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Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World | [Lisa Randall]

Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World

The latest developments in physics have the potential to radically revise our understanding of the world: its makeup, its evolution, and the fundamental forces that drive its operation. Knocking on Heaven's Door is an exhilarating and accessible overview of these developments and an impassioned argument for the significance of science. There could be no better guide than Lisa Randall.
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Publisher's Summary

The latest developments in physics have the potential to radically revise our understanding of the world: its makeup, its evolution, and the fundamental forces that drive its operation. Knocking on Heaven's Door is an exhilarating and accessible overview of these developments and an impassioned argument for the significance of science.

There could be no better guide than Lisa Randall. The bestselling author of Warped Passages is an expert in both particle physics (the study of the smallest objects we know of) and cosmology (the study of the largest). In Knocking on Heaven's Door, she explores how we decide which scientific questions to study and how we go about answering them. She examines the role of risk, creativity, uncertainty, beauty, and truth in scientific thinking through provocative conversations with leading figures in other fields (such as the chef David Chang, the forecaster Nate Silver, and the screenwriter Scott Derrickson), and she explains with wit and clarity the latest ideas in physics and cosmology. Randall describes the nature and goals of the largest machine ever built: the Large Hadron Collider, the enormous particle accelerator below the border of France and Switzerland - as well as recent ideas underlying cosmology and current dark matter experiments.

The most sweeping and exciting science book in years, Knocking on Heaven's Door makes clear the biggest scientific questions we face and reveals how answering them could ultimately tell us who we are and where we came from.

©2011 Lisa Randall (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"This volume should appeal to experts and nonexperts alike intrigued by the latest scientific advances in our understanding of the cosmos." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (107 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-03-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Love the book, hate the title"
    If you could sum up Knocking on Heaven's Door in three words, what would they be?

    Gives a good tour of current high energy particle physics. It's broken into sections. The first is for those questioning faith and just discovering the wonders of nature and science.
    You could easily skip to part two and still love the book. She includes many technical details of the LHC.


    What other book might you compare Knocking on Heaven's Door to and why?

    The particle at the end of the universe. The reason is that it is the most up to date book regarding information on the HIGGS candidate and subsequent announcement in July of 2012


    Any additional comments?

    the title sucks and Lisa knows that it does. She even devoted time in the book talking about how calling the Higgs the God particle was a mistake

    Highly recommend

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Philadelphia, PA 10-18-11
    Terry Philadelphia, PA 10-18-11
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    "Mediocre and scattered. Read something else."

    This is an unremarkable book that glams together a bunch of topics in modern science poorly. The beginning discussion of scale is interesting as the author notes that in physics, laws are rarely overturned universally, but adjustments need to be made at particular scale points at either very big or very small sizes. This was an nice way of summarizing the places where physics needs to be updated but much beyond this the book does nothing particularly well.

    *The technical detail on the LHC is absolutely excessive. There is some commentary for the lay reader but wikipedia is probably a better resource.

    *The puns are simply awful.

    *The author seems to name-drop. I don't care about your personal relationship with the scientists you mention.

    *Too many references to previous works. Please don't use your new book to sell your old one.

    *Failure to do much mentioned in the subtitle.

    After finishing this book and having some time to meditate on it, it was not worth the time nor money. Consider Lee Smolin's "The Trouble With Physics" for a much better exploration of current questions in physics.

    16 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harry 11-25-13
    Harry 11-25-13 Member Since 2010

    Retired executive loves biking, hiking, skiing, sailing, photography, playing tennis, listening to my eclectic music collection & my wife

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    "Makes the hard to understand understandable"

    She is able to make a complex subject interesting and understandable. Wished she would have added some equations.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GothamReader Emeryville, CA 08-28-12
    GothamReader Emeryville, CA 08-28-12 Member Since 2011

    GR

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    "Why, oh why, didn't Lisa Randall narrate..."
    Where does Knocking on Heaven's Door rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The book is amazing, but my review knocks stars down because Lisa Randall really should have read her own book. She is an excellent professor, passionate speaker and delivers excellently in interviews and other media. Since I was also reading it in book form, I can compare and contrast the experience. The subject matter was engaging and very accessible to the layperson. I hoped listening to the audiobook would really enhance my experience of the words (as many books have done in the past when I took them with me for walks/hikes). However, instead of adding to the experience, listening to the audiobook was tough. Ms. MacDuffie could have used her lovely voice to read just about anything and I can't help but feel it would all be the same.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I don't want to disrespect Carrington MacDuffie, but this subject matter is a little too dry for her soft, almost clinically calm voice. Lisa Randall did a diservice to the layperson by not narrating the book herself, but I guess she's busy finding answers to - you know- the universe.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No way. I needed to break every hour or so to switch it up.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Escondido, CA, United States 10-21-11
    Terry Escondido, CA, United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Dreadful, over-long and dull"

