Synopses & Reviews
How did one elegant theory incite a scientific revolution? Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented it in 1915. Their work has uncovered a number of the universes more surprising secrets, and many believe further wonders remain hidden within the theorys tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, astrophysicist Pedro Ferreira brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge. For these scientists, the theory has been both a treasure trove and an enigma, fueling a century of intellectual struggle and triumph.. Einsteins theory, which explains the relationships among gravity, space, and time, is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics, yet studying it has always been a controversial endeavor. Relativists were the target of persecution in Hitlers Germany, hounded in Stalins Russia, and disdained in 1950s America. Even today, PhD students are warned that specializing in general relativity will make them unemployable. Despite these pitfalls, general relativity has flourished, delivering key insights into our understanding of the origin of time and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. Its adherents have revealed what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe, shed light on the smallest scales of existence, and explained how the fabric of reality emerges. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and string theory are all progeny of Einsteins theory. We are in the midst of a momentous transformation in modern physics. As scientists look farther and more clearly into space than ever before, The Perfect Theory reveals the greater relevance of general relativity, showing us where it started, where it has led, and where it can still take us.
"Greene goes beyond Kaku's book , exploring the ideas and recent developments with a depth and clarity I wouldn't have thought possible. Like Simon Singh in "Fermat's Enigma," he has a rare ability to explain even the most evanescent ideas in a way that gives at least the illusion of understanding....Rather than recycling the tired old set pieces science writers too often fall back upon, he develops one fresh new insight after another....In the great tradition of physicists writing for the masses, sets a standard that will be hard to beat." George Johnson
Greene goes beyond Kaku's book [Beyond Einstein], exploring the ideas and recent developments with a depth and clarity I wouldn't have thought possible. Like Simon Singh in "Fermat's Enigma," he has a rare ability to explain even the most evanescent ideas in a way that gives at least the illusion of understanding....Rather than recycling the tired old set pieces science writers too often fall back upon, he develops one fresh new insight after another....In the great tradition of physicists writing for the masses, The Elegant Universesets a standard that will be hard to beat.
"[A] delightful, lucid introduction to the greatest problem in all of physics, the quest to unify all the laws of nature. Greene does a masterful job in presenting complex materials in a lively, engaging manner. Highly recommended to anyone who has ever gazed at the heavens and wondered, as Einstein did, if God had a choice in making the universe." Michio Kaku, author of Hyperspace and Visions
"Everyone who is curious about the horizons of theoretical physics--past, present, and future--will enjoy this book." Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study
"[A] beautifully crafted account of string theory--a theory that appears to be a most promising waystation on the road to an ultimate theory of everything. His book gives a clear, simple, yet masterful account that makes a complex theory very accessible to nonscientists but is also a delightful; read for the professional." David M. Lee, professor of physics, Cornell University
"[A] tour-de-force of science writing. Perhaps more than any other popular-level account, this book peels away layers of detail and reveals the stunning essence of cutting-edge physics. With a rare blend of scientific integrity and literary flair, the author takes us on a whirlwind journey to the forefront of the search for the ultimate theory of the universe." Shing-Tung Yau, Harvard University; Fields Medalist, winner of the National Medal of Science
".Do you lie awake a night wondering about superstrings, hidden dimensions and the quest for an ultimate theory of the universe? If so, you should browse Brian Greene's ...[A] well-written account--without equations--from the forefront of cosmology and physics." New York Times Book Review
"Greene does an admirable job of translating a wholly mathematical endeavor into visual terms. Throughout his work, he writes with poetic eloquence and style." Marcia Bartusiak
"Brian Greene...makes the terribly complex theory of strings accessible to all. He possesses a remarkable gift for using the everyday to illustrate what may be going on in dimensions beyond our feeble human perception." Washington Post Book World
"Compulsively readable....Greene threatens to do for string theory what Stephen Hawking did for black holes." Publishers Weekly
"As rewarding as it gets....A thrilling ride through a lovely landscape." New York
"It's been a heck of a century for relativity, and The Perfect Theory is a perfect guide for this most beloved branch of modern physics." —Sam Kean, Wall Street Journal
