Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines / Edition 1

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Do you know:

  • What might happen if you fall into a black hole?
  • That the Universe does not have an edge?
  • That the reason it gets dark at night is proof of the Big Bang?
  • That cosmic particles time-travel through the atmosphere defying death?
  • That our past, present and future might all coexist "out there"?

With two remarkable ideas, Albert Einstein revolutionized our view of the Universe. His first was that nothing can travel faster than light-the ultimate speed limit. This simple fact leads to the unavoidable conclusion that space and time must be linked together forever as Spacetime. With his second monumental insight, Einstein showed how Spacetime is warped and stretched by the gravity of all objects in the Universe and even punctured by black holes. But such possible twisting of Spacetime allowed a magic not even Einstein could have imagined: time-travel.

Theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili finally lays science fiction to rest as he opens up Einstein's Universe. Leading us gently and light-heartedly through the dizzying world of our space and time, he even gives us the recipe for a time machine, capable of taking us Back to the Future, to Alice's Wonderland, or on a trip with the Terminator.

"...presents an introduction to the ideas first formed by Albert Einstein...examines black holes, the Big Bang theory, wormholes, and 'Spacetime.'"

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Editorial Reviews

Cambridge Universit Press-European review
...the reader will enjoy the clear and non-technical explanations strewn with historical anecdotes about the heroes of this quest for the understanding of what is time and space...Al-Khalili takes us by the hand to a fascinating world from which you may not return.
D. Park
Newton's theory of gravity explains how moons and planets move. Einstein's theory, with minor modifications, does the same, but we now recognize that those calculations involve very weak gravitational fields; when the fields are strong Newton has nothing to say, while Einstein, if one follows the paths he began to explore, leads us into a world of black holes and still stranger possibilities such as other universes that can be reached from ours if one leaps into a black hole. Black holes almost certainly exist; the rest is conjecture, which collapses if Einstein's equations are not correct. Al-Khalili (Univ. of Surrey, UK) describes some aspects of the conjectured universe, without mathematics and, unfortunately, almost without diagrams. He starts with a rather jocular and patronizing introduction to gravitation and cosmology, but at about the half-way mark we reach the areas of the author's serious concern. Jokes disappear and he and the reader get down to business. Strange journeys in space and time are described, and even if readers do not follow the mathematical necessities they will gain some idea of what the experts are thinking about. General readers; lower-division undergraduates.
Choice Magazine
History of Physics Newsletter
This book, for the lay reader, is well-reasoned and is written in a straightforward, rather lighthearted style...Overall, I would recommend this book to the lay reader; there is much in it to catch the interest.
Journal of the British Association
... A jolly book. Jim Al-Khalili writes in a conversational style that won over even this reviewer, somewhat jaundiced with books about black holes...His prediliction for physics shines through, but is a merit as it expresses delight, wonder and awe as well as he explains difficult concepts and sweeps briskly through misconceptions.
Physics World
Jim Al Khalili has produced, with earnest intentions, a concise, well written book about some of the exotic features associated with general relativity...
Known best as a co-star of BBC's Flow of Time, Al-Khalili (theoretical physics, U. of Surrey) explains to lay readers how the ideas of Einstein lead to possibilities he himself never entertained. Among the topics are the fourth dimension, gravity, time travel paradoxes, and how to build a time machine. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Chris Welch
This is a highly entertaining book... Strongly recommended.
Spaceflight (Vol. 42, No. 5, 2000)
New Scientist
Jim Al-Khalili's Black Holes, Worm Holes and Time Machines is another of the many books about the wonders of the Universe and what we know about them. [..]. Enthusiasm to make everything understandable to the most untutored comes from every page. It's successful, it's humorous and it's up to date. A great crib for furtive, refreshing use. (Feb. 26, 2000)
Science Books and Films
With this book, the author has attempted to write an account of our current theoretical understanding of time and space that is both accurate and accessible to any interested adult. Al-Khalili has succeeded admirably and has also managed to write an entertaining book.
The Economist
Time is a persistent theme in Jim Al-Khalili's account of modern physics. The book is based on a series of lectures that he gave to schoolchildren for the Institute of Physics, although it is also intended for adults. It aims to explain topics such as quantum mechanics, relativity, the big bang and black holes in a way that is accessible to the non-specialist.

Mr Al-Khalili explains that time is thought to have started along with the universe in the big bang, about 15 billion years ago (for comparison, the sun is about halfway through its life of about 10 billion years). Time also has a direction: although most physical processes are reversible, there is roughly speaking a tendency (familiar to parents) for the world to become ever less organised.

However, time does not always flow at the same rate: travelling close to the speed of light or falling into a black hole slows the passage of time relative to an observer. These are complex ideas that physicists usually express in mathematical language. Mr Al-Khalili avoids mathematics, yet gives an admirably clear account of some of the concepts involved. (December, 1999)

The Physicist
Jim Al-Khalili has written a splendid popular book. It begins where it must, with geometry, curved space and all that. The book is authoritative and yet reasonably simple. It contains some excellent insights and analogies, but always warns you of the limits to the analogies.

The book would be an excellent resource for school teachers in both Maths and Physics to enrich their teaching, and to enthuse their students. I especially liked the story of the hotel with an infinity of rooms, and the procedures for accommodating further infinities of guests. Finally the book delves into time and time travel and the debate on whether time travel is theoretically possible. This brings into focus the contradictions between quantum physics and general relativity. The reader is left well aware of what we do know and most importantly, what we don't know, and the exciting theoretical challenges ahead.

Many physicists will enjoy this easy to read book, but they will have to be patient with many of the easy bits. I highly recommend it for teenagers with an interest in science and for non-scientists interested in the deep questions of our universe. (October 1999)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780750305600
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 1,504,795
  • Product dimensions: 5.47 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Table of Contents

SPACE: The 4th Dimension. Matters of Some Gravity. The Universe. Black Holes. TIME: Times are Changing. Einstein's Time. Time Travel Paradoxes. TIME TRAVEL: Wormholes. How to Build a Time Machine. What do we Know?

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Customer Reviews

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( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2000

    This is a great book

    This book explains with outstanding clarity very complex terms like what time is, what black holes and wormholes are, different possibilities for the shape of the universe and so much more. Mr. Al-Khalili refrains from using mathematical explanations and, using humor and focused arguments, illustrates briefly what is a wonderful introduction of the subject to general readers (highly recommended for teens). It practically changed my view upon the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2000

    Super illustrative

    The best way to get introduce to the history and time details of the General Theory of Relativity and some of its possible consequences. An excellent treatment of the theme. Very precise, very modernized, probably do not miss any edge accepted theory about the title. And, one of the best things, you do not need to be a noble prize to understand the book. Congratulations to the author

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