Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions

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by Lisa Randall
     
 

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A leading theoretical physicist working on particle physics, string theory, and cosmology, Randall tries to share her excitement about the field without simplifying it or presenting it as a collection of finished achievements to be passively admired. She traces the development of the field through the 20th century as a foundation for her central discussion of

Overview

A leading theoretical physicist working on particle physics, string theory, and cosmology, Randall tries to share her excitement about the field without simplifying it or presenting it as a collection of finished achievements to be passively admired. She traces the development of the field through the 20th century as a foundation for her central discussion of proposals for extra-dimensional universes. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

Editorial Reviews

A century ago, physicists could present current research to a general audience. Today, scientific discoveries are so advanced and specialized that a chasm has developed between physicists and the rest of society. In Warped Passages, renowned Harvard physicist Lisa Randall ably bridges that gap, describing the connections between recent research in particle physics and theories of super symmetry, string theory, and extra dimensions of space. A mind-expanding book about our expanding universe.
Tim Folger
Lisa Randall's chronicle of physicists' latest efforts to make sense of a universe that gets stranger with every new discovery makes for mind-bending reading. In Warped Passages, she gives an engaging and remarkably clear account of how the existence of dimensions beyond the familiar three (or four, if you include time) may resolve a host of cosmic quandaries. The discovery of extra dimensions - and Randall believes there's at least a fair chance that evidence for them might be found within the next few years - would utterly transform our view of the universe.
— The New York Times
The New Yorker
Randall, a professor of physics at Harvard, offers a tour of current questions in particle physics, string theory, and cosmology, paying particular attention to the thesis that more physical dimensions exist than are usually acknowledged. Writing for a general audience, Randall is patient and kind: she encourages readers to skip around in the text, corrals mathematical equations in an appendix at the back, and starts off each chapter with an allegorical story, in a manner recalling the work of George Gamow. Although the subject itself is intractably difficult to follow, the exuberance of Randall’s narration is appealing. She’s honest about the limits of the known, and almost revels in the uncertainties that underlie her work—including the possibility that some day it may all be proved wrong.
Publishers Weekly
The concept of additional spatial dimensions is as far from intuitive as any idea can be. Indeed, although Harvard physicist Randall does a very nice job of explaining-often deftly through the use of creative analogies-how our universe may have many unseen dimensions, readers' heads are likely to be swimming by the end of the book. Randall works hard to make her astoundingly complex material understandable, providing a great deal of background for recent advances in string and supersymmetry theory. As coauthor of the two most important scientific papers on this topic, she's ideally suited to popularize the idea. What is absolutely clear is that physicists simply do not yet know if there are extra dimensions a fraction of a millimeter in size, dimensions of infinite size or only the dimensions we see. What's also clear is that the large hadron collider, the world's most powerful tool for studying subatomic particles, is likely to provide information permitting scientists to differentiate among these ideas soon after it begins operation in Switzerland in 2007. Randall brings much of the excitement of her field to life as she describes her quest to understand the structure of the universe. B&w illus. Agent, John Brockman. (Sept. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Randall (theoretical physics, Harvard Univ.) has written a book that, like Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, promises to be the intellectual's coffee-table status symbol this fall. The author proposes a universe with many more dimensions than we are physiologically able to perceive-we are in a three-dimensional sinkhole, or "3-brane"; the universe is made up of many brane-worlds with different numbers of dimensions. To explain and illustrate the complex models and mathematical calculations used to develop groundbreaking new theories in physics, Randall employs stories, analogies, and drawings. In this way, she is like an extraordinarily smart and lively college professor working to engage her students in the excitement of discovery. Many references to earlier research supply historical background. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-Sara Rutter, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Brian Greene
“Lisa Randall, a leading theorist, has made major contributions to both particle physics and cosmology.”
Lee Smolin
“Randall is one of the most influencial and exciting young theoretical Physicists working in elementary particle physics and cosmology today.”
Ira Flatow
“A great read. . . . I highly recommend it.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060531089
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/30/2005
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.53(d)

Read an Excerpt

Warped Passages

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
By Lisa Randall

Ecco

ISBN: 0-06-053108-8


Chapter One

Entryway Passages: Demystifying Dimensions

You can go your own way. Go your own way. - Fleetwood Mac

"Ike, I'm not so sure about this story I'm writing. I'm considering adding more dimensions. What do you think of that idea?"

"Athena, your big brother knows very little about fixing stories. But odds are it won't hurt to add new dimensions. Do you plan to add new characters, or flesh out your current ones some more?"

"Neither; that's not what I meant. I plan to introduce new dimensions - as in new dimensions of space."

"You're kidding, right? You're going to write about alternative realities - like places where people have alternative spiritual experiences or where they go when they die, or when they have near-death experiences? I didn't think you went in for that sort of thing."

"Come on, Ike. You know I don't. I'm talking about different spatial dimensions - not different spiritual planes!"

"But how can different spatial dimensions change anything? Why would using paper with different dimensions - 11 X 8 instead of 12 X 9, for example - make any difference at all?"

"Stop teasing. That's not what I'm talking about either. I'm really planning to introduce new dimensions of space, just like the dimensions we see, but along entirely new directions."

"Dimensions we don't see? I thought three dimensions is all there are."

"Hang on, Ike. We'll soon see about that."

The word "dimension," like so many words that describe space or motion through it, has many interpretations - and by now I think I've heard them all. Because we see things in spatial pictures we tend to describe many concepts, including time and thought, in spatial terms. This means that many words that apply to space have multiple meanings. And when we employ such words for technical purposes, the alternative uses of the words can make their definitions sound confusing.

The phrase "extra dimensions" is especially baffling because even when we apply those words to space, that space is beyond our sensory experience. Things that are difficult to visualize are generally harder to describe. We're just not physiologically designed to process more than three dimensions of space. Light, gravity, and all our tools for making observations present a world that appears to contain only three dimensions of space.

Because we don't directly perceive extra dimensions - even if they exist - some people fear that trying to grasp them will make their head hurt. At least, that's what a BBC newscaster once said to me during an interview. However, it's not thinking about extra dimensions but trying to picture them that threatens to be unsettling. Trying to draw a higher-dimensional world inevitably leads to complications.

Thinking about extra dimensions is another thing altogether. We are perfectly capable of considering their existence. And when my colleagues and I use the words "dimensions," and "extra dimensions," we have precise ideas in mind. So before taking another step forward or exploring how new ideas fit into our picture of the universe - note the spatial phrases - I will explain the words "dimensions" and "extra dimensions" and what I will mean when I use them later on.

We'll soon see that when there are more than three dimensions, words (and equations) can be worth a thousand pictures.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Warped Passages by Lisa Randall Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Brian Greene
“Lisa Randall, a leading theorist, has made major contributions to both particle physics and cosmology.”
Lee Smolin
“Randall is one of the most influencial and exciting young theoretical Physicists working in elementary particle physics and cosmology today.”
Ira Flatow
“A great read. . . . I highly recommend it.”

Meet the Author

Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees. Professor Randall was included in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2007 and was among Esquire magazine's "75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century." Professor Randall's two books, Warped Passages (2005) and Knocking on Heaven's Door (2011) were New York Times bestsellers and 100 Notable Books. Her stand-alone e-book, Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space, was published in 2012.