"In The Perfect Theory, Ferreira masterfully portrays the science and scientists behind general relativity's star-crossed history and argues that even now we are only just beginning to realize its vitality as a tool for understanding the cosmos." —Scientific American "The Perfect Theory is a rollicking good read. We watch as Einsteins brilliant successors struggle and squabble about everything from black holes to quantum gravity. With crisp explanations and narrative flair, Ferreira offers us a fun, fresh take on a magnificent part of modern science." —Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, author of The Joy of x "Einsteins general theory of relativity was the greatest of his many contributions to physics, but surprisingly little has been written about how the subject blossomed after his death, with profound implications for current cosmology and astrophysics. Pedro Ferreira provides an enthralling account of the ideas and personalities of those involved." —Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford "Pedro Ferreira portrays a community ensnared by a single great idea. With vivid detail, he brings to life the awesome story of one of humanitys greatest achievements." —Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Barnard College/Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots "Einstein's general relativity is a theory of unrivaled elegance and simplicity. But the history of general relativity is messy, unpredictable, and occasionally dramatic. Pedro Ferreira is an expert guide to the twists and turns scientists have gone through in a quest to understand space and time." —Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe "A fascinating introduction to our present understanding of space, time, and gravity, and to the confusion about how to go about finding a still better theory." —P. James Peebles, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science, Princeton University "Einstein's beautiful theory is is now, more than ever, one of the liveliest frontiers of science, and crucial to our understanding of the cosmos. Pedro Ferreira describes, accessibly and non-technically, how the key breakthroughs have been made, and the personalities who made them." —Lord Martin Rees, Great Britains Astronomer Royal "You couldn't ask for a better guide to the outer reaches of the universe and the inner workings of the minds of those who've navigated it." —Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford, author of The Music of the Primes "Ferreira does not downplay relativitys complexity and avoids the easy route of oversimplifying it into a cosmic magic show. The result is one of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades." —Kirkus (starred review) "With palpable delight, Ferreira details false starts, chance discoveries, and the vindication of long-ridiculed ideas that emerged from the work that predicted singularities, M-theory, and dark energy. He also shows that Einstein didnt work in a vacuum; international collaboration made confirmation of his theory possible, while overturning some initial conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, Ferreiras clear explanations offer a wonderful look into a world of those who tackle the hard math that is ‘the key to understanding the history of the universe, the origin of time, and the evolution of... the cosmos." —Publishers Weekly "No book better prepares armchair physicists for the intellectual excitement ahead!" —Booklist (starred review)
Now with a new preface (not in any other edition) that will review the enormous public reception of the relatively obscure string theory--made possible by this book and an increased number of adherents amongst physicists-- "sets a standard that will be hard to beat" (). Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter--from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas--is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. Today physicists and mathematicians throughout the world are feverishly working on one of the most ambitious theories ever proposed: superstring theory. String theory, as it is often called, is the key to the Unified Field Theory that eluded Einstein for more than thirty years. Finally, the century-old antagonism between the large and the small-General Relativity and Quantum Theory-is resolved. String theory proclaims that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe, from the frantic dancing of subatomic quarks to the majestic swirling of heavenly galaxies, are reflections of one grand physical principle and manifestations of one single entity: microscopically tiny vibrating loops of energy, a billionth of a billionth the size of an atom. In this brilliantly articulated and refreshingly clear book, Greene relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind twentieth-century physics' search for a theory of everything. Through the masterful use of metaphor and analogy, makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated viscerally accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.
A new edition of the bestseller--now a three-part special: a fascinating and thought-provoking journey through the mysteries of space, time, and matter.
On the eve of the theory's 100th birthday, here is the first complete biography of Einsteins theory of general relativity, revealing the personal feuds and ideological battles, the decades of neglect, the resurgence, and now, the deep questioning of a theory that has given us black holes, dark energy, and modern cosmology.
About the Author
PEDRO G. FERREIRA is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford. An expert in cosmology, the early universe and general relativity, he writes frequently for trade and academic science publications and is a regular commentator for the BBC.
Table of Contents
1. If a Person Falls Freely 1
2. The Most Valuable Discovery 12
3. Correct Mathematics, Abominable Physics 28
4. Collapsing Stars 47
5. Completely Cuckoo 66
6. Radio Days 85
7. Wheelerisms 100
8. Singularities 118
9. Unification Woes 137
10. Seeing Gravity 152
11. The Dark Universe 173
12. The End of Spacetime 193
13. A Spectacular Extrapolation 209
14. Something Is Going to Happen 223