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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

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Leonard Susskind, padre de la teoría de cuerdas y uno de los físicos más eminentes de nuestro tiempo y Gerard’t Hooft, premio Nobel de Física, conscientes del reto que implicaba la propuesta de Hawking, fiel a la teoría de la relatividad general, contraatacaron con las leyes de la mecánica cuántica en la mano. Esta obra no es, simplemente, la historia de aquel enfrentamien Leonard Susskind, padre de la teoría de cuerdas y uno de los físicos más eminentes de nuestro tiempo y Gerard’t Hooft, premio Nobel de Física, conscientes del reto que implicaba la propuesta de Hawking, fiel a la teoría de la relatividad general, contraatacaron con las leyes de la mecánica cuántica en la mano. Esta obra no es, simplemente, la historia de aquel enfrentamiento entre los más grandes científicos de nuestro tiempo sino que nos transmite la tensión intelectual de estos sabios y el esfuerzo que realizaron para aparcar sus más firmes convicciones y tratar de reconciliar ambas teorías para llegar a desentrañar las incógnitas últimas del universo.


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Leonard Susskind, padre de la teoría de cuerdas y uno de los físicos más eminentes de nuestro tiempo y Gerard’t Hooft, premio Nobel de Física, conscientes del reto que implicaba la propuesta de Hawking, fiel a la teoría de la relatividad general, contraatacaron con las leyes de la mecánica cuántica en la mano. Esta obra no es, simplemente, la historia de aquel enfrentamien Leonard Susskind, padre de la teoría de cuerdas y uno de los físicos más eminentes de nuestro tiempo y Gerard’t Hooft, premio Nobel de Física, conscientes del reto que implicaba la propuesta de Hawking, fiel a la teoría de la relatividad general, contraatacaron con las leyes de la mecánica cuántica en la mano. Esta obra no es, simplemente, la historia de aquel enfrentamiento entre los más grandes científicos de nuestro tiempo sino que nos transmite la tensión intelectual de estos sabios y el esfuerzo que realizaron para aparcar sus más firmes convicciones y tratar de reconciliar ambas teorías para llegar a desentrañar las incógnitas últimas del universo.

30 review for The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Grain Alcohol Physicists: "The Black Hole War - My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" by Leonard Susskind Mr. Leonard is head-over-heals enamoured of his views on string theory of being the underlying basis to a some greater reality and cannot in anyway be wrong. Einstein felt that way too, but there is a vast difference between Mr. Leonard and Einstein; most of Einstein's work could be for the mos If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. Grain Alcohol Physicists: "The Black Hole War - My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" by Leonard Susskind Mr. Leonard is head-over-heals enamoured of his views on string theory of being the underlying basis to a some greater reality and cannot in anyway be wrong. Einstein felt that way too, but there is a vast difference between Mr. Leonard and Einstein; most of Einstein's work could be for the most part tested in short order. The only detail left was gravitational waves which took instruments 100 years of development before being ready to capture their existence. With string theory the time scale before technology is advanced enough to test could be greater than the life of the universe. And of course if SUSY is not found at the LHC then string theory is so mathematically flexible that you can just claim "not enough energy". Maybe that is what Penrose is pissed at. The math puts forth unproven models as for example extra dimensions. No one sees this as puzzling but there is a huge chasm and string theorists fail to see it. Extra dimensions require faith. No way around it. The same faith one has in believing in a standard religion (I am all for religion). Religion transcends the physical but so do extra dimensions. They assume a fourth or fifth spatial dimension is as real as 3 dimensions without a physical way of seeing, feeling, testing or even imagining it. How is that for faith?     If you're into shitty arguments regarding Black Holes, read on. 

