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
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.
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.
Michael Scott Moore
...the book is a strong and sometimes mind-blowing introduction to the edges of modern physics.
...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.
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.
Read an Excerpt
Why Not? A Prelude
Nothing is too wonderful to be true.
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 blackso 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.
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 absencea 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."