A physicist speeds across space, time, and everything in between showing that our elegant universe from the Higgs boson to antimatter to the most massive group of galaxies is shaped by hidden symmetries that have driven all our recent discoveries about the universe and all the ones to come. Why is the sky dark at night? Is it possible to build a shrink-ray gun? If there is antimatter, can there be antipeople? Why are past, present, and future our only options? Are time and space like a butterfly's wings? No one but Dave Goldberg, the coolest nerd physicist on the planet, could give a hyper-drive tour of the universe like this one. Not only does he answer the questions your stoner friends came up with in college, but he also reveals the most profound discoveries of physics with infectious, Carl Sagan-like enthusiasm and accessibility.
Goldberg's narrative is populated with giants from the history of physics, and the biggest turns out to be an unsung genius and Nazi holocaust escapee named Emmy Noether- the other Einstein. She was unrecognized, even unpaid, throughout most of her career simply because she was a woman. Nevertheless, her theorem relating conservation laws to symmetries is widely regarded to be as important as Einstein's notion of the speed of light. Einstein himself said she was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began. Symmetry is the unsung great idea behind all the big physics of the last 100 years and what lies ahead. In this book, Goldberg makes mindbending science not just comprehensible but gripping. Fasten your seat belt.
©2013 Dave Goldberg (P)2013 Recorded Books
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is a very light tone, very high level survey of a very wide range of symmetries in physics. This was a pleasant listen, but I did not learn a lot nor where there novel ideas that got me thinking, thus I ended up a bit disappointed. It was a nice for a very high level survey, but I am not sure what audience would appreciate this level of detail. It seems to me a lot of background in needed to understand a number of the symmetries but the book seems targeted at a pretty low level of knowledge. The author mentions the Twin Paradox and notes that the Twin Paradox is often misunderstood but then just drops it (why bring it up at all?). I wish he had explained how such a twin experiment would actually work, which has been misstated so many times, even scientists are confused about what really would happen. The narration was excellent with a wonderful light tone and a clear love of science that bubbled through. So, although there was a lot right and there is little wrong with this book, I did not quite find it worth the listen.
If you are fan of ELI5, explain it to me like I'm five, on reddit, you will love this book. Dave Goldberg provides a tour of the universe that is a mashup of Cracked.com, a classroom lecture with the professor who wants to be your best friend, and a serious physics book.
Goldberg focuses on the most fundamental symmetries in the universe (e.g. spin of a particle) and explains how the breaking of symmetry gives rise to everything we have ever or will ever see. You will not feel bogged down by memorizing particles in this book. His focus is more on spin and how spin (and a negative sign) are the reason you are alive. I loved this approach to viewing the universe.
His explanation of the Pauli exclusion principle and Hawking radiation were fabulous. He also spends quite a bit of time trying to understand how the universe went from a state of low entropy to high entropy. He states flat out that it is, 'just because it is," but then went on to examine it quite a few times in, what I found to be, satisfying ways.
This book seems like a much quicker read than some other books of the same length. His, almost too cheesy, humor and writing style keep each concept relatable and zooming along. Before you know it, you will be at the end of the book and will have understood it all without rereading it.
At the very end he supposed that the journey from low entropy to high was how life began. I understand that it was beyond the scope of this book. But I would have very much loved it if he took a little bit more time to discuss that further. The work of Mike Russle, Nick Lane, and others working on origin of life research at the hydrothermal vents are changing how humans view the star of evolution (thermodynamic process occurring at vents that push molecules through rocky membranes), and I think physicists should be taking part in that discussion to help the paradigm shift occur more swiftly.
This book was really great.
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