Title: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
Author: Brian Greene
Release Date: 1999
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Space/NASA
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In The Elegant Universe, physicist Brian Greene tries to explain the very complicated concept of string theory, or the “theory of everything” to a layperson. He starts with general relativity, then moves onto quantum mechanics, discusses the problems reconciling the two, and finally introduces string theory.
I’ve always been interested in astrophysics and have lately become interested in string theory. There was just one problem: I didn’t really know what string theory actually was! I understood what it was trying to do, and that it hadn’t been completely figured out yet, but I wanted to know more. Then I heard about Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe and figured it was a great way to get more information about this complicated subject.
I really appreciated how clear Greene was throughout the discussion. He did a wonderful job explaining these theories in a way that is easy to understand. That’s no small feat, considering how complicated some of these ideas are. Sometimes it took me two or three tries, but I always came away with a semblance of understanding of the topic at hand. Greene mainly uses metaphors to illustrate concepts, but always explains how the actual theory might differ from the method through which he presents it. As a result, I felt like I got a comprehensive overview of this incredibly complex topic.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is definitely not easy to read. It takes work, and your brain must be engaged the entire time you’re reading. Each chapter builds on the one before it, and it’s crucial to understand what you’re currently reading or the rest of the book will be completely out of the realm of comprehension. But if you’re interested in the topic and have no prior knowledge of string theory, this is a great place to start.
It’s important to note that this book does not reflect the most current thinking on string theory – after all, it’s over ten years old. The version I read had a recently written preface from Greene, detailing what he might change if he could rewrite the book. If you’re already familiar with the concepts of string theory and want an exploration of the latest ideas on the subject, this book probably isn’t for you. But if, like me, you have a casual interest in the topic and want a book that will explain the concepts in layman’s terms, definitely check out The Elegant Universe. Though it wasn’t the easiest read, I learned a lot and can say I genuinely enjoyed the process.