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Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas At The Frontiers Of Space And Time
by Tom Siegfried
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From Publishers Weekly
The universe, as physicists have come to know it, is a very strange place, filled with particles known as quarks. Space itself, physicists have come to understand, is curved, and there may well be more than the three spatial and one temporal dimensions we have become accustomed to. Making sense of these fascinating but complex ideas for the general reader is a difficult task, one that science journalist Siegfried (The Bit and the Pendulum) accomplishes deftly, with wit and insight. Siegfried attempts to provide answers to the two basic questions that absorb physicists today: "What is the universe made of?" and "How does the universe work?" Although his answers, like those of the physicists he writes about, are tentative and contingent on the next major discovery, Siegfried brings clarity and a great deal of enthusiasm to the search for understanding. He does a superb job of explaining how mathematical advances have led to an amazing array of "prediscoveries," from the existence of antimatter to the concept of an expanding universe. He also looks to the future and outlines numerous weird possibilities, from minuscule superstrings to parallel universes. Along the way, he presents a thoroughly engaging, if just a bit eclectic, history of physics. Siegfried has turned a difficult subject into a book that is difficult to put down.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Siegfried's title is a pun of sorts, referring both to strange matter, i.e., matter composed of up, down, and strange quarks as opposed to normal matter, composed of only up and down quarks, and perhaps also to some of the most recent nonstandard proposals of theoretical physicists and cosmologists. These include supersymmetry, string theory, various suggestions concerning the nature of the dark matter that seems to permeate the universe (and is hypothesized to explain gravitational forces), and multiplicities of dimensions going beyond the familiar three for space and one for time. Siegfried is a science journalist who has obviously devoted much time and thoughtful attention to discussions with the leading researchers in these esoteric areas. Without using mathematics, he has produced a very readable study that should give intelligent lay readers a good idea of what theorists are up to and why they are venturing into this remarkably challenging terrain. Recommended for college and large public libraries. Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
There are three kinds of popular science book: the kind written by experts whose knowledge far exceeds their ability to tell an entertaining story; the kind written by experts who also happen to be terrific writers (Sagan, Gould); and the kind written by knowledgeable laypersons. This is the third kind. The author, science editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a journalist by trade, but he writes about science like a pro, making complex ideas seem straightforward. Witness his explanation of the mind-bending concept of "negative energy" (a vital aspect of quantum physics), which he equates to being in debt--when we spend more on credit than we earn, we not only don't have any money, we have "negative" dollars. There are lots of mind-bending ideas in here (a collapsing star goes from thousands of miles in diameter to about 20 miles in diameter in roughly a second), but nowhere does the author get bogged down in convoluted explanations or high-tech prose. A light, energetic introduction to cutting-edge physics and cosmology. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Choice, March 2003
"Expect a twisted, convoluted story, just like the real universe! Die-hard science buffs will find this hard to put down."
Astronomy Now, February 2004
"This is a thoroughly engaging book that discusses many of the most puzzling aspects about our Universe."
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002
"...a penetrating study of how the most brilliant scientific minds have perceived and anticipated reality. ...science at its weirdest."
The New York Times Book Review, September 29, 2002
"...fascinating... [Siegfried's] breezy treatment is a welcome addition... [he's] an exceptionally knowledgeable guide..."
Salon.com, September 24, 2002
"...frequently fascinating ... captivating ... Siegfried is an engaging writer ... one of the most stimulating popular science works published..."
Dallas Morning News, September 22, 2002
"Without resorting to math, Siegfried illuminates the essential questions of each chapter and finds anaologies that put those into perspective."
Foreword Magazine, September 2002
"...Siegfried manages to convey his message in an easily digestible, down to earth way."
Nature, November 28, 2002
"[an] enjoyable new book... the pace is just right and the presentation engaging."
Twentieth-century physics was a long, strange trip indeed. Stranger still is what might lie ahead. In this startling book, science writer Tom Siegfried takes us into a weird world of quark nuggets, selectrons, quintessence, and quantum cosmology and introduces us to some of the most imaginative ideas being batted about by scientists today, from funny energy to mirror matter to two-timing universes. In addition, he reviews theories of the past both proven and unproven-offering us a grounding in our scientific history as well as an informed and intriguing look at the possibilities of tomorrow.
The story of how the most imaginative physicists of our time perceive strange features of the universe in advance of the actual discoveries. Mixes the present with the past and future, reporting from the frontiers of research where history is in the process of being made.
From the Inside Flap
"Tom Siegfried provides a cook's tour of the current menagerie of wild ideas and theories that have been developed. With clarity and a fluid style, he captures the breadth of current thinking, based on discussions with many of today's active physicists. Thought provoking and fun." -- Lawrence M. Krauss, author of Atom: A Single Oxygen Atom's Journey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond and The Physics of Star Trek
"With the seasoned authority of Dan Rather, the dry wit of Mark Twain and a prescience that puts astrology to shame, Tom Siegfried makes the perfect guide on this rollicking good ride to the frontiers of truly weird science--and beyond. Describing discoveries that have yet to be made, but probably should be, Siegfried homes in on the throbbing heart of things--the exciting if sometimes fuzzy frontier where science really is stranger than fiction. Will strangelets inherit the Earth? Is the universe a hologram? Does time swing both ways? Read on." -- K.C. Cole, author the The Universe and the Teacup and The Hole in the Universe
"Tom Siegfried takes the reader on a fascinating tour of some of the strange things that have been discovered in the universe--and some of the even stranger ideas that have been conjectured by scientists in seeking to understand the universe better. Surely not all of the wild ideas described here will pan out--but probably some of them will!" -- Edward Witten, Simonyi Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey