The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

The international bestseller that inspired a major Nova special and sparked a new understanding of the universe, now with a new preface and epilogue.Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away layers of mystery to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter—from the small...

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Title:The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
Author:Brian Greene
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Edition Language:English

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory Reviews

  • Alisha

    I left Christianity a few years ago and swore off religion altogether; however, after reading this book, string theory has become tantamount to religion in my life. Brian Greene writes beautifully about particles, planets, and the origins of our universe as we know it today. It is a heavy book- I don't recommend it for anyone who wants a quick, easy read. It took me almost two months to get through, but I learned a tremendous amount and came away in complete awe of the world and the forces at wo

    I left Christianity a few years ago and swore off religion altogether; however, after reading this book, string theory has become tantamount to religion in my life. Brian Greene writes beautifully about particles, planets, and the origins of our universe as we know it today. It is a heavy book- I don't recommend it for anyone who wants a quick, easy read. It took me almost two months to get through, but I learned a tremendous amount and came away in complete awe of the world and the forces at work in it today. Since Green wrote his book string theory has come under intense scrutiny; despite this, I would still support this book on the basis that it is gorgeously written, based in fact (many of the experiments and proofs were done by Greene himself), and incredibly informative. A vertible Bible of where we came from, where we're going and the incredibly complex way things function in this glorious universe of ours.

  • Stephen

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. There is a great quote to the effect that "if you can't explain a subject in non-technical terms so that a lay person can understand it than you haven't really mastered the subject yourself." On that basis, it is clear that

    has DEFINITELY mastered the subject of general relatively, quantum dynanmics and string theory (at least to the extent present technology allows). For such a complicated and often "non intuitive" subject, Greene does an excellent job of laying o

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. There is a great quote to the effect that "if you can't explain a subject in non-technical terms so that a lay person can understand it than you haven't really mastered the subject yourself." On that basis, it is clear that

    has DEFINITELY mastered the subject of general relatively, quantum dynanmics and string theory (at least to the extent present technology allows). For such a complicated and often "non intuitive" subject, Greene does an excellent job of laying out in understandable terms: (1) the evolution of special relativity into general relativity; (2) the basics of quantum dynamics; (3) the fundamental conflict between general relativity and quantum dynamics; and (4) the amazing development of string theory and (5) the prospects for string theory to be able to resolve the conflcit between general relativity and quantum mechanics and come up with a Unified Theory of Everything (the fabled TOE).

    Now even with Greene's fantastic explanations, once we got beyond the basics of string theory and onto such concepts as 10 "spatial" dimensions, mirror symmetry and Calabi-Yau manifolds, there were times when the subject matter was just difficult to grasp on an intuitive level. However, Greene was quick to point out that the reader (i.e., me) was not alone in that confusion and it did not prevent me from walking away with a much better understanding of these difficult topics. It also made me interested in learning more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

  • Riku Sayuj

    To think I put all that effort to understand a discredited theory...

  • يونس عمارة

    لنقل ان الفيزياء تنقسم الى نظريات .

    فيزياء كلاسيكة ، فيزياء حديثة .

    الفيزياء الكلاسيكة تفسر الكون على اساس معادلات نيوتن وهي صادقة لحد كبير في التنبوءات ومازالت تستعمل وتدرس في المدارس لحد الآن.

    الحديثة تنقسم الى عدة اقسام : نظرية النسبية العامة والخاصة . نظرية الكم ، نظرية الاوتار الفائقة التي ادعت انها جمعت كل النظريات السابقة ..هناك ايضا سيناريوهات اخرى منها نظرية –ام و عدة اقتراحات اخرى تسمى بنظريات كل شيء ..

    ان رأيت ان الامر صعب –كما ظهر لي من قبل – فاقرا كتاب (الكون الانيق ) لبرايان غرين ويكفي

    لنقل ان الفيزياء تنقسم الى نظريات .

    فيزياء كلاسيكة ، فيزياء حديثة .

    الفيزياء الكلاسيكة تفسر الكون على اساس معادلات نيوتن وهي صادقة لحد كبير في التنبوءات ومازالت تستعمل وتدرس في المدارس لحد الآن.

    الحديثة تنقسم الى عدة اقسام : نظرية النسبية العامة والخاصة . نظرية الكم ، نظرية الاوتار الفائقة التي ادعت انها جمعت كل النظريات السابقة ..هناك ايضا سيناريوهات اخرى منها نظرية –ام و عدة اقتراحات اخرى تسمى بنظريات كل شيء ..

