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The Black Hole War


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The father of string theory recounts his paradigm-shifting debate with Stephen Hawking over the nature of black holes.

About the Author

Leonard Susskind has been the Felix Bloch Professor in theoretical physics at Stanford University since 1978. He is a member of the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of numerous prizes including the science writing prize of the American Institute of Physics for his Scientific American article on black holes.


Beyond the flamboyant title and subtitle, this book presents an interesting view of today's physics as it moves into ever more abstract areas. Writing for the general public, Susskind (The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design), a distinguished Stanford University theorist, uses a relaxed and often humorous style of presentation. He is candid in admitting that string theory, which is at the heart of the newest physics, lacks experimental proof. Nevertheless, string theory and other approaches have succeeded in convincing nearly everybody that information is not lost via black hole radiation. The author's informal style certainly makes his book more digestible for nonspecialists, but at times he wanders so far afield that the discussion thread is lost. Tighter editing could have made the book shorter and more understandable. Recommended for college and large public libraries.--Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Entertaining...both lucid and enjoyable....Like the best teachers, Susskind makes it fun to learn. With a deft use of analogy and a flair for language, he tames the most ferocious concepts....He has come up with the best visual metaphor for the multidimensinality of string theory that I've yet come across, one that alone is worth the price of the book * - Los Angeles Times 'Susskind is very down to earth, an easy-going and entertaining guide through the most exciting frontiers of theoretical physics' *

Bets made over a beer between scientists rarely make the headlines, but in 2004 Stephen Hawking conceded that he'd lost a bet and that a view he had held for 30 years was wrong. According to Stanford physicist Susskind (The Cosmic Landscape), one of the leaders of the anti-Hawking camp, the argument was a simple one: if information falls into a black hole, is it lost forever? Hawking's theory that information is destroyed undermined everything scientists thought they knew about quantum physics. Susskind gives readers a course in black holes, quantum physics and string theory as he explains his belief that information cannot be destroyed. Along the way he introduces bizarre theories like the Holographic Principle (which he helped develop), claiming that the third dimension is an illusion and that energy and matter are just forms of information. Susskind also profiles two hot-shot South American physicists who helped deliver the coup de grace to Hawking's argument. Black hole and Hawking fans should go for this book, even if the great physicist was wrong. B&w illus. (July 7) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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