Synopses & Reviews
Physicist understanding of the essential nature of reality changed radically over the past quarter century. Frank Wilczek has played a lead role in establishing the new paradigms. Transcending the clash and mismatch of older ideas about what matter is, and what space is, Wilczek presents here some brilliant and clear syntheses. Space is a dynamic material, the engine of reality; matter is a subtle pattern of disturbance in that material.
Extraordinarily readable and authoritative, The Lightness of Being is the first book to unwrap these exciting new ideas for the general public. It explores their implications for basic questions about space, mass, energy, and the longed-for possibility of a fully unified theory of Nature. Along the way, Wilczek presents new perspectives on many strange aspects of our fantastic universe. Pointing toward new directions where the great discoveries in fundamental physics are likely to come, he envisions a new Golden Age in physics.
"Grand unification theories have long been a holy grail in science. Nobel Prize winning physicist Wilczek, who has himself made notable contributions in this field, offers a survey of everything in the universe from quarks to black holes, elucidating the current scientific thinking on how matter and energy interact. The two main concepts are the 'Grid' and the 'Core.' Wilczek says the grid is a conceptual descendant of ether, that mysterious substance scientists once believed filled empty space. Now some physicists theorize that space is highly structured by the grid, which is the 'primary ingredient of physical reality' and the substance from which all physical matter is formed. Core theory, on the other hand, provides a 'theory of everything,' reconciling gravity with electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Wilczek reports a couple of problems with core theory: it's not very elegant (scientists love elegance in their equations), and it hasn't been reconciled with string theory. This book is not for most general readers, but will be a hit with hard-core science buffs. Photos, illus. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Wilczek can write with wit, grace, and an uncanny facility for using lightweight language to express heavy-duty ideas. [Readers] will find much of that kind of writing in The Lightness of Being…. Wilczek’s best writing – some of it in this book – is lucid, lively, and illuminating.”
“The Lightness of Being does a superb job of introducing the reader…to our current understanding of the nature of matter and the forces that govern the universe…. [A] wonderful program guide to what we can expect from the LHC in the coming years. Stay tuned.”
"For a safari-like adventure into the world of physics, follow Wilczek's lead. Quirky but knowledgeable, he explores the essence of the matter that makes up the universe — combining the enthusiasm of someone like Jeff Corwin with the thoughtfulness of a David Attenborough."
New York Review of Books
“Frank Wilczek is one of the most brilliant practitioners of particle physics…. It is too soon to tell whether Wilczek will be the new Darwin. His book is not the new Origin of Species. It is more like Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, a popular account of a voyage of exploration, describing the landscape and the newly discovered creatures that still have to be explained…. He writes as he thinks, with a lightness of touch that can come only to one who is absolute master of his subject.”
The 2004 Nobel Prize winner in physics offers this readable and authoritative work for the general public. It explores basic questions about space, mass, energy, and the longed-for possibility of a fully unified theory of nature.
The 2004 Nobel Prize winner in physics brings us tantalizingly close to the long-sought Grand Unification of Forces. And then takes us beyond.
About the Author
Frank Wilczek won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for work that he did as a twenty-one-year-old graduate student. His 1989 book, Longing for the Harmonies, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Wilczeks work has been anthologized in Best American Science Writing and The Norton Anthology of Light Verse. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is currently the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT.