Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantam Uncertainty By Dave Goldberg and Jeff Blomquist

A User’s Guide to the Universe is the authors’ attempt to educate liberal arts people like me about science and physics.  They get brownie points for trying, but it may be that I am a lost cause.  The book jacket calls the book a “plain-English, plain-hilarious handbook (that) ushers you through all of the major discoveries of modern physics”.  The authors take basic questions (can I build a time machine; what happened before the Big Bang) and bring the answers down to the level of mere mortals.

I enjoyed the book for the first chapter or so.  The authors are amusing and I was able to hang in there with them for a while.  But not for long.   On the one hand, I hesitate to blame them, as I have to say I lost interest when I couldn’t follow them anymore.  On the other, their jokes got old, the analogies stopped working, and I stopped caring.

So, do you read the book or not?  If you really want to learn more about physics in a non-threatening way, go for it.  But be warned, the authors’ style can wear you down, and in the end, perhaps some things don’t need to be understood.  Isn’t that why we have physicists?

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