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on 24 March 2014
I loved this book and I'm not finished it yet. Susskind does what true zen masters do, makes the difficult and incomprehensible accessible. This is not to say that he treats his readers as children, far from it, you are expected to think and work. But not having a phD in applied physics this book has opened up Quantum physics to me in a way that really has me hankering to go back to school.
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VINE VOICEon 22 July 2008
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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on 19 September 2011
This book is a great recount in simple (and elegant) writing about cosmology, quantum theory (more to the point about quantum field theory and string theory)

It's a must for whoever want to get to know what theoretical physics (particle physics, high energy physics, cosmology) is about or for those who even having studied a physics grade have gone for another careers so they have lost whatever feeble knowledge they managed to grasp regarding these subjects

The main thread is fascinating: a scientific debate between the author and Hawking about what happens to the information that falls in a black hole... it's re - expelled along with the so called Hawking radiation or is lost forever??

Notwithstanding the interest this subject may raise, you get much more fun reading the colateral explanations the author have to offer to make himself understood regarding the black hole stuff

If you have enjoyed Brian Greene the Elegant Universe I guess you will like this one too

I am not giving the top rate for the poor paper and binding and due to excessive obsession of the author for making it clear that he (and his supporters) won the war... what is the point??? the discussion was fascinating... and without opponent it wouldn't have been possible!!!
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on 8 July 2012
The author has the rare gift of being able to explain front line physics simply and entertainingly. I feel that I learned a lot about elementry particleas and black holes without having to go through any maths. The holographic principle is a weirdly appealing idea, and it is fascinating to read about the thought processess and human interaction that lead to its discovery.

I was drawn to this book by the lectures by the author Leonard Susskind on youtube about various physics topics. If you are into this kind of stuff, check them out!
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on 26 June 2012
I saw Leonard Susskind on a BBC tv programme and was amazed by some of the claims made, which led me to buy his book. Having studied physics in school, without great understanding I have to say, I was delighted to reacquaint myself with familiar but forgotten entities such as Planck's constant and E+MC2, to be introduced to relativity, the mysteries of quantum physics and of course the extraordinary phenomena known as black holes, and because of Prof Susskind's elucidation, begin to grasp their remarkable significance. He described 'complementarity', how a phenomenon, such as light, can appear to be one thing (a photon) and quite a different thing (a form of radiation) at the same time! This seems almost metaphysical and seems reminiscent of some of the philosophical struggles of the Greeks, 'essences' come to mind. It is tough going at times, though, not a light read, I had often to refer back to previous chapters to be sure I understood a new insight, but his writing style keeps the reader engaged. As a psychiatrist, it saddens me that the science we rely on seems so soft by comparison, that we can not call on mathematics and formulae, so far, but maybe physics is showing us the way?
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on 28 August 2010
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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on 16 May 2012
I would generally say that if you have read a few 'popular science' books, then you have read them all. Not this one! Not only is it a fascinating discussion about black holes, astrophysics, etc, but there are some interesting stories and it gives an insight into the world of science, which I, as a 'wannabe' scientist, enjoyed. Do not expect to find a complicated mathematically based discussion, because that is not what it is. But then there are some interesting questions raised, some fascinating discussions and topics which it is impossible not to be captivated by for a while. Susskind writes in a way which is quite absorbing, and there is a really strong voice behind what he writes. I like this in a book- even if it is about science! The whole thing follows a story- I will not give it away- but this seems to give it some direction. Highly recommended for being well-written, affordable and a very interesting read!
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on 24 June 2016
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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on 11 February 2009
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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on 21 April 2013
Susskind is one of the most brilliant and intelligent theoretical physicists of our age and battles one of the most well known physicists, Stephen Hawking. In his book he describes Hawkings theory of black holes and how his theory that information falls into black holes and evaporates away through Hawking radiation, could shake the very foundations of physics.
If no one was to challenge this, a fundamental law of conservation of energy would be violated.
Susskind in this book walks you through step by step through the illogical conclusions to Hawkings theory. He uses little mathematics for none physicists except for a few necessary equations which are easy to grasp like calculating the entropy of a black hole.
He also proposes the three theories that would prove Hawkings theory wrong, these are:
Black hole complimentarity
Alice's aeroplane
Holographic principle
These may seem complicated but Susskind does a brilliant job in explaining these difficult concepts in the most simple terms along with string theory, quantum mechanics and general theory of relativity.
I recommend reading this book for an insight into one of the great physics debates of the last 30 years and for an in depth and simple explanation of some of the basic and necessary concepts in physics.
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