The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything

The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything

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by K. C. Cole
     
 

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An adventure into the heart of Nothing by bestselling author K. C. Cole.

Once again, acclaimed science writer K. C. Cole brings the arcane and acad-
emic down to the level of armchair scientists in The Hole in the Universe,
an entertaining and edifying search for nothing at all. Open the newspaper on any given day and you will read of a newly discovered

Overview


An adventure into the heart of Nothing by bestselling author K. C. Cole.

Once again, acclaimed science writer K. C. Cole brings the arcane and acad-
emic down to the level of armchair scientists in The Hole in the Universe,
an entertaining and edifying search for nothing at all. Open the newspaper on any given day and you will read of a newly discovered planet, star, and so on. Yet scientists and mathematicians have spent generations searching the far reaches of the universe for that one elusive state-nothingness.
Although this may sound like a simple task, every time the absolute void appears within reach, something new is discovered in its place: a black hole,
an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time-even another universe. A fascinating and literary tour de force, The Hole in the Universe is a virtual romp into the unknown that you never knew wasn't there.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

PRAISE FOR THE HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE
As clear and accessible as Hawking's A Brief History of Time, this work deserves wide circulation, not just among science buffs."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Cole has plenty of experience making the most abstruse theories intelligible to the lay reader. . . . A clever and readable investigation."-New York Post
bn.com
Acclaimed science writer K. C. Cole, author of The Universe and the Teacup and First You Build a Cloud, takes on the void. An L.A. Times bestseller, The Hole in the Universe examines "nothing," from vacuums and zero to black holes and phantom limbs.
Gilbert Taylor
The vacuum is attracting physicists' attention lately...now Los Angeles Times science writer Cole ventures upon the void, fortunately with a sensitivity well pitched to the level of complexity average readers can absorb. She explains that absence of stuff doesn't define a vacuum, since 'Empty' space is filled with fields--evanescent particle pairs that flash in and out of existence--and, further, that space-time itself is 'something.'...Cole regularly reassures us that the theory-bred conjectural properties of nothingness she describes seem weird to her, too, and at the same time she clearly conveys why they thrill physicists: they could account for why the big bang began or why physical constants have the values they have...An enthusiastic, companionable guide to the inner limits of the universe.
Booklist
Michael Scott Moore
...the book is a strong and sometimes mind-blowing introduction to the edges of modern physics.
Salon
David Perlman
...a quirky, contemplative and immensely stimulating rumination on Nothing.
San Francisco Chronicle
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nothing is as big a mystery as nothing. From the hatred the digit "zero" inspired in the ancient church and the horror vacui suffered by thinkers such as Aristotle to the tantalizing singularity of black holes, nothing packs quite a wallop. People, not nature, abhor a vacuum but are often fascinated by what repels them. Cole (The Universe and the Teacup), a science columnist for the L.A. Times, prods at the infinite properties and manifestations of nothing, trying to get a handle on it without boxing it in. Definitions make something out of nothing, but then, she indicates, everything did come out of nothing. Comprising an expansive set of topics from the history of numbers to string theory, the big bang, even Zen, the book's chapters are broken into bite-sized portions that allow the author to revel in the puns and awkwardness that comes with trying to describe a concept that no one has fully grasped. It is an amorphous, flowing, mind-bending discussion, written in rich, graceful prose.. As clear and accessible as Hawking's A Brief History of Time, this work deserves wide circulation, not just among science buffs. (Feb.) Forecast: Cole's reputation means the book will be widely reviewed--and if the reviews are accurate, sales will rise. This title is a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club, as well as of the Astronomy and Library of Science book clubs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This book is about nothing. Science writer Cole (First You Build a Cloud, LJ 5/1/99) attempts to explain the current theories of what is there when there isn't anything. She has a lot of fun with wordplay, but she does manage to convey the concept that there is a real difficulty in defining what empty space is. Physicists tell us that, even if outer space were a complete vacuum, space itself would have a structure. If that sounds nonsensical, it is only because concepts in modern physics seem to defy common sense. Unfortunately, these theories involve a knowledge of mathematics at a level beyond that of the target audience. Thus, the author can only tell us the names--field theory, string theory, M-theory, etc.--but is unable to describe them in any depth or even offer a good heuristic feel for what phenomena they would predict or how they could be tested. Cole is a very good science writer, but this reviewer believes that the topic she has chosen here is not yet ready for prime time. Recommended for large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]--Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
In Hole in the Universe, science journalist and author Cole explains why the scientific search for nothingness is attracting so much attention among physicists. Scientists and theories are probed in this survey of the history of the search for the 'ultimate nothingness' of the universe, yet the account is most accessible to lay audiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156013178
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
11/08/2001
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
818,503
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Why Not? A Prelude
Nothing is too wonderful to be true.
(Michael Faraday
there is a hole in the universe.
It is not like a hole in a wall where a mouse slips through, solid and crisp and leading from somewhere to someplace. It is rather like a hole in the heart, an amorphous and edgeless void. It is a heartfelt absence, a blank space where something is missing, a large and obvious blind spot in our understanding of the universe.

