbances.
Nimbly synthesizing geometry, topology, chaos and string theories, Levin shows how the pattern of hot and cold spots left over from the big bang may one day reveal the size and shape of the cosmos. She does so with such originality, lucidity--and even poetry--that How the Universe Got Its Spots becomes a thrilling and deeply personal communication between a scientist and the lay reader. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a refreshing contribution to the popular science genre, as it mixes physics and cosmology with some very personal aspects of Levin's life. The book touches on key areas such as general relativity, quantum physics and topology, and yet stays on track to tackle the question of the universe's 'spots'. The 225 pages are a very manageable, with clear diagrams and useful references within the text to a handful of other key popular science accounts. Recommended to anyone who is curious about the cosmos!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.6 out of 5 stars 46 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read 4 Dec. 2014
By Annette Lamb - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After listening to an interview with Janna Levin on the NPR program Speaking of Faith, I became interested in reading her books. Levin is an astrophysicist and author interested in sharing her interest in topics from quantum mechanics to a Theory of Everything.

In the book How the Universe Got Its Spots, Levin uses a diary/letter style to explain contemporary theoretical physics in a way that is accessible to a layperson like me. She weaves the science through stories from everyday life. Her engaging writing style and excellent examples makes complex topics such as Einstein's theories easier to understand. It's interesting to learn how much we know and how much we still don't know about our universe. Is the universe finite or infinite? We really don't know.

One of the most amazing aspects of the book is her interest in cosmic archaeology which examines the patterns of hot spots left over from the big bang. I was also fascinated by her explanations of topology and geometry of the universe. I've always been interested in the idea of more than three dimensions, but it wasn't until I read this book that I began to understand how these other dimensions might work.

It's been nearly a decade since this book was written. I look forward to reading her newer, award-winning book titled A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“…there are no walls built in the human mind making some of us scientists and some of us artist. They are branches of the same tree, rooted in a common human essence. Maybe it’s our ability to step between the different disciplines, weaving strange loops all the while, that’s the core of our creativity.” (p. 193)
5.0 out of 5 stars Math, Science and the Life of Scientist 23 Jun. 2016
By Luke Nervig - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OK this book is written differently than most other physics or science books I've read. Its not all fact after fact and science science science. The book is written like a journal, with stories about the author's personal life mixed in with her science exploits. So be prepared for that! But the writing is good and the science and math is fun to learn about. Honestly, I had to get about a third of the way through the book before I fully accepted the fact that this book is different. But I didn't want to put it down, kept me up late at night many times finishing the read. Thanks Janna Levin!
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read from an engaging author 30 April 2017
By Daniel - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Janna Levin has a gift for explaining complex ideas. She intersperses a fair amount of personal anecdote, which makes the book more interesting. The personal reflections do not detract from the science. Rather, these reflections help craft a narrative lens and move the book forward.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your Teaching Prof. Reveals the Universe & Theoretical Physics 27 July 2012
By Searcher - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As you read Prof. Levin's writing you will wish she were your professor. Her writing style flows while emphasizing the guiding ideas or thought experiments of modern physics, illustrating a bit of her research and demonstrating how spots could form in our universe. Equations are not used because the initiating idea is where the paradigm changes and a revolution begins. Professors Janna Levin and Albert Einstein are adept at these questions, ideas and thought experiments. Equations and experiments follow to test whether their hypotheses are consistent with existing science or are revolutionary. HOW THE UNIVERSE GOT ITS SPOTS is an interesting, short little book which will give you an understanding of the universe and how creative theoretical physicists discover...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters Explaing the Universe 19 April 2016
By DS - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Engaging short letters explaining the universe. Painless, entertaining learning about what often is a dreary rendering of a fascinating topic.
The audio book is excellent as is the printed book. Both make the subject intimate and personal.
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