    This is a dreadful book. Don't waste your time or money. I had recently read and heard quite a number of physics books, most of which were very good (Nothing, The First War of Physics, The Quantum Story, The Disappearing Spoon, Cosmic Jackpot, For The Love of Physics, Electric Universe, The Grand Design, The 4% Universe, etc.), and this was by far the worst. It is a combination of school marmy preaching, name dropping, hyperbolic pep talk, full of herself prim pseudophilosophizing, and LHC tour guidance. Dull and duller by turns. There is some interest in the description of the LHC experiments, but just. Another one of those 'we are on the verge...' chronicles that never even approach a good explanation of why.

    12 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allan 12-14-11
    Allan 12-14-11
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    "Too Political"
    Would you try another book from Lisa Randall and/or Carrington MacDuffie?

    I was enjoying this book even though it was a little dry and dragged in many areas. The subject was still interesting enough to keep my interest until I realized that the author had a political agenda and accented it with barbs about, for instance, Sarah Palin. Once I reached this realization I saw no reason to subject myself to such a book that I was only enjoying marginally to begin with. To be honest, I don't recommend this book because it doesn't really have anything origuinal to offer.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Carrington MacDuffie?

    Yes, The narrator was quite talented


    Did Knocking on Heaven's Door inspire you to do anything?

    Yes, Stop reading it.


    Any additional comments?

    Keep politics out of your writing.

    18 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 10-16-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 10-16-14 Member Since 2007

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "LEADERSHIP IN SCIENCE"

    Lisa Randall believes the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is one of the wonders of the world, competing with the pyramids of Egypt in its colossal achievement. Located near the border of France and Switzerland, it is the largest construction project ever built.

    “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is the story of the Collider’s creation, inner workings, and scientific objectives. It is also a story of America’s loss of leadership in science.

    A quibble one may have with Randall’s book is that she digresses into derivative finance to suggest that more scientific analysis would obviate the kind of financial disaster that occurred in 2007. She suggests that proper analysis of real estate derivatives would have stopped the madness. The naiveté of that argument is that there were a few that saw the collapse coming but their scientific analysis only convinced a small number of people. Few financial “geniuses” chose to believe real estate derivatives were a financial instrument of destruction. How different is that from the scientific community’s position on global warming?

    Scientific analysis misses part of what makes human’s human; i.e. minds can know something and still act irrationally; not to mention, rationality is often in the mind of the beholder. Randal admits as much in writing about beauty and truth and clearly notes that they are not necessarily equivalent because of human subjectivity. If one can make millions of dollars off a quant’s mistaken calculations, what incentive does that person have to ignore the opportunity?

    Randall convinces one of the formidable reality of the LHC and its potential contribution to science. America may have missed a chance to be a leader rather than follower of one of the 21st century’s great contributions to science, the Large Hadron Collider.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan Greensboro, NC, United States 10-02-11
    Nathan Greensboro, NC, United States 10-02-11
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    "Scientific Indulgent Gush"

    I couldn't even finish it - Sure she's smart, but not an author for philosophy junkies like the title suggests. More a work for the scientific community.

    12 of 29 people found this review helpful
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    Brian Victoria, TX, United States 03-30-12
    Brian Victoria, TX, United States 03-30-12
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    "Terrible!"
    What disappointed you about Knocking on Heaven's Door?

    I thought this was going to be a book about science. It turned out to be a book promoting atheism.


    Has Knocking on Heaven's Door turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Carrington MacDuffie’s performances?

    Yes. There is nothing wrong with the reading, it's the content that is poor.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Very disappointed in the content


    Any additional comments?

    I respected Lisa Randall as a scientist, but she feels it is necessary to convince the listener that there is no God. Stick to science Lisa, there are too many things science has to learn. I bought this book, but deleted it from my library. Don't make the same mistake. Buy something from Brian Greene or Michio Kaku.

    4 of 10 people found this review helpful
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