Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time

Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time

by Tom Siegfried
     
 
Twentieth-century physics was a long, strange trip indeed. Stranger still is what might lie ahead. In this startling book, science writer Tom Siegfried takes us on "an extraordinary journey," plunging us into a weird world of quark neggets, selectrons, quintessence, and quantum cosmology and introducing us to some of the most imaginative ideas being batted about by

Overview

Twentieth-century physics was a long, strange trip indeed. Stranger still is what might lie ahead. In this startling book, science writer Tom Siegfried takes us on "an extraordinary journey," plunging us into a weird world of quark neggets, selectrons, quintessence, and quantum cosmology and introducing us to some of the most imaginative ideas being batted about by scientists today, from funny energy to mirror matter to two-timing universes. In addition, he reviews theories of the past both proven and unproven -- offering us a grounding in our scientific history as well as an informed and intriguing look at the possibilities of tomorrow.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Very readable."—Library Journal

"One of the most stimulating popular science works published in the last few years."
Salon.com

"An intellectual summer read...an extraordinary journey." —Newsday

Nature
...[an] enjoyable new book... the eclectic mix [of topics] helps to set the book apart from other recent popular books on similar subjects. ...the pace is just right and the presentation engaging.
Schapiro, Nancy
I highly recommend Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time for anyone interested in the frontiers of modern science, weird as it is. ... Siegfried uses analogies, examples, even humor, in describing what is the latest thinking of scientists such as Murray Gell-Mann and Edward Witten, who may in the future be recognized as Einsteins. ... Siegfried's Strange Matters are very strange indeed and, therefore, very, very interesting.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Philadelphia Inquirer
Though the concepts he describes are enormously complex and often quite bizarre, his clear, simple style makes them, if not fully comprehensible, at least accessible. ...as we get in step with Siegfried, we learn that just as one needn't be a musician to appreciate music, it is not necessary to understand these concepts in great detail.
Tom Siegfried...takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the world of physics and the universe, explaining the thoughts of scientists who fashion theories and then set out to prove them. His pace is light, and the writing is clever.
July 2002
Washington Times
Mr. Siegfried's breezy account includes a healthy dose of exposition of current physical theories, but focuses on the unconventional implications some have drawn from them.
New York Times Book Review
.. fascinating... [Siegfried's] breezy treatment is a welcome addition to efforts to give access to the latest developments in fields that are hard for outsiders to keep track of... [he's] an exceptionally knowledgable guide..
Newsday
Tom Siegfried...takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the world of physics and the universe, explaining the thoughts of scientists who fashion theories and then set out to prove them. His pace is light, and the writing is clever.
Salon.com
..frequently fascinating... a captivating discussion of where science is headed... Siegfried is an engaging writer and often produces inventive imagery... Strange Matters is one of the most stimulating popular science works published in the last few years.
Dallas Morning News
Without resorting to math, Mr. Siegfried illuminates the essential questions of each chapter and finds anaologies that put those into perspective.Without resorting to math, Mr. Siegfried illuminates the essential questions of each chapter and finds anaologies that put those into perspective.
Foreword Magazine
Despite ideas as expansive and far reaching as the universe itself, Siegfried manages to convey his message in an easily digestible, down to earth way. The reader will be provided with an intriguing preview to what may be the next version of science's continually changing truth.
Booklist
The author, science editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a journalist by trade, but he writes about science like a pro, making complex ideas seem straightforward. ... There are lots of mind-bending ideas in here, but nowhere does the author get bogged down in convoluted explanations or high-tech prose. A light, energetic introduction to cutting-edge physics and cosmology.
Publishers Weekly
The universe, as physicists have come to know it, is a very strange place, filled with particles known as quarks. Space itself, physicists have come to understand, is curved, and there may well be more than the three spatial and one temporal dimensions we have become accustomed to. Making sense of these fascinating but complex ideas for the general reader is a difficult task, one that science journalist Siegfried (The Bit and the Pendulum) accomplishes deftly, with wit and insight. Siegfried attempts to provide answers to the two basic questions that absorb physicists today: "What is the universe made of?" and "How does the universe work?" Although his answers, like those of the physicists he writes about, are tentative and contingent on the next major discovery, Siegfried brings clarity and a great deal of enthusiasm to the search for understanding. He does a superb job of explaining how mathematical advances have led to an amazing array of "prediscoveries," from the existence of antimatter to the concept of an expanding universe. He also looks to the future and outlines numerous weird possibilities, from minuscule superstrings to parallel universes. Along the way, he presents a thoroughly engaging, if just a bit eclectic, history of physics. Siegfried has turned a difficult subject into a book that is difficult to put down. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Siegfried's title is a pun of sorts, referring both to strange matter, i.e., matter composed of up, down, and strange quarks as opposed to normal matter, composed of only up and down quarks, and perhaps also to some of the most recent nonstandard proposals of theoretical physicists and cosmologists. These include supersymmetry, string theory, various suggestions concerning the nature of the dark matter that seems to permeate the universe (and is hypothesized to explain gravitational forces), and multiplicities of dimensions going beyond the familiar three for space and one for time. Siegfried is a science journalist who has obviously devoted much time and thoughtful attention to discussions with the leading researchers in these esoteric areas. Without using mathematics, he has produced a very readable study that should give intelligent lay readers a good idea of what theorists are up to and why they are venturing into this remarkably challenging terrain. Recommended for college and large public libraries. Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The science editor of the Dallas Morning News turns from the digital information frontier (The Bit and the Pendulum, 2000) to a penetrating study of how some of the most brilliant scientific minds have perceived and anticipated reality. The anticipation comes early and often in the first half, which deals with the bewildering world inside the atom: particle physics and quantum mechanics. Siegfried uses the notion of "prediscovery" to recount how using mathematics time and again has enabled researchers with vision to postulate the existence of elemental particles, the basic building blocks of matter itself, that would not be confirmed by experiment or observation until years or even decades later. What could have been a brutally dry exercise is enlivened by the author’s ability to get inside the heads of those who made the discoveries as he draws on both personal interviews and years of research. Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and all the other legends are here, but so are lesser-known luminaries like Paul Dirac and Carl Anderson, who stared at the same sets of numbers as others had but were able to divine entirely new ideas from them. The author’s ability to connect with original acts of "doing the math" pays off, for example when the fact that an equation has square root components (possibly negative numbers) suggests not only that a particle could have "negative energy" but ultimately the concept of antimatter. By the latter part of the 20th century, as predicted new particles begin to leap out of accelerators nearly every other day and quantum mechanics takes on a circus atmosphere with heady concepts like mirror-matter and super symmetry piling on top of each other, some readers willneed all the help they can get. Most should be much better equipped to grapple with cosmology and its enduring mysteries in the latter parts. Laudable effort to bridge the gap between ordinary readers and science at its weirdest. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425194171
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/02/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
824,366
Product dimensions:
7.84(w) x 4.76(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