    ان رأيت ان الامر صعب –كما ظهر لي من قبل – فاقرا كتاب (الكون الانيق ) لبرايان غرين ويكفيك ذلك لكي تفهم كل هاته المصطلحات حتى لو كانت ثقافتك الفيزيائية عادية ، ان كنت تريد الفهم حقا فزد اطلع على سيتفن هونكينغ في' الكون في قشرة جوز' .وكتاب من الذرة للكوارك ..والمنظمة العربية للترجمة باشراف الدكتور جابر عصفور فعلت خيرا باخراج كل هاته الروائع بصفة ممتازة جدا ..

    الكون الانيق كتاب ممتاز جدا لدرجة كبيرة ولو كانت لي القدرة لجعلت كل الذين يدرسون الفيزياء يقرئونه اجباريا بدل الكتب البيداغوجية التافهة التي توزع عليهم ..لقد قال (هل وجود الجسيمة الأولية نهاية الطريق ؟ ابدا، انها بداية الطريق –الطويل – نحو بناء نظرية كل شيء).

    انا اعتقد ان كل الفيزيائيين الذين مارسوا معادلات الكم و مجال هيغز والنموذج المعياري للجسميات والنسبية ونظرية الاوتار الفائقة وطول بلانك ومعادلات شرونديجر .. مؤمنون بالله في اعماق انفسهم ..

    انه كون باهر لدرجة لا تصدق انه رائع ومدهش ومميز وليس عشوائيا .. ممتعا مسليا ممتازا غامضا مليئا بالاسرار مشوق مثير وكل الصفات الرائعة التي تجعلك متحمساً ..لذا لا غرابة في ان سمى كتابه (الكون الانيق (..انه ببساطة كذلك ..

    من مقال لي : بوزون هيغز : الرابط للمقال الكامل هنا :

  • Mohammed-Makram
  • Marvin

    Do I understand string theory? Not sure.

    Do I understand M theory? A little bit but don't ask for any algebraic reasoning.

    Do I know exactly what a Calabi-Yau is? Not really but I think they look a little like the hair balls from my cat.

    This is the second time I've equated quantum physics and all its detours to a hair-ball. That's because I can study a hair ball and still have no idea what it is for and why they exist. String Theory and the elusive TOE is in the same category. I could go on my en

    Do I understand string theory? Not sure.

    Do I understand M theory? A little bit but don't ask for any algebraic reasoning.

    Do I know exactly what a Calabi-Yau is? Not really but I think they look a little like the hair balls from my cat.

    This is the second time I've equated quantum physics and all its detours to a hair-ball. That's because I can study a hair ball and still have no idea what it is for and why they exist. String Theory and the elusive TOE is in the same category. I could go on my entire life not knowing about them but now that I do, I need to know why. Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Hawking, and my cat can't all be right. Or can they?

    That is essentially the dilemma of string theory and the book. Greene does a great job of putting everything in layman's term but there is a point which he must exceed the intellectual ionosphere and soar into the incalculable. I really like this type of book. The challenge is the fun. But rest assured when the scientists get their act together and write an Idiot's guide to The Unified Theory Of Everything, I'll be the first in line.

    P. S. Hair balls and string theories have something else in common. Once you tore one apart, you can never get your hands clean.

  • Manny

    When I read this book, I remember thinking it was pretty interesting, but I am surprised how few insights I have retained... to be honest, hardly any. Smolin's

    , which I read much more recently, suggests that string theory is in big trouble, and right now I am more tempted to side with Smolin.

    There's this old Nasrudin story, where he's somehow ended up as judge in a court case. The D.A. really makes a good case, and Nasrudin can't r

    When I read this book, I remember thinking it was pretty interesting, but I am surprised how few insights I have retained... to be honest, hardly any. Smolin's

    , which I read much more recently, suggests that string theory is in big trouble, and right now I am more tempted to side with Smolin.

    There's this old Nasrudin story, where he's somehow ended up as judge in a court case. The D.A. really makes a good case, and Nasrudin can't restrain himself. "Yes, you're right!" he shouts. Then the defense lawyer gets up and makes his pitch, and Nasrudin is equally impressed. "Yes, you're right!" he shouts again. The court recorder clears his throat and leans over towards Nasrudin. "Your honor," he says respectfully, "they can't

    be right!". Nasrudin shakes his head. "Yes, you're right!" he agrees.

