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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The universe has many secrets. It may hide additional dimensions of space other than the familier three we recognize. There might even be another universe adjacent to ours, invisible and unattainable . . . for now.

Warped Passages is a brilliantly readable and altogether exhilarating journey that tracks the arc of discovery from early twentieth-century

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The universe has many secrets. It may hide additional dimensions of space other than the familier three we recognize. There might even be another universe adjacent to ours, invisible and unattainable . . . for now.

Warped Passages is a brilliantly readable and altogether exhilarating journey that tracks the arc of discovery from early twentieth-century physics to the razor's edge of modern scientific theory. One of the world's leading theoretical physicists, Lisa Randall provides astonishing scientific possibilities that, until recently, were restricted to the realm of science fiction. Unraveling the twisted threads of the most current debates on relativity, quantum mechanics, and gravity, she explores some of the most fundamental questions posed by Nature—taking us into the warped, hidden dimensions underpinning the universe we live in, demystifying the science of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond our own.

Editorial Reviews

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.”
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.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is the Frank J. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science and the author of the New York Times Notable Books Knocking on Heaven's Door and Warped Passages. Her work has set her among the most cited and influential theoretical physicists today, and she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. When not solving the problems of the universe, Randall can be found rock climbing, skiing, or contributing to art-science connections. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Warped Passages

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


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.


Excerpted from Warped Passages by Lisa Randall Excerpted by permission.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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