Monday, January 5, 2009

The Elegant Universe

There's this book called The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene that I came across while cleaning out one of my brother's bookshelves. And after reading the last two books that I read, I needed a book of a different genre. I asked him what the book was about. He told me it was about String Theory. I put it right back on the shelf. He told me that it was, in fact, very readable. So I did venture into it.

This is actually the first time I've read a scientific book. On a side note, I've wanted to read Richard Feynman's autobiography for a long time. Since my final years of graduation. And then, of course, there is Fermat's Last Theorem which I felt like picking up once when I was in class eleven. (After today's discussion with Bhatti on this book, I remembered the time when I was in communication with a Professor from the University of North Texas on a related note, and that I wanted to read this book even before getting into an undergraduate course in Mathematics. That was a little over ten years ago. This is actually a pretty long story, and I will write about it some time later.)

Coming back from the digression, The Elegant Universe was definitely a terrific starting point for someone who had never before ventured into a scientific book. The author presents his ideas so beautifully and articulates them so well that even someone who has not studied much more Physics than Newton's Laws of Motion can also hope to be able to get a reasonably clear picture of what is happening these days in the world of Physics. And someone who has studied the subject can look at it with new found awe. With all due respect to all the teachers who ever taught me Physics, I have never marvelled at the intrigue, the beauty of the subject the way I see it now. The analogies the author draws with things like electrons and children are simply marvelous. And he knows that he is addressing a mixed audience, which also comprises of people who have had no formal training in the subject, and ensures that he caters to all of them. I have never before understood quarks, the photoelectric effect, or Young's double slit experiment the way he explains it. Even abstract concepts like more than three spatial dimensions are addressed with a great amount of clarity, although they are a little too abstract to settle down in my mind easily.

Brian Greene begins at the beginning. he talks about the fundamental forces and the fundamental particles and the evolution of our understanding of those concepts. Once the reader has established a firm footing, he moves on to Superstring Theory, or String Theory for short. The way the book is structured and the way things are explained, it could very well have been titled String Theory For Dummies!

3 comments:

actinium said...

The Fabric of the Cosmos by the same author should figure next in your reading list...

Bhavya said...

It is... but after The Kite Runner, Fermat's Last Theorem, and at least one of Terry Pratchett's novels.

Rimmi said...

There are a couple of Richard Feynman interview videos on you tube, you should listen to those, its amazing how that guy expresses himself. Also one of my Profs gave us a quick intro on string theory...it was quite hilarious the way he explained it :). I'll try and read the book too, now that you recommend it as well.