Einstein said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. But was he right? Can the quantum theory of fields and Einstein's general theory of relativity, the two most accurate and successful theories in all of physics, be united in a single quantum theory of gravity? Can quantum and cosmos ever be combined? On this issue, two of the world's most famous physicists--Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time) and Roger Penrose (The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind)--disagree. Here they explain their positions in a work based on six lectures with a final debate, all originally presented at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge.
How could quantum gravity, a theory that could explain the earlier moments of the big bang and the physics of the enigmatic objects known as black holes, be constructed? Why does our patch of the universe look just as Einstein predicted, with no hint of quantum effects in sight? What strange quantum processes can cause black holes to evaporate, and what happens to all the information that they swallow? Why does time go forward, not backward?
In this book, the two opponents touch on all these questions. Penrose, like Einstein, refuses to believe that quantum mechanics is a final theory. Hawking thinks otherwise, and argues that general relativity simply cannot account for how the universe began. Only a quantum theory of gravity, coupled with the no-boundary hypothesis, can ever hope to explain adequately what little we can observe about our universe. Penrose, playing the realist to Hawking's positivist, thinks that the universe is unbounded and will expand forever. The universe can be understood, he argues, in terms of the geometry of light cones, the compression and distortion of spacetime, and by the use of twistor theory. With the final debate, the reader will come to realize how much Hawking and Penrose diverge in their opinions of the ultimate quest to combine quantum mechanics and relativity, and how differently they have tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.
If the cosmos is vast, says astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, it is by no means silent. Nature, he writes, "delights in continuously sending us her notes of music." Like some far-off orchestra, it tantalizes us with fragments of a symphony, but the melody linking the bits and snatches of song is missing. The task of science is to unravel the secrets of that hidden melody, so that we can listen to the composition in all its glory.
In The Secret Melody, Trinh Xuan Thuan examines our many attempts to capture the music of nature and hear the cosmic fugue. First, as prelude, he describes the many other cosmologies that preceded the modern Big Bang theory of creation--the magical universe of cavemen, the ancient Chinese idea of the universe (which Thuan compares to a gigantic bureaucracy), the mathematical universe introduced by Pythagoras, and the heliocentric universe of Copernicus--and he explores the work of Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and other early scientists. He then describes in a clear, vivid, and poetic language our current understanding of the cosmos, painting a sharp picture of how modern astronomers study the universe, the equipment they use, the most prominent scientists, and the major discoveries. A mind-boggling portrait of the cosmos emerges in these pages. We read, for instance, of the incredible size of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which is some 90,000 light-years in diameter, with several hundred billion stars orbiting its center. More amazing, we discover we live in a universe where stars, like human beings, are born, live, and die, leaving behind such strange and exotic objects as neutron stars and black holes; where time may expand and space may contract; and where billions of galaxies have sprung from a tiny primordial speck that was infinitely smaller than a hydrogen atom in a gigantic explosion, the Big Bang. And, of course, any examination of the origin and nature of the universe inevitably raises philosophical and religious questions, and Thuan examines these issues as well, presenting a provocative case for the anthropic principle (which argues that the universe has been fine-tuned to an extreme precision to produce living creatures with consciousness and intelligence) and illuminating the place of God in a Big Bang cosmology.
Here then is an intriguing look at modern cosmology, blending up-to-the-minute descriptions of the forefront of astronomy with thoughtful reflections on science's possible impact on philosophical and religious belief. With many beautiful and informative illustrations, The Secret Melody is an enthralling look at our endless efforts to understand the cosmos and to hear the music of the stars.
Abraham Pais's life of Albert Einstein was one of the finest scientific biographies ever written. When it first appeared in 1982, Christian Science Monitor called it "an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man," and Timothy Ferris, in The New York Times Book Review, said it was "the biography of Einstein he himself would have liked best," adding that "it is a work against which future scientific biographies will be measured." As a respected physicist himself, Pais was the first biographer to give Einstein's thinking its full due, yet despite the occasional high level of science needed to discuss Einstein's ideas, the book was a national bestseller. Indeed, it was one of The New York Times's Best Books of the Year, and the winner of the 1983 American Book Award for Science.