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    People like unified, completed pictures, and science books tend to go for that approach, typically some version of the Hero's Journey: the heroic scientist (sometimes also the narrator) encounters the fiendish problem, bravely engages it, goes through many trials and setbacks, perseveres, and eventually triumphs. But real life is messier. You're never at all sure what's going on while you're in the middle of the fight, and quite often you aren't even sure if you've won or not. This book pretends People like unified, completed pictures, and science books tend to go for that approach, typically some version of the Hero's Journey: the heroic scientist (sometimes also the narrator) encounters the fiendish problem, bravely engages it, goes through many trials and setbacks, perseveres, and eventually triumphs. But real life is messier. You're never at all sure what's going on while you're in the middle of the fight, and quite often you aren't even sure if you've won or not. This book pretends to be a Hero's Journey, but it's pretty clear that in fact it isn't. I enjoyed it for the opposite reason: it effectively conveyed the confusion and uncertainty of these would-be heroic enterprises, where you don't know who's a good guy and who's a bad guy, whether you're making progress or going backwards, whether your idea is a brilliant flash of inspiration or the most complete bullshit. We're somewhere in the middle of a transition period in physics, where people are painfully trying to sort out the contradictions inherent in the 20th century's two great breakthroughs, relativity and quantum mechanics. They just won't fit together. The story in The Black Hole War follows one thread, which engaged the attention of many of the world's best physicists for decades and is still anything but resolved. What happens when an observer falls into a black hole? What happens to the faint Hawking radiation that the black hole emits? Is information destroyed in this process, or somehow just very effectively scrambled? To what extent do observers outside the black hole see the same thing as observers falling into it? Black holes, it turns out, combine aspects of relativity and quantum mechanics in ways which do not allow people to ignore their mutual inconsistencies. Thinking about them is a kind of spiritual exercise, which one day may lead us to a new understanding of the most fundamental ideas in physics. Susskind does a good job of conveying the frustration of grappling with these extraordinarily treacherous questions. He has a long drawn out series of skirmishes with Stephen Hawking, where he tries to convince him of the correctness of his point of view and meets with determined resistance. Hawking eventually capitulates, as far as I can see mostly from exhaustion, to a bizarre argument which seems anything but conclusive. My understanding is that it's already been more or less dismissed, and the Black Hole War, far from ending in a victory for Susskind's faction, is still going on. But I didn't feel cheated; I understand more clearly now what the issues are in this strange conflict, and I'll be better placed to follow the dispatches from the front lines. Thank you Len, fine battlefield reporting. ________________________ [And on further consideration...] There's a claimed paradox which plays a major part in this book, and has been mentioned extensively elsewhere. Consider, says Susskind, what happens to an astronaut who falls into a very large black hole. From the point of view of someone a long way from the black hole, the astronaut will be fried to a crisp as they get closer to the event horizon. But from astronaut's own point of view, they will be fine. Since the black hole is very large, tidal forces will not be strong at the event horizon, and the Principle of Equivalence means that they won't notice anything special happening. This paradox is dramatized in the short story "Don't Forget Your Antigravity Pills". Well... Susskind says he gets plenty of crank mail from people who write to tell him they have black hole paradoxes all figured out. I am reluctant to join this unhappy band, but there is an obvious point I'm surprised not to see highlighted, and it's not mentioned either on any of the pages I found when I googled "what happens when you fall into a black hole". Tidal forces aren't the only thing that might kill you when you are in the extreme situation of falling into a supermassive black hole! There is also the problem of your velocity, which, as far as I can see, asymptotically approaches the speed of light as you near the event horizon. That means that any light travelling towards you will be blue-shifted to higher and higher frequencies, which only fail to become infinite because the quantum nature of light means that it will arrive as a finite number of discrete photons. We know there will be some such photons, due to Hawking radiation. The last few photons you get hit by before you reach the event horizon should have truly enormous energies - quite high enough that you will get burned to a crisp from your own perspective. What's wrong with this argument? Okay, okay, Professor Susskind... you pass my "good philosophy" test. That was such an interesting question that I have to start playing too. You win, and I'm giving you an extra star to show I mean it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a very good, engaging book about the frontiers of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, and how these fields apply to the physics of black holes. The basic question at the heart of the book is whether information is lost as a particle is entrapped by the horizon of a black hole. On the one hand, Stephen Hawking and many other physicists claimed that information was, in fact, lost. On the other side, Leonard Susskind claimed that information was not lost. The entire issue was seemingly wr This is a very good, engaging book about the frontiers of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, and how these fields apply to the physics of black holes. The basic question at the heart of the book is whether information is lost as a particle is entrapped by the horizon of a black hole. On the one hand, Stephen Hawking and many other physicists claimed that information was, in fact, lost. On the other side, Leonard Susskind claimed that information was not lost. The entire issue was seemingly wrapped up in a paradox. Information should be conserved, but some simple thought experiments lead one to believe that it is not conserved. Leonard Susskind was nonplussed by the nonchalant attitude of so many followers of Stephen Hawking, in believing that information conservation does not hold for black holes. Susskind went to battle at scientific conferences, in explaining the apparent paradox. He argued that there should be a complementarity principle with regards to the viewpoint of an observer relative to a black hole. This is similar to the complementarity principle for light as a particle or a wave. Light can be observed either as a particle or a wave, but not both simultaneously. Likewise, when a particle falls into a black hole, information can be seen to be discharged from the black hole by an observer outside its event horizon, or can be seen to fall into the black hole by an observer inside its event horizon. However, since an observer cannot be both inside and outside the event horizon at the same time, there is no paradox. Susskind has some funny anecdotes about the characters in his book. He writes a few humorous anecdotes about Stephen Hawking. I think the best anecdote was a conversation that Susskind had with Dutch physicist Gerard t'Hooft. Susskind said, "I completely agree with you!" and t'Hooft replied, "well, I completely disagree with you!" I did not read this book. I listened to the audiobook, as narrated by Ray Porter. The narration is wonderful, especially the rendition of the story about an emperor who punishes "Steve and his family" to a quick end by black hole. Steve is not worried, for he believes that he could continue to live to old age after entering the event horizon. Ray Porter makes the story really come to life with the hilarious accents and dramatic reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Okay, I need to face facts: I'm a physics geek. I may not be brilliant on all that math stuff, but I have a pretty good intuitive feel for all the big and a lot of the really small questions. Just don't ask me to actually DO the math. So after all these fun-filled years of grabbing all the popular science books by all the great names in physics today, I revel in all the conflicting theories and directions that they take. Sometimes, they can get bitter and protracted, and other times... friendly, i Okay, I need to face facts: I'm a physics geek. I may not be brilliant on all that math stuff, but I have a pretty good intuitive feel for all the big and a lot of the really small questions. Just don't ask me to actually DO the math. So after all these fun-filled years of grabbing all the popular science books by all the great names in physics today, I revel in all the conflicting theories and directions that they take. Sometimes, they can get bitter and protracted, and other times... friendly, if still intractable. This particular book had a little of it all. But about what? Susskind VS Hawking square-off about BLACK HOLES. Specifically, whether or not entropy is, in fact, happening on the other side of the Schwarzschild radius. The war is over now and Hawking had backstepped in the early 2000's, but it still meant that two camps of physicists were up in arms against each other about whether information COULD actually be lost in the special conditions of a Black Hole. From the start to the end of this book, I was hooked. It FELT like we were on the stage of a grand debate. Susskind always felt like he was on the losing side, but you know how those niggling doubts are. Conflict, losses, concessions, brief respites, and ultimate vindication. It's all here. :) Fun. :) Yeah, but what about the science? Oh? You want to know about that? Well in the spaces of these years, we went from total loss of information and not just scrambled information (information being any kind of physical state in the universe) to a discovery of a cool little idea that states that if you add information (matter or energy) into a Singularity, it will either A: get bigger by at least a Plank or B: heat up. We must incorporate the little idea that the information of a holographic universe is contained on the SURFACE of any kind of container and not its volume. Cool, right? Well, things get better once we start introducing String Theory. :) Susskind makes one hell of a narrative here. I love reading about all these great men battling it out over long stretches of time and visiting each other amiably and still holding on to their positions for their lives. The point is... none of them knew who was going to be right. The battle was the thing. And in the end, it was the very real and fundamental conflicts on a pure science level that pushed everyone to new heights. :) And we got to see it. :) Very fun.

