Top positive review
Not a complex equation in sight, thankfully
on 26 February 2013
I really liked this book. I'm no mathematician or theoretical physicist but this book brought alive the nature and interconnectedness of our universe and the driving force behind it. Prior to reading this book I just thought of black holes as energy guzzlers; sucking in matter, allowing no escape. A cross between a plug hole and a compacter but with no other side, just matter being pressed into a smaller and smaller mass by gravity. How wrong could I have been. This book showed that black holes essentially have a purpose in regulating the formation of stars and galaxies, that rather than just taking from the surrounding space they also give out huge amounts of energy and act as cosmic referee's in galactic centres. Caleb Scharf also manages to get across the amount of head scratching, intuitive leaps of imagination and at times pure dumb luck that manages to advance our knowledge of the cosmos. The only thing I don't remember being explained is the lensing effect that can happen whereby you can use black holes as lenses to sharpen up images millions of light years behind them.
This is a book that is purely conceptual in nature. I can't remember seeing an equation listed anywhere (thankfully), but the quality of the narrative prose is such that you do go on a journey backwards and forwards in time so real that you feel that you're actually there. There's a line in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhikers Guide 1) where space is described as: "... big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen...", this book manages to show just how big and more importantly just how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. In this universe we're each just one person (of many) on one planet going around one of 200 Billion stars in our galaxy that in itself is just one of 100 Billion galaxys (that we can count so far) and black holes are probably the most important part of that universe. I'd definately fail the "Total Perspective Vortex" but managed to read this book and would recommend it wholeheartedly.