INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“Most appealing... technical accuracy and lightness of tone... Impeccable.”—Wall Street Journal
“A porthole into another world.”—Scientific American
“Brings science dissemination to a new level.”—Science
The most trusted explainer of the most mind-boggling concepts pulls back the veil of mystery that has too long cloaked the most valuable building blocks of modern science. Sean Carroll, with his genius for making complex notions entertaining, presents in his uniquely lucid voice the fundamental ideas informing the modern physics of reality.
Physics offers deep insights into the workings of the universe but those insights come in the form of equations that often look like gobbledygook. Sean Carroll shows that they are really like meaningful poems that can help us fly over sierras to discover a miraculous multidimensional landscape alive with radiant giants, warped space-time, and bewilderingly powerful forces. High school calculus is itself a centuries-old marvel as worthy of our gaze as the Mona Lisa. And it may come as a surprise the extent to which all our most cutting-edge ideas about black holes are built on the math calculus enables.
No one else could so smoothly guide readers toward grasping the very equation Einstein used to describe his theory of general relativity. In the tradition of the legendary Richard Feynman lectures presented sixty years ago, this book is an inspiring, dazzling introduction to a way of seeing that will resonate across cultural and generational boundaries for many years to come.
Carroll (Something Deeply Hidden), a physics professor at Cal Tech, doesn't quite deliver on his insistence that "it is possible to learn about modern physics for real, equations and all, even if you are more amateur than professional and have every intention of staying that way." He first digs into physics's concept of conservation ("staying constant over time") before covering "the Laplacian paradigm for describing change," Newton's second law of motion, Riemannian geometry ("which allows spaces to be arbitrarily curved and studied from the inside, rather than requiring them to be embedded in some higher-dimensional space"), and matrix algebra (which consists of "an array of quantities"). Though Carroll suggests that equations "are not that scary," they are certainly overwhelming here, with more than 120 appearing, often accompanied by difficult to follow explanations. There are instances where Carroll manages to parse knotty concepts in a lay-reader friendly way, as when he explains the "no-hair theorem of black holes" or why calculus "is so central to how physics is done." But his use of calculus in practice is confusing, and those with a budding interest in physics will have a tough time wading through the complex and often uncaptioned graphs and figures. For nonspecialists, this doesn't add up to much.