A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty [NOOK Book]

Overview

This quirky and fun book takes you on a fascinating hour of the universe as we know it by asking (and answering) weird and provocative questions on subjects as diverse as special relativity, quantum mechanics, randomness, time travel, the expanding universe, and much more. Complete with the funniest footnotes you've ever seen in a physics book and dozens of charmingly absurd yet helpful illustrations, A User's Guide to the Universe turns mind-blowing science into enjoyable, comprehensible, and fascinating ...

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A User's Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty

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Overview

This quirky and fun book takes you on a fascinating hour of the universe as we know it by asking (and answering) weird and provocative questions on subjects as diverse as special relativity, quantum mechanics, randomness, time travel, the expanding universe, and much more. Complete with the funniest footnotes you've ever seen in a physics book and dozens of charmingly absurd yet helpful illustrations, A User's Guide to the Universe turns mind-blowing science into enjoyable, comprehensible, and fascinating reading.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
With a large measure of humor and a minimum of math (one equation), physics professor Goldberg and engineer Blomquist delve into the fascinating physics topics that rarely make it into introductory classes, including time travel, extraterrestrials, and "quantum weirdness" to prove that physics' "reputation for being hard, impractical, and boring" is wrong by at least two-thirds: "Hard? Perhaps. Impractical? Definitely not... But boring? That's where we really take issue." Breaking up each topic into common sense questions ("How many habitable planets are there?" "What is Dark Matter?" "If the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into?"), the duo provides explanations in everyday language with helpful examples, analogies, and Blomquist's charmingly unpolished cartoons. Among other lessons, readers will learn about randomness through gambling; how a Star Trek-style transporter might function in the real world; and what may have existed before the Big Bang. Despite the absence of math, this nearly-painless guide is still involved and scientific, aimed at science hobbyists rather than science-phobes; it should also prove an ideal reference companion for more technical classroom texts. 100 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
* With a large measure of humor and a minimum of math (one equation), physics professor Goldberg and engineer Blomquist delve into the fascinating physics topics that rarely make it into introductory classes, including time travel, extraterrestrials, and "quantum weirdness" to prove that physics' "reputation for being hard, impractical, and boring" is wrong by at least two-thirds: "Hard? Perhaps. Impractical? Definitely not... But boring? That's where we really take issue." Breaking up each topic into common sense questions ("How many habitable planets are there?" "What is Dark Matter?" "If the universe is expanding, what's it expanding into-and"), the duo provides explanations in everyday language with helpful examples, analogies, and Blomquist's charmingly unpolished cartoons. Among other lessons, readers will learn about randomness through gambling; how a Star Trek-style transporter might function in the real world; and what may have existed before the Big Bang. Despite the absence of math, this nearly-painless guide is still involved and scientific, aimed at science hobbyists rather than science-phobes; it should also prove an ideal reference companion for more technical classroom texts. 100 b&w photos. (Mar.) (PublishersWeekly.com, March 29, 2010)

"If you've ever wondered what happened before the big bang or where the universe is expanding, then the new book A User's Guide to the Universe is for you. A hilariously serious journey through all the big questions (Can I build a time machine?) with answers from real-life physicist David Goldberg and sly illustrator Jeff Blomquist, this indispensable window on modern science makes a great nonfiction companion to the beloved, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." (Christian Science Monitor)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470559512
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 479,490
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

DAVE GOLDBERG, an award-winning professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Physics at Drexel University, writes the “Ask a Physicist” column for the popular science site io9.com and blogs at usersguidetotheuniverse.com. He lives in Philadelphia.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Introduction.

“So, what do you do?”

1 Special Relativity.

“What happens if I’m traveling at the speed of light, and I try to look at myself in a mirror?”

Why can’t you tell how fast a ship is moving through fog?

How fast does a light beam go if you’re running beside it?

If you head off in a spaceship traveling at nearly the speed of light, what horrors await you when you return?

Can you reach the speed of light (and look at yourself in a mirror)?

Isn’t relativity supposed to be about turning atoms into limitless power?

2 Quantum Weirdness.

“Is Schrödinger’s Cat Dead or Alive?”

Is light made of tiny particles, or a big wave?

Can you change reality just by looking at it?

If you look at them closely enough, what are electrons, really?

Is there some way I can blame quantum mechanics for all those times I lose things?

Can I build a transporter, like on Star Trek?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

3 Randomness.

“Does God play dice with the universe?”

If the physical world is so unpredictable, why doesn’t it always seem that way?

How does carbon dating work?

