Review of the Elegant Universe

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By: Richard Liu

“As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum physics cannot both be correct,” general relativity describes the universe at large scales, while quantum physics describes the nature of the small scale (scale of subatomic particles). Both are very accurate when confined to their respective size scales but break down when they cross into the territory of the other and collide horribly when describing extreme conditions such as in black holes and at times close to the big bang. Many believe string theory may be the solution, an emerging theory with the bold intentions of unifying everything we know about the universe into one master theory. String theorist Brian Greene takes us through his personal work in string theory, along with other recent discoveries and advances made by a collaboration of physicists around the globe.

It should firstly be stated that this, The Elegant Universe, assumes no knowledge of general relativity, quantum physics and string theory. It is a book that targets those who have a profound interest in the workings of the deep universe but lack the scientific and mathematical background. A brief introduction is provided in general relativity and quantum physics, including their inherit shortcomings. Brian Greene then takes us through the strange and marvellous world of string theory and it’s implication of hidden dimensions. Greene manages to group together scattered discoveries from the past century according to their relevance to the topic at hand, and it feels very natural. Every concept is explained in slight technical detail and then followed up immediately by a clever analogy. The key points are always restated and rephrased to make absolutely sure the reader is on the same page with the author.

If you are interested in modern physics, or know only basic concepts of string theory, general relativity, and quantum mechanics, this book is certainly for you. If you are already knowledgeable in this field and seek the deepest technical and mathematical knowledge, I’m guessing you will not find what you are looking for in this book.

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