Book Review: The Elegant Universe – Brian Greene [TSS]

Title: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
Author: Brian Greene
ISBN: 9780375708114
Pages: 464
Release Date: 1999
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Space/NASA
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

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Comments

  1. Oh thanks for this review. I haven’t gotten a good grasp on string theory either and despite the book’s age, I may see if I can find this at the library.

  2. Oh thanks for this review. I haven’t gotten a good grasp on string theory either and despite the book’s age, I may see if I can find this at the library.

  3. Thanks for reading it for me! I’m interested, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I have the energy to dedicate to the reading and understanding of something so complex.

  4. Thanks for reading it for me! I’m interested, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I have the energy to dedicate to the reading and understanding of something so complex.

  5. I might have to give this a try.

    BTW, I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and loving it. I bet you’d like it if you haven’t read it yet.

  6. I might have to give this a try.

    BTW, I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and loving it. I bet you’d like it if you haven’t read it yet.

  7. I am not sure I would totally get this book, as the higher concepts of science continually elude me, but I am glad that you liked it and that it cleared some things up for you. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  8. I am not sure I would totally get this book, as the higher concepts of science continually elude me, but I am glad that you liked it and that it cleared some things up for you. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  9. I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. I saw a tv programme about string theory presented by Brian Greene and it was so interesting. Really made me see the universe in a different way. I actually studied astrophysics as an undergrad but never got to string theory (probably because it was too advanced and we had enough of the basics to learn).

  10. I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. I saw a tv programme about string theory presented by Brian Greene and it was so interesting. Really made me see the universe in a different way. I actually studied astrophysics as an undergrad but never got to string theory (probably because it was too advanced and we had enough of the basics to learn).

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