Friday, March 26, 2004

Good book.

Janna Levin gets two thumbs up from me for How the Universe Got Its Spots. Not that I totally understood what she was saying. I was doing really well up to Chapter 10, then I started to bog down and didn't catch back up until chapter 16 or so. I suppose I should be worried about my inability to figure it all out, but experience tells me that I'm going to have to read it--or another book on topology--five or six times before I get it. It took me a long time to get relativity (and hey, I get both special and general relativity now, at least in concept. I couldn't derive either mathematically to save my life, though), and even longer to get quantum. As if I really get quantum, but you know what I mean. I'm on my third go round with The Elegant Universe. I'm a slow learner, you know?

The title of the book was a little bit misleading, but I guess she couldn't call it "How the spots of the universe may or may not have been formed and what they may or may not mean." I couldn't do her job; it would be very frustrating to have all these theories raging in your mind but be limited by the available observational data. And She must get tired of thinking "Well, one of these days, we're going to get a satellite launched that might help clear up some of this ambiguity." Anyway, I like the idea that the cosmic background radiation has spots, it makes the universe seem more cozy and less overwhelming.

So, I enjoyed the book, and I liked how accessible the writing was. It reminded me a bit of Joao Magueijo's Faster Than the Speed of Light, in that they were both rather conversational, and they both dealt as much with the life of a contemporary physicist as they did with current research topics. I don't know enough physics to agree or disagree with the guy, but at least I understood what he was saying. Some day I'll make a bibliography of all the cool "science books even art historians can understand" I have on my shelf, it would give me an excuse to re-read some of them.

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