Black Holes and Time Warps : Einstein's Outrageous Legacy / Edition 1

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Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them.
Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time.
Kip Thorne, along with fellow theorists Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, a cadre of Russians, and earlier scientists such as Oppenheimer, Wheeler and Chandrasekhar, has been in the thick of the quest to secure answers. In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work of scientific history and explanation, Dr. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads his readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, coming finally to a uniquely informed answer to the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know the things they think they know? Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time has been one of the greatest best-sellers in publishing history. Anyone who struggled with that book will find here a more slowly paced but equally mind-stretching experience, with the added fascination of a rich historical and human component.

In this masterfully written and brilliantly informed work, Dr. Rhorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, leads readers through an elegant, always human, tapestry of interlocking themes, answering the great question: what principles control our universe and why do physicists think they know what they know? Features an introduction by Stephen Hawking.

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Editorial Reviews

“This excellent mixture of history, science, and opinion introduces the reader to general relativity and its consequences, with emphasis on black holes. Little is omitted in discussing the concepts and personalities involved. Thorne's passion for the subject comes through in an accessible writing style rare among research scientists.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“A masterpiece of scientific writing for a lay audience.”
Wall Street Journal
“Deeply satisfying.... [An] engrossing blend of theory, history, and anecdote.”
Malcolm W. Browne - New York Times Book Review
“Among the best of [its] genre to appear in recent years.”
Marcia Bartusiak - Washington Post
“Readers seeking to go beyond today's headlines will not find a higher authority (or a better storyteller) to discuss the cosmos's most bizarre features.... Masterful and intriguing.”
Carl Sagan
“Superb. It is what many other books about their subject ought to have been and were not.... I think the book itself will be a strong force.”
Alan Lightman
“Black Holes & Time Warps reveals the scientific enterprise as very few books do; it richly overflows with history, modern physics, the excitement of discovery, and rare, firsthand scientific styles and temperaments.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at CalTech, here offers an accessible, deftly illustrated history of curved spacetime. Covering developments from Einstein to Hawking, he takes his readers to the very edge of theoretical physics: straight through wormholes--and maybe back again--past hyperspace, ``hairless'' wormholes and quantum foam to the leading questions that drive quantum physics. He even addresses the tabloid taunt that has tantalized him since 1988: Do quantum laws allow time travel? (In his foreword, Hawking suggests, ``Maybe someone will come back from the future and tell us the answers.'') Thorne is rigorous, modest and, true to the spirit of science, determined that readers move beyond the appeal of exotic answers and grasp the significance of quantum questions. This volume, a model of style, format and illustration, will speak eloquently to the readership, ranging widely in scientific literacy and interest, that such theoretical physics writers as Hawking and Feynman have established. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This book's subtitle explains it all. Virtually all astrophysicists accept the fact that Einstein's theory of general relativity is the best model of physical reality that we have. In other words, it is essentially correct. Yet the model requires the existence of physical phenomena beyond one's wildest imagination. One of the investigators attempting to fathom the depths of the theory, Thorne here describes the people who have done the work and the trails, both false and fruitful, they have followed. He brings us up-to-date on the state of the art in black hole research and the attempts to find definitive proof of their existence. Even with the mathematics removed, his explanations can be pretty heavy going. Nevertheless, the payoff is worth the work. For academic and larger public library science collections.-Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393312768
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Series: Commonwealth Fund Book Program Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 76,038
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kip Thorne is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus at Caltech, an executive producer for Interstellar, and the author of books including the bestselling Black Holes and Time Warps. He lives in Pasadena, California.

Stephen W. Hawking is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 11
Introduction 13
Preface 17
Prologue: A Voyage among the Holes 23
1 The Relativity of Space and Time 59
2 The Warping of Space and Time 87
3 Black Holes Discovered and Rejected 121
4 The Mystery of the White Dwarfs 140
5 Implosion Is Compulsory 164
6 Implosion to What? 209
7 The Golden Age 258
8 The Search 300
9 Serendipity 322
10 Ripples of Curvature 357
11 What Is Reality? 397
12 Black Holes Evaporate 412
13 Inside Black Holes 449
14 Wormholes and Time Machines 483
Epilogue 523
Acknowledgments 529
Characters 531
Chronology 537
Glossary 547
Notes 561
Bibliography 585
People Index 601
Subject Index 613
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2005

    A thought-provoking book

    Thorne is very clear and detailed. I would say for non-scientists like myself, if you're only going to read one book on the subject of Cosmology in your life, make it this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2001

    Fun Read!

