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on 1 July 1998
If you've read Hawking's famous book, "A Brief History of Time", you know there's only a chapter dedicated to black holes. Well, here's an entire book on them. Informative, enjoyable coverage of this fascinating subject is provided in a relaxed style. Finally, you can have fun exploring the deeper intricacies of black holes. Instead of just reading about them, computer examples allow you to find out about black holes first-hand. Pickover explores such topics as time and space dilation, blueshifts, the gravitational warpage of black holes, and much more. Definitely a good follow-up to the Hawking book, though it stands on its own as a solid introduction to black holes. If you want to get started with black holes, this is the book to get!
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on 28 March 1999
This book at first glance was wonderful. After the first few chapters I noticed something very peculiar. The formulas they give have MAJOR flaws. Usually Pickover forgets to include the units of measurements (see the embedding diagram formula, he says r is the radial vector..well what exactly is the radial vector expressed as..Kilometers? lightyears? inches? Who knows! One can assume that Z(r) is the amount that is depressed from normal sea-level space-time. (assuming that you imagine some 4th dimension *Minkowski's space time I suppose*)) Another problem was Pickover's tendencies to stray from the topic. He often went on a tangent about electronics and video games? (give me a break!). Explanations and proofs of the equations found throughout the chapter are brief and lack the needed elaboration. Pickover didn't explain light tunnels well enough nor did he elaborate on WHY light is trapped in a black hole. Light has no mass so gravity can't tug on it, is light trapped due to the nature of space in the hole? Is it trapped because space forever expands in a parabolic curve? Is light red-shifted because of the space-time bend or is it more of a gravitational effect? (Although both are essentially the same). I found this book rather frustrating, I loved the equations but Mr. Pickover really needs to explain his equations.
Oh yes, one last example...the formula on page 11 C(sub h)=(4*pi*G*M(sub h))/c^2. He lists G as newtonian's gravitational constant, and CLAIMS it is 1.327*10^11 km^3/s^2*M^2 where M= solar mass. He should NOT have done this, Newton's gravity constant is REALLY 6.672 59 x 10^-11 m^3/kg*s^2. Pickover converted the mass and radius of the sun into the needed values and did all the math without informing you he did this. This can be very misleading as I am very confident that the guide to universal physical constants is correct. A note to Pickover, if you plan on writing about Physiks please show your work!
(I am also trying very hard to link all his equations together and have a difficult time. I computed the event horizon for a 1 solar mass and found the circumference? I took the formula for curvature of space found the derivative and found that for a one solar mass the radial vector (radius?) would have to be 2...I thought Pickover stated that the true radius couldn't be found? The book would've been much better if he linked the equations together or put more equations in there to make all of it fit! From my personal standpoint if you want a quick introduction to Black holes this may be your book (Just ignore the equations) but if you want a complete and wonderful explanation of black holes and such buy Kip. S. Thorne's Black holes and Time Warps: Einstein's outrageous legacy. (He is , from what I know, the guru of Black holes)
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on 1 June 2015
In this book Pickover tries to go the middle ground technically in explaining black holes by bouncing between a simplistic science fiction format to the advanced formulas that describe their structure and behavior.
The science fiction format features a creature called Mr. Plex that has a diamond exoskeleton and his human wife, Mrs. Plex. Mr. Plex is also the first officer of a space ship captained by the narrator. The three of them engage in adventures near black holes and describe the situation and the consequences of their actions. Sometimes interspersed and often separated from the adventures are the formulas that describe the black holes and what happens around them. To his credit and detriment, Pickover does not shy away from using the most advanced formulas. In general, a person would have to have the equivalent of a course in college level physics with a calculus prerequisite to understand all of them. Therefore, there is no question that the sales of the book were much less than they would have been if the formulas had generally left out. There are many illustrations and some computer code to illustrate the actions in an appendix.
I commend Pickover for including the formulas for black holes and doing a generally good job in explaining them. However, there is no way that this could be considered a popular book on black holes as the level of mathematics will overwhelm most people.
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on 11 February 1999
If you love science and physics in particular like I do, but math makes your eyes glace over, than avoid this book like the plague. My head still hurts. It's only saving grace to me as I tried to salvage some useful information I could digest, was the quotes at the beginning of chapters. Mr.Pickover was also quite condescending of his alien assistant, it seemed to me; impatient and can't-be-bothered-with-idiots arrogant.
I got a ton more information, education, joy and laughter from a scientist who in my estimation has far greater justification to be too pompous to bother with the likes of neophytes like myself. The book is The God Particle by Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi. The book is about particle physics and for all it's high-end physics terminology, it was the most fun I've ever had reading a book.
Mr.Pickover's book made me mad. We're not all math wizards and to title it a 'traveler's guide' is doing a wanting-to-learn relatively intelligent person like myself a disservice with its misleading title.
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on 9 August 1999
This book is full of useful information about black holes that is presented in a fun manner. The dialog at the beginning of each chapter makes the reader understand the topic fairly easily. The equations were added for a more scientific approach, but you don't have to understand them to understand the theories. This book is very good for readers interested in Black Holes, but not the physics of them. I would not suggest this book to people who have studied physics or astrophysics if they are looking for a mathematical explanation of Black Holes. It often repeats itself because it is guided towards people with an interest in the subject but are not really interested in the math and physics of it all.
Overall it is an excellent overview of Black Holes, and a joy to read!
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on 5 June 1999
This is an interesting combination of a science fiction short story written in the second person (odd, that) and a light series of lectures on the subject of black holes. There are computer programs to try, and the maths is easy to follow without any complicated vector operators. The story has an amusing twist at the end, and the whole work conveys a sense of wonder. Such a subject can hardly be expected to have any practical relevance, but the computer programs do give the dabbler in BASIC a change to have a go.
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on 20 June 1998
I throughly enjoyed the book, Black Holes:A Traveler's Guide. I liked the format that he used by presenting a lot of information that was also entertaining at the same time. I enjoyed the science fiction type journey that used real facts that are on the frontier of astrophysics. I also liked the fact that the information was advanced but not too technical and it did not contain a lot of equations or really technical lingo.
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on 8 August 1999
This is an excellent book to give to anyone how are new to the subject of the physics concerning black holes. Thanks to this book I am able to explain how black holes work in a simple and clear way. I like how the author uses you and Mr. Plex to educate the reader about black holes. It's a trip! This is most likely the best (and most fun) book on black holes I've ever read.
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on 4 June 1998
For the physics/astronomy hobbyist, this book makes for great entertainment. Pull up a calculator, a pad and pencil, and about a gallon of your favorite beverage, then kick back and enjoy the ride. "Black Holes" will keep you busy tinkering with the math and thinking about its consequences. I very much enjoyed playing with this book!
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on 27 June 1999
This book is the most wonderful and useful introduction to black holes and parallel universes that I have ever read. It is fun, loaded with color images, and sure to hold the attention of all kinds of readers -- from computer progammers to science fiction readers to laypeople interested in mysterious objects in outer space.
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