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Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 26 reviews.
74scruffy74 More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader of Physics. Each book adds another element to my understanding of how the universe works. This is one of the best books, as it explains the theories in a clear language, without all the math concepts. I never studied math in particular, so this book was better for me to understand. If you have never picked up a book about physics before, this would be one to start with. It keeps your interest, and gives a lot of food for thought. Lisa Randall, knows her material, and can expain it better than most of the authors I have read. For example, Steven Hawkins is a very HARD read. I had trouble with his explainations of theory. This book "Warped Passages" is worth the time to read slowly and carefully. Your understanding of Quantom Mechancis, and the The Therory of Relativity, had clearer meaning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a limited physics background and began this book thinking the prime purpose was to receive an explanation of string theory, multiple dimensions and membrane theory. It achieved its purpose. In addition, it magnificently delineated the history of this field¿s development, plus liberal recognition of her colleagues involvement in pursuing these endeavors (despite some being theorists and some experimentalists). Professor Randall¿s writing has a continuity of development in concise, lucid, complete, and very clever terms. Terminology is kept simple and (thank goodness) mathematics eliminated. Inclusions of real life analogies helps breakdown the complex into the understandable. The author¿s personality, as demonstrated by the book, shows that even physicists are people ... She climbs rocks, communes with nature, appreciates pop-culture, hangs-out in coffee shops and enjoys conferences in beautiful locales. And, best of all, she has a delicious sense of humor (ironic closing at books-end: what is a dimension?) All this and she does not let her intellect get in the way of clarity in describing to the layperson (me) of strings that rock `n¿ roll, minuscule curlicue dimensions, and wimpy gravity (my characterization). In summary, I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of this realm of science. It is a magnificent, multifaceted book in revealing science, scientists and one scientist¿s personality. Maybe in Professor Randall¿s sequel (Warped Passages, the Next Generation ?) she can explain: Is time a black sheep dimension among the spatial dimensions? How does one particle communicates attraction and/or repulsion? What about variable speed of light or gravity? I am now impatient for the results of bashing those energetic particles together and letting the shower¿s fall where they might. Let the fireworks begin, thank you Doctor Randall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes perhaps the most difficult of topics, how the world and universe works, and presents an understandable, yet detailed, discussion. Difficult and non-intuitive concepts are described in unique and creative ways. For those interested in the cutting edge of theoretical physics, this book is a must read.
Greg Smith More than 1 year ago
It is very interesting and explains really complex information in ways non physicists can understand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a physics student i've been reading many novels on theoretical physics. Parallel World, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Elegant Universe...etc. I thought this novel would provide some new insight into the field of modern physics. However the analogies and metaphors are very oontrived, and not well applied. Also the book is scattered in that sometimes its assumes no previous knowledge and sometimes it does. Overall I would not recomment this book becuase it is very confusing and not well-written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very readable update on the current thinking vis a vis string theorists and empirists. Her 'model/experimental' bias is clearly explained. Good focus for generally non technical audience. The attempt at the 'Godel, Escher Bach' intros really fell flat and should have been edited out. I'm continually amused at how academicians and movie stars really think the rest of us care about her/their political attitudes. It diminished the author in context of her work also the bit about her personal work in support of CERN did not measure up to the subject content/contributions she describes. All in all worth the time
AcadianBob More than 1 year ago
Way too involved and detailed for even a knowlegdeable science reader. Discover and Scientific American will not prepare you for this book. Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos is a much better read. Green's Fabric of the Cosmos is also a better book than his title The Elegant Universe.
Roaddogg More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading 'Warped Passages'. The book is a thorough explanation of modern cosmology. Although theoretical, extra dimensions help answer questions to which we have no answers. Using recent experiments and data, Lisa Randall makes the case that extra dimensions do in some way exist and that it is a good idea to study them. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the nature of reality, and physics/cosmology.
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GVTolly More than 1 year ago
Definitely stretched my understanding and left me wanting to go to the next level. Kept my interest throughout.
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honeydewedm More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, readable book about the hidden dimensions. Recommend it hightly Ed
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been interested in this topic for some time now and read many interesting books, however this book is something else! Lisa doesn't go very deep into history of particle physics however provides an excelent overview of the latest trends in particle physics as well as its relation to theoretical advances and potential finds which should be uncovered within the next decade. Excellent book from the authority in theoretical physics! A++
Guest More than 1 year ago
First, let me point out that I am NOT a Physicist but a retired PhD Geologist, who spent much of his career in geological research. My rather modest background in Physics dates to the late `50s and early `60s. ¿Warped Passages¿ seems to have been written for people like me: high interest, limited background. However, I suspect that even PhD Physicists will find it a worthwhile read. And people with even less background than I will find it readable, informative, and enjoyable. The most amazing thing to me is Dr. Randall¿s ability to describe extremely complex and counter intuitive concepts in understandable English (no pages of equations here!). And at the same time she doesn¿t pull any punches in ¿telling it like it is.¿ Her excellent use of analogies, as well as her clever allegories at the beginning of each chapter, makes this a readable book without a strong technical background. She is clearly a gifted writer. The first part of the book brings the reader up to date with a review of the past decades of developments in theoretical physics. Then she delves into the area of her own recent and current research: string theory, branes, and extra spatial dimensions. She analyzes both the strengths and weaknesses of her own ideas and those of other researchers. She also lays out how these ideas can be tested within the next few years. I can¿t wait to read the results. ¿Warped Passages¿ is a ¿must read¿ for anyone interested in the world of theoretical physics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Randall has done an excellent job of mixing the technical explanations with easy to understand examples of the latest physics theory and research. The book would be enjoyed, appreciated and understood by scientists and layman alike.