K C. Cole
With the seasoned authority of Dan Rather, the dry wit of Mark Twain and a prescience that puts astrology to shame, Tom Siegfried makes the perfect guide on this rollicking good ride to the frontiers of truly weird science--and beyond. Describing discoveries that have yet to be made, but probably should be, Siegfried homes in on the throbbing heart of things--the exciting if sometimes fuzzy frontier where science really is stranger than fiction. Will strangelets inherit the Earth? Is the universe a hologram? Does time swing both ways? Read on.
— author the The Universe and the Teacup and The Hole in the Universe
Edward Witten
Tom Siegfried takes the reader on a fascinating tour of some of the strange things that have been discovered in the universe -- and some of the even stranger ideas that have been conjectured by scientists in seeking to understand the universe better. Surely not all of the wild ideas described here will pan out -- but probably some of them will!
— Simonyi Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey
Krauss, Lawerence
Tom Siegfried provides a cook's tour of the current menagerie of wild ideas and theories that have been developed. With clarity and a fluid style, he captures the breadth of current thinking, based on discussions with many of today's active physicists. Thought provoking and fun.
— author of Atom: A Single Oxygen Atom's Journey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond and The Physics of Star Trek

Meet the Author

Tom Siegfried is the science editor for the Dallas Morning News.

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