    No self-respecting physics, cosmology, astronomy, or even sci-fi fan should pass up on this book. Though this is definetely not a work of fiction, the chapter on time travel is sheer fun to read -- as engaging as any sci-fi novel, but with speculations based on sound physics theories nevertheless. The majority of the book deals with (you guessed it) black holes of course! Anything you ever wanted to know about them, as well as all the revelant physics (i.e., Einstein's general relativity, quantum physics and quantum gravity theories) is beautifully presented by Thorne. Though some mysteries will inevitably remain, 500+ pages will surely satisfy most of your curiosity. Just a word of caution for some hardcore science readers: 30% of this book is pure science, while 70% is history (background info on all import events and people contributing to our current knowledge of physics and cosmology). If you deem this to be a problem, feel free to seek out more intensive science literature but you'll be missing out. This is a rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at how talented or crazy some physicists are (what's with their betting obsession anyway?).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2000

    incredible black holes

    this book is just amazing. i think this book offers you almost all the answers to black holes problems. it was so easy to understand and really enjoyable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2000

    MAD about time-travel!

    I don't often spend money but this book is certainly worth the few pounds I spent. I have wanted to read it for a long time previously. Stephen tells us about complex physics theories. I love the chapter on wormholes and time machines as he gives an understandable and interesting account of the physics of time-travel. He assures us how to travel into the far future using the time dilation effect predicted in Einstein's special theory of relativity. He explain wormholes in detail and reveal several ways to build a time machine. They are not practical as you need things like cosmic strings(which may have been created in the early universe). He tells us the laws of quantum gravity (as it's still ill understood)hide from us weather nature would destroy any time machine. I was impressed by the diagrams which made the ideas easier to understand. When he describes how a wormhole could be made into a time machine I read amazed... Travel in time backwards is more than science fiction because Kip Thorne showed how it might be possible and how we might do it. 1, Find a wormhole i.e. enlarge one from quantum foam using anti-gravity aimed correctly so the wormhole becomes macroscopic. 2, Using high speeds or gravity move the mouths(ends)away from each other i.e.hold one mouth in strong gravity or move it at a high speed(direction is unimportant). 3, When the mouths travel with time at relative speeds a time machine is built! Going in one mouth will take you to a different point in time and space! A major problem with this plan is that a huge amount of anti-gravity is needed to feed the wormhole. This pushes the walls of the wormhole appart prevents the wormhole from collapsing. Anti-gravity also defocuses energy preventing the destruction of the wormhole. Also you either need to move the mouths at relative speeds or put one in intense gravity. But no known laws of physics forbid it and people who have researched solutions to general relativity have found nothing that would prevent time-travel to the past(although it might be difficult)! Will we succeed with it? Time will tell!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2000

    A Rare 'Must Read' Book

    Fascinating, extremely well-written, easy to understand. Suitable for scientists and laymen alike. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2003

    EINSTEIN : One century ago

    I took a great pleasure,reading this book,in discovering how Einstein was able to set up the basis concepts of his theories about relativity of time and space one century ago. The Eistein quest is a revelation of how one human being can achieve in term of researches. It also points up that even such a giant may be reluctant with his own researches results. The book covers many other great scientists history in relation with spacetime phenomenom. But at the end one thing becomes obvious: Einstein is the greatest and that two equations give the framework of physic non quantic I.E: -Einstein field equation -Mass/energy equivalence Thank you Einstein

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2002

    A book so heavy it slows time itself!

    Some of the chapters are not for everyone. There were many times when I read a paragraph, looked back and said, 'What?' Some of the math is very difficult. So for the few of us that are not a recognized mind of the world I recommend this book to anyone that has a sense of wonder. You read one line and it freezes your thoughts. If you are into books that are very deep and just blow your mind. If you are someone that loves to ponder the question, 'How large is the universe?' Or, 'What is time?' My friend this book is for you. We owe Einstein more than we will ever know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2001

    An incredibly fun read

    I didn't think I could ever have so much fun reading the printed word, but Kip Thorne proved me wrong. His book is an odyssey in the way-cool implications of General Relativity, with the bizarre objects known as black holes-- gravitationally collapsed stars, or still-mysterious relics of an early era in the universe at the centers of galaxies-- discussed in the most awe-inspiring and mind-stretching detail. The book is filled with excellent diagrams and, most fascinatingly of all, actually ponders what it is like in a black hole or wormhole itself. While obviously some of this is speculative, Thorne draws from the solutions of the relativistic equations and quantum physics to provide an at-least plausible picture of what is happening deep down. The one chapter that seemed a little overdone was Serendipity-- a little too much speculation, too little backing it up, and going all over the place. But this is a minor quibble. This is definitely one of the better popular science books on the market.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2001

    A Great Book!!

    This book rocks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2001


    This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the world of physics. Black Holes and Time Warps is stunning combination of law and theory that seamlessly incorporates the history and controversy that surrounds modern ideas. The author¿s genius definitely shines through.

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