The paper is bumpy so that any mark you draw on it skips and sputters from place to place, and you find that it's impossible to draw a perfectly smooth line.
Or the paper is slippery, so that your pen slides and the ink oozes off the edge.
Or the paper is curled into a cylinder, so that even a straight line circles around and meets itself from the rear.
Or the paper is black—so anything you draw on it disappears.
Or the paper is three-dimensional, like a cardboard box: suddenly you have many more possibilities for what you can create.
Or the paper is one-dimensional, like a line: your possibilities are constricted.
Or the paper has zero dimensions, or ten, and they are knotted and twisted in bizarre ways.
Or the paper wiggles and waves as you try to write on it. It won't stand still.
Or the paper has a barely perceivable background, an intricate set of images that you couldn't see until you developed the right technology.
Or the paper grows, stretches, shrinks, changes shape before your eyes.
Or the paper itself starts to draw lines and figures of its own accord.
Sweet Nothing

Anybody who knows all about nothing knows everything.
—physicist Leonard Susskind, Stanford University

From our earliest days, we've grown accustomed to thinking of nothing as a kind of bland absence—a convenient pause between numbers or atoms or thoughts, a passive-aggressive empty space that resembles nothing so much as a blank stare.

*See Chapter 3, "Good for Nothing."

What People are saying about this

Oliver Sacks
Going from black holes and false vacua to blind spots and phantoms, K.C. Cole, with her wide-ranging mind, has provided a deep (but also light-hearted and accessible) meditation on "nothingness"--and how cosmologists, physicists, neurologists, psychologists, artists (and mystics) all find the notion of it productive and indispensable.
— (Oliver Sacks, M.D., author of The Island of the Colorblind)
Dava Sobel
An extraordinary book. K.C. Cole is our ambassador to the realms of the exceedingly strange, inside the atom and outside the known universe. She is a practical philosopher with the singular ability to graze eleven dimensions of esoteric material, find the connections among them, and see the humor in it all.
— (Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter)
Brian Greene
With grace, humor, and abundant skill, K.C. Cole takes the reader on a grand and lively tour of modern physics--from cosmology, to particle physics, to string theory--and shows how all roads ultimately lead to the same question: what is "nothing"? The Hole in the Universe is a compelling, enjoyable, and widely accessible exploration of what may well be the most fundamental scientific issue of our age.
— (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe)

Meet the Author


K. C. Cole is a science columnist for the Los Angeles Times and teaches at UCLA. The award-winning author of the international bestselling The Universe and the Teacup and First You Build a Cloud, she lives in Santa Monica, California.

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The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book as part of a Physics project in Grade 11, and it was an interesting, though sometimes difficult novel to read. As uneducated as I am in advanced physics concepts, K. C. Cole does a good job of laying her information about Nothing out on the table in an easily comprehendable way. The book covers various topics revolving around Nothing and zero, such as its history, mathematical equations and physical states. While there are some mind-expanding concepts contained within the pages, it can sometimes be difficult to pull out with Cole's use of wordplay and witticism, unintentional or otherwise. Also, while much is covered about Nothing, there is still a lack of information to truly make the subject comprehendable. Then again, I realize now how difficult it must have been to get the present information when so little is known of the subject. Overall, it's a solid read for those less educated, but still interested in physics, but I'd imagine it's be a tad boring and unsatisfying for a huge science buff.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book for anyone who would like to learn more about nothing (kind of an oxy moron!). I'm fifteen years old and i was very intruiged with this book. All in all it was a great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Any lay person with an interest in science should read K. C. Cole's new book. Harold Shane may feel it is to much for Cole's 'target audience', but I cannot agree. I am probably physics challenged, but could follow at least 80% as I read about nothing. With Cole's charming style, 80% is enough to give one great enjoyment, while force-feeding a good deal of new and interesting information into the reader's brain. Eureka for Cole's ability to make the un-understandable mostly understandable. Now, I'm going to read 'First you build a cloud'.