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

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

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060531096
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/19/2006
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 288,642
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.15(d)

About 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.

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.
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.”

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Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 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.
Anonymous 9 months ago
booksbooks11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely wonderful book. Lisa manages to describe without maths what is behind current theories in physics and the workings of the fundamental particles of all matter. She actually makes the unfolding mysteries of quarks and leptons fascinating reading, describing the paths that research has taken in the last 50 years or so and what is left to find out. You won't remember much of the details but what you will get is a general understanding of what they are looking for and how they do it.
benparish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't finish the book, so I took her suggestion and finished up the last hundred pages or so by reading the main bullet points at the end of every chapter. I found this book to be long-winded at times, but nothing against her, as I'm sure that she's a brilliant physicist. I just found her writing style to be too light and all over the place (granted, it is a difficult topic to write about to the lay person). She seemed awfully upbeat about the promise of string theory, barely acknowledging the fact that it's nearly impossible (if not so) to test any of these theories out. Physics at this level is nothing but advanced mathematics, yet she barely admits this fact. Had this book proposed to talk about the mathematics rather than the "physics" of string theory, I would have been able to digest this book easier. Physics at this level is nothing but mental masturbation.I have done a fair amount of reading on this material, and while it is good at explaining the extra dimensions, I would point readers to other books if they want a good introduction and history to the science leading up to string theory (Brian Greene and Michu Kaku come to mind). Sorry, but I just couldn't get into this book, and I really wanted too...
AdamRackis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great general-audience book on modern physics¿string theory, particle physics, relativity, etc. While informative and well-written, Dr. Randall at times takes simplifying analogies too far, such that the reader is left wanting a more in-depth explanation of the science itself. Having said that, I feel like this book has prepared me to tackle Briane Greene's works, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a good introduction to this subject matter.
pulsus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hard to read but quite enlightening with a lot of redundant passages. Style and short stories at the beginning of each chapter rather dull. Nevertheless recommendable for everyone who wants to broaden his horizons (in the truest sense of the word).
juliandavies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lisa Randall does an excellent job of making complex ideas understandable to nonspecialists. She explains new ideas about the dimensionality of spacetime and along the way the reader gets to discover the underlying component parts of the universe. To one interested in God, theology and religion, this book is especially fascinating. Creation is truly extraordinary (and that's what I'd expect from an extraordinary God).
jcovington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, but really hard to get through for a non-science person. She does her level best though.
johnemersonsfoot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The absolute best description of a multi-dimensional universe I've ever read for someone without the necessary background to understand anything more than a rare, rough, abstraction of the mathematics involved. Which, sadly, is me. But less sad for the existence of this book.
mdbenoit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not an easy book to read. What's easy about quantum mechanics? To my own astonishment, however, Lisa Randall took me from basic physics to the esoteric theories of warp geometry, string theory and added dimensions in a way that I could understand and actually remember. She uses examples from our daily lives in an imaginative and fun way to make the readers understand some extraordinarily difficult concepts and take us along the road of discovery and, of course, speculation.This book has nothing to do with Star Trek or Star Wars but I found it just as fascinating.
ErasmusRob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating look at where the world of outré physics is going. Moderately-hard slogging, but probably worth it, although I do find myself with a question or two. I didn't finish it because it had to go back to the library--I'll have to re-borrow it sometime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
good one
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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.