    Well, between Greene and Smolin I feel a bit like Nasrudin, but luckily I am not the judge here. Am I just agreeing with Smolin because I heard him most recently? Maybe. But trying to correct for that, I still think that there is a reason why Smolin seems more convincing and memorable, and why very little of what Greene says has stuck. String theory has become so divorced from experimental reality that it rarely if ever gives you that feeling you get from good science, of suddenly grasping a real physical phenomenon that you have known about for a while, but not understood.

    I guess the example that makes me least happy is supersymmetry, according to which every particle has a supersymmetric partner. Compare this with the discovery of the periodic table in the late 19th century, or the development of the Standard Theory in the 60s and 70s. There, insightful people gradually realized that objects (atoms in the first case, subatomic particles in the second) were related in a complicated pattern. Most of the time the pattern fit, but there were a few holes, and they were later able to find the things (new elements, new particles) that filled in the holes! I was astonished to read that there is

    which has a known supersymmetric partner - so far, it's all hypothesis, and perhaps none of these "selectrons", "photinos" etc actually exist. I'm not saying that this means supersymmetry is wrong; I'm just saying it means I don't find it exciting.

    Maybe next year they will get the LHC working, discover a whole slew of supersymmetric partners (even one would be a lot), and put string theory on a proper experimental footing. If that happens, I'm sure I'll go back to reading books on this subject; I won't be able to stop myself. But until then, well, it may be beautiful math, but I feel no emotional connection to it. I'd love to hear from people who disagree, and can explain to me just what it is I'm missing out on.

    __________________________________

    We had another particle physicist over for dinner last night. He'd come mainly to play chess, but when I found out that he was involved in looking for supersymmetric particles I took the opportunity to ask how it was going. Well: assuming he's to be trusted, and he sounded pretty knowledgeable on the subject, we should know pretty soon. The LHC is now up to high enough energies. They're collecting data. If supersymmetric particles exist, there is every reason to suppose that we'll have clear evidence of them within a year or two.

    I wondered what would happen if they

    find any supersymmetric particles? Would the theoreticians just retreat into saying that they needed a more powerful collider? Not so, said my informant; if the particles can't be found at the current range of energies, the predictions were wrong. Sounds like we're finally getting a straight up-or-down vote.

    String theory, you can run but you can't hide!

    __________________________________

    I knew it was too good to be true. We had yet another particle physicist over, whose PhD topic had been something to do with searching for a supersymmetric quark. I asked her if it really was the case that we'd soon know if supersymmetric particles existed.

    Alas, it turns out that, although the energies they're now reaching in the LHC are indeed sufficient to find supersymmetric particle according to the mainstream versions of string theory, there are other versions which predict higher energies - energies which are outside the LHC's range.

    "Of course," she added, "the mainstream version is the one that contains the original motivation for supersymmetry. If they retreat to one of the other versions, then most of the rationale disappears. But people have a lot riding on string theory."

    "That's terrible!" I said indignantly. She just shrugged her shoulders.

    __________________________________

    Browsing the physics section at the South Australian State Library earlier this week, I picked up a copy of Becker, Becker and Schwarz's

    (2007). The introduction says clearly that supersymmetry is essential to string theory/M-theory, and moreover that the LHC should be able to reach high enough energies to produce supersymmetric particles, if they do in fact exist. Consulting Google Scholar, my impression is that the book is highly respected: I see 661 citations.

    Eight years later, no supersymmetric particles have been observed. But no doubt string theorists have an explanation for this inconvenient fact.

    __________________________________

    Hey, if you think

    being mean to those poor string theorists, just look at what Randall Munroe said the other day!

    __________________________________

    It struck me today that the people who are criticising CERN for spending so much money finding the Higgs boson are wrong on at least two counts. First, $13B isn't actually such a large price tag for making a fundamental discovery about the laws of the universe, the truth of which is obvious only in retrospect; many physicists were unsure that the Higgs existed. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, there's the dog that didn't bark in the night. Many physicists were also expecting to find supersymmetric particles, but none have been detected. This greatly weakens the plausibility of string theory and shifts attention to competing theories for unifying quantum mechanics and gravity, of which by far the most attractive is Loop Quantum Gravity.

    Speaking as someone who used to work for NASA and was involved with the International Space Station project ($150B and counting), I would say CERN has given the taxpayer value for money and then some. It's a pity that all research funding isn't allocated in such a responsible manner.

    __________________________________

    On pages 368-9 of Leonard Susskind's 2008 book

    , I find the following passage:

    Well, there it is again. Susskind, one of the foremost proponents of string theory and a world-renowned expert on fundamental physics in general, said ten years ago that the LHC would soon find the superpartners/supersymmetric particles if they were there. It hasn't found them. Ergo...

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