  5. 5 out of 5

    DJ

    Light on "science" and heavy on "popular", this is the kind of "popular science" that makes me cringe. The Black Hole War is a book that fears offending any reader by asking them to think for an entire chapter. Genuinely interesting yet shallow islands of physics are sprinkled in a vast sea of mundane travel stories, idle cultural speculations, and weakly veiled self-aggrandizement. The central physical question of the book, the black hole information paradox, is a very fascinating issue that has Light on "science" and heavy on "popular", this is the kind of "popular science" that makes me cringe. The Black Hole War is a book that fears offending any reader by asking them to think for an entire chapter. Genuinely interesting yet shallow islands of physics are sprinkled in a vast sea of mundane travel stories, idle cultural speculations, and weakly veiled self-aggrandizement. The central physical question of the book, the black hole information paradox, is a very fascinating issue that has led to powerful new ideas (such as the holographic principle) and offered new insights into old ones (such as information and entropy). Unfortunately, this "central physical question" is spread so thinly over the book's 400+ pages that potential readers will likely save much time and boredom by instead referring to the Wikipedia links above. Two important caveats though: 1) I listened to this on audiobook on long runs and in the gym. Your experience may vary. 2) Leonard Susskind is an excellent lecturer and his free video lectures on everything from Hamiltonian mechanics to special relativity to quantum mechanics are some of the best available. So he can be a great communicator of physics when he tries.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Claudio Arena

    An amazing book. It needs to be said, that this is not for everybody. Even if Leonard Susskind does a perfect job to explain even the more difficult concepts, what he talks about is still incredibly complex. It needs to be read by somebody that has the basis for physics (but not too much: high school physics is enough to follow the reasoning), and is used to scientific reasoning. That said, I would say this book is one of the few that classify still as not being technical (as I said before, you don An amazing book. It needs to be said, that this is not for everybody. Even if Leonard Susskind does a perfect job to explain even the more difficult concepts, what he talks about is still incredibly complex. It needs to be read by somebody that has the basis for physics (but not too much: high school physics is enough to follow the reasoning), and is used to scientific reasoning. That said, I would say this book is one of the few that classify still as not being technical (as I said before, you don't need to have a degree to read it), but still treats complex, high-level and current problems in physics. It's not like most of Stephen Hawking books: for the public, but regarding things that are fundamental in physics. I found it rare to have a book like this. The book is sometime hard to follow, and I got the impression that in the hope to be very clear on everything, and to explain it all, the authors put even too many things, and it was hard to remember all