Does God play dice with the universe?

4 The Standard Model.

“Why didn’t the Large Hadron Collider destroy Earth?”

What do we need a multibillion-dollar accelerator for, anyway?

How do we discover subatomic particles?

Why are there so many different rules for different particles?

Where do the forces really come from?

Why can't I lose weight (or mass)—all of it?

How could little ol' LHC possibly destroy the great big world?

If we discover the Higgs, can physicists just call it a day?

5 Time Travel.

“Can I build a time machine?”

Can I build a perpetual motion machine?

Are black holes real, or are they just made up by bored physicists?

What happens if you fall into a black hole?

Can you go back in time and buy stock in Microsoft?

Who does time travel right?

How can I build a practical time machine?

What are my prospects for changing the past?

6 The Expanding Universe.

“If the universe is expanding, what’s it expanding into?”

Where is the center of the universe?

What’s at the edge of the universe?

What is empty space made of?

How empty is space?

Where’s all of the stuff?

Why is the universe accelerating?

What is the shape of the universe?

What’s the universe expanding into?

7 The Big Bang.

“What happened before the Big Bang?”

Why can’t we see all the way back to the Big Bang?

Shouldn’t the universe be (half) fi lled with antimatter?

Where do atoms come from?

How did particles gain all that weight?

Is there an exact duplicate of you somewhere else in time and space?

Why is there matter?

What happened at the very beginning of time?

What was before the beginning?

8 Extraterrestrials.

“Is there life on other planets?”

Where is everybody?

How many habitable planets are there?

How long do intelligent civilizations last?

What are the odds against our own existence?

9 The Future.

“What don’t we know?”

What is Dark Matter?

How long do protons last?

How massive or nuetinos?

What won’t we know anytime soon?

Further Reading.

Technical Reading.

Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2010

    Where theories and practice meet: This book is practical!

    "The life of a physicist can be a lonely one." So begins the Introduction to this fascinating book. Physicist-authors, Goldberg and Blomquist, might have been lonely when they started this book, but all that is past when readers finish the book. I am sure that the two authors must now refuse social invitations to talk sense, just as they wrote sense in this book.

    Composed in everyday language, this book will benefit lots of readers by applying theories from physics to questions that you have always wanted to ask a physicist. For example, you might have wondered: "Can you change reality just by looking at it?" [43]. While answering the question, the following sentence exemplifies the everyday language of the book: "Scientists had observed that if you shine a beam of ultraviolet light on metals, electrons will pop out" [44].

    The book is divided into nine chapters with intriguing titles, such as Chapter 1, 'Special Relativity:' "What Happens if I'm traveling at the speed of light, and I try to look at myself in a mirror?" One of the many interesting features of the book is entertaining line-art figures. Acknowledged artists for "figures," which I assume to imply the line-art drawings in black and white, are Rich Gott and Akira Tonomura [vii]. Take, for example, a caricatured photon depicted on the cover to Chapter 1. The photon is seated at a table with a lamp, and the caption reads: "A photon is grilled to recall the events of the last hundred years." The photon's stunned response is, "I...I don't know! It all happened so fast!" ["fast" is emphasized, p. 7].

    One of many delights in the book appears at the end of Chapter 8 [Chapter title --'Extraterrestrials:' "Is there life on other planets?"]. The subsection is entitled "What are the odds against our own existence?" [248-51]. This part of the book deals with the "anthropic principle," a term which Brandon Carter coined in 1974 to name the phenomenon that human beings do exist despite "the utter improbability of our existence" [249]. The authors introduce Carter's term in order to say that there must be some principle(s) supporting intelligent life, otherwise we wouldn't be here to talk about it. The big picture of this section's discussion is that principles of physics and probability statistics do not pair up on many issues, and the existence of intelligent life is but one of many issues.

    Further reading suggestions [popular references], a reference list of technical sources, and an index of names and subjects conclude this 296-page book. Buy one for yourself and family, and discuss various sections over an evening meal with family and friends. Children from age 10 - 12 will be able to grasp these ideas, and you can make discussions fun by following suggestions for simple experiments. I suggest trying to draw pictures about what you read, because a picture is worth a thousand words. Besides, pictures make physics fun--as it should become for years to come, thanks to this exciting book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    I am loving it even though I havent read it yet

    I haven't read it yet but I have been looking at it by sampling chapters and l love it. The only reason I haven't read it yet is becuase I am reading another book about Physics right now:Black Holes & Baby Universes by Stephen Hawking {this review is by amelia}

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    fgg

    gh

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