The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces

The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces

by Frank Wilczek
     
 

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Our understanding of nature’s deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past twenty-five years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. He

Overview

Our understanding of nature’s deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past twenty-five years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. He calls it “The Lightness of Being.” Space is no mere container, empty and passive. It is a dynamic Grid—a modern ether— and its spontaneous activity creates and destroys particles. This new understanding of mass explains the puzzling feebleness of gravity, and a gorgeous unification of all the forces comes sharply into focus.

The Lightness of Being is the first book to explore the implications of these revolutionary ideas about mass, energy, and the nature of “empty space.” In it, Wilczek masterfully presents new perspectives on our incredible universe and envisions a new golden age of fundamental physics.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Grand unification theories have long been a holy grail in science. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wilczek, who has himself made notable contributions in this field, offers a survey of everything in the universe from quarks to black holes, elucidating the current scientific thinking on how matter and energy interact. The two main concepts are the "Grid" and the "Core." Wilczek says the grid is a conceptual descendant of ether, that mysterious substance scientists once believed filled empty space. Now some physicists theorize that space is highly structured by the grid, which is the "primary ingredient of physical reality" and the substance from which all physical matter is formed. Core theory, on the other hand, provides a "theory of everything," reconciling gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Wilczek reports a couple of problems with core theory: it's not very elegant (scientists love elegance in their equations), and it hasn't been reconciled with string theory. This book is not for most general readers, but will be a hit with hard-core science buffs. Photos, illus. (Sept.)

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Library Journal

Wilczek (physics, MIT), the author of several recreational and theoretical physics books (Fantastic Realities) and a 2004 Nobel laureate in physics, here writes on the physics and cosmology of empty space, mass, gravity, and the fundamental forces that shape our world. Drawing on a series of refined lectures he gave to audiences interested in exploring profound ideas and equally bigger questions on the nature of the universe, Wilczek successfully documents the great discoveries, ideas, and mysteries of our universe. Chapters include commentaries on symmetry, simplicity, unification, and computing matter, and the author uses nontechnical language that is devoid of mathematics and theoretical proofs and that is rich in personal reflection and historical context. Unfortunately, the book lacks editorial direction, fails to define its audience, and is a quantum leap from time-tested classics in this field (e.g. Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe) This is a book destined for leisure reading by general audiences with an appreciation for physics. For the science collections of larger public libraries.
—Ian D. Gordon

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786731688
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/25/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
292
Sales rank:
593,754
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT, Frank Wilczek won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004. His 1989 book, Longing for the Harmonies, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Wilczek’s work has been anthologized in Best American Science Writing and The Norton Anthology of Light Verse. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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