Thursday, July 17, 2008

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Mysteries by Lisa Randall

In his best selling book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking quipped that a friend told him each equation in his book “would halve the sales.” Fortunately, Lisa Randall collected hundreds of equations as endnotes, so I could happily ignore all those superscript numbers and only worry about the asterisks which took me to the bottom of the pages.

Wow! Warped Passages is for serious amateurs with an interest in esoteric science. At one time, I read a lot more of this stuff than I do now, so I will admit to being a little rusty. The interview I heard on NPR mentioned string theory, which I find endlessly fascinating, if not entirely understandable. Randall’s fluid prose added to my knowledge there, but I was lost when she started talking about “branes.” She defines these as “A membrane-like object in higher-dimensional space that can carry energy and confine particles and forces” (460). Branes are an extension of string theory, and the idea is that they hold the key to extra dimensions in space. Maybe all those UFOs have found a way to pass between branes and enter our plane of existence. This gives you some idea of what I was up against. Still I slogged on, and I am glad I did.

I know I will come back to this book in the future, because it makes an excellent reference work. A handy glossary and summaries at the end of each chapter are extremely helpful. Her line drawings were also good for illustrating some of her ideas. Fascinating reading and more than worth the extra effort! Four gold stars!

--Chiron, 7/17/08

No comments: