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Friday, December 08, 2006

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

This turned out to be a really tough book to read. I'm sure it was hard to write too, since Lisa Randall carefully managed to write the book without equations (though there's a mathematical footnote here and there in a separate appendix). The first few chapters introduce you to multiple dimensions of the type and size that's being discussed in physics today. It is then followed up by an introduction to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics that is as well explained and understandable as I've read anywhere (note that I'm not quite a Physics junkie, so this doesn't say a lot).

The Standard Model of particle physics is explored thoroughly, and it's great to understand a few terms that you see in Stephen Baxter's science fiction novels, for instance. Then a discussion of string theory and the current areas of research is explained, including Lisa Randall's own research, which she does a good job of explaining without aggrandizing her role. (She is already one of the most cited Physicists in the field)

The most important reason to read this book, however, is that it actually does explain why you and I might care about string theory or high energy physics. The nature of the universe is what draws her to this research, and her enthusiasm and insight comes shining through. And unlike the speculative nature of religious inquisition, her theories can be proven or not by later generations of particle accelerators.

This is a book worth reading. Buy the paperback, since you won't be able to finish it in the time typically alloted for a library checkout. It is tough going but worth the effort.

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