Now Pais turns to Niels Bohr, to illuminate the life and thought of another giant of 20th-century physics. Bohr was the first to understand how atoms were put together, he played a major role in shaping the theory of the atomic nucleus, he decoded the atomic spectrum of hydrogen, an achievement which marks him as the founder of the quantum dynamics of atoms, and his concept of complementarity (which provides the philosophical underpinning for quantum theory) qualifies him as one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. Pais covers all of these achievements with sophistication and clarity, but he also reveals the many other facets of the man. Perhaps most important, he shows that Bohr was not only a great scientist, but also a great nurturer of young scientific talent, acting as father figure extraordinaire for several generations of physicists. Bohr's Institute of Theoretical Physics, which he founded in Copenhagen and for which he tirelessly raised funds, was the world's leading center for physics all through the 1920s and 1930s, the birthplace of Heisenberg's papers on the uncertainty relations, Dirac's first paper on quantum electrodynamics, and other pivotal works. And Pais reveals as well the personal side of Bohr, the avid reader and crossword puzzle solver (Bohr loved Icelandic sagas, Goethe and Schiller, Dickens and Mark Twain--while studying in England early in his career, he improved his English by reading The Pickwick Papers with a dictionary to one side); his aid to Jews and other refugees in the 1930s and during the war; the tragic loss of his son Christian (who died in a sailing accident right before Bohr's eyes); and his attempts during and after the war to promote openness between East and West, meeting with both Roosevelt and Churchill (the former was quite courteous, the latter lectured Bohr like a schoolboy).
Bohr's research, his teaching, his friendships with the major scientists of our time, his aid to refugees, his role as philosopher, administrator, and fund raiser, his devotion to science and to his family--all these qualities are illuminated by Pais in a marvelous biography that captures the essence of one of the best-loved figures of this century.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERA landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking's book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin--and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending--or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends? Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and "arrows of time," of the big bang and a bigger God--where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.
From Brian Greene, one of the world's leading physicists, comes a grand tour of the universe that makes us look at reality in a completely different way.Space and time form the very fabric of the cosmos. Yet they remain among the most mysterious of concepts. Is space an entity? Why does time have a direction? Could the universe exist without space and time? Can we travel to the past? Greene uses these questions to guide us toward modern science's new and deeper understanding of the universe. From Newton's unchanging realm in which space and time are absolute, to Einstein's fluid conception of spacetime, to quantum mechanics' entangled arena where vastly distant objects can bridge their spatial separation to instantaneously coordinate their behavior or even undergo teleportation, Greene reveals our world to be very different from what common experience leads us to believe. Focusing on the enigma of time, Greene establishes that nothing in the laws of physics insists that it run in any particular direction and that "time's arrow" is a relic of the universe's condition at the moment of the big bang. And in explaining the big bang itself, Greene shows how recent cutting-edge developments in superstring and M-theory may reconcile the behavior of everything from the smallest particle to the largest black hole. This startling vision culminates in a vibrant eleven-dimensional "multiverse," pulsating with ever-changing textures, where space and time themselves may dissolve into subtler, more fundamental entities. Sparked by the trademark wit, humor, and brilliant use of analogy that have made The Elegant Universe a modern classic, Brian Greene takes us all, regardless of our scientific backgrounds, on an irresistible and revelatory journey to the new layers of reality that modern physics has discovered lying just beneath the surface of our everyday world. With 146 illustrations Jacket photograph by DB Image/Brand X Pictures
Interviews with Hawking, his family, colleagues, and friends provide a close-up look at one of the world's greatest physicists, as well as a lucid explanation of his major theories
As Dennis Overbye explains in the introduction to Eiinstein in Love, his first book since the National Book Critics Circle and Los Angeles Times Book Award nominee Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, his primary goal is to separate the man "Albert" from the myth "Einstein", to restore humanity and individuality and shaded nuance to a man who has become the most monolithic figure in the scientific pantheon.
Einstein in Love is the first of the many biographies of the great scientist to focus exclusively on his life during the first two decades of the wentieth century, the period of the greatest intellectual catclysm in modern history. The "love" in the title of this book has a double meaning, referring not only to young Albert's exhilarating infatuation with his discoveries of the vistas of a new physics in general relativity, but also his ecstatic, cerebral, and tormented relationship with his first wife, Mileva Maric. While Mileva has always been a controversial figure in the Einstein legend - some commentators have gone as awarding her equal credit for the discovery of relativity - no book has treated her as fully and as sympathetically as Overbye's. The Einsteins were the first modern couple, and for the nearly twenty years of their marriage they were as often colleagues as they were emotional adversaries.
Drawing upon hundreds of Einstein's published and unpublished letters, Overbey presents the greatest of scientific romances in a vivid new light, told with novelistic detail and narrative drive. The story of young Einstein is the story of the young man who actually did the revolutionary work that made the old man famous, a young man whose demanor is more that of James Dean than AlbertSchweitzer, a teenager in love, a draftdodger, bohemian, poet, violinist, and whirlwind who left personal, political, and professional chaos in his wake.
Einstein in Love bring that man to life as never before, as well as a large cast of the greatest scientific minds in Europe, as told by one of today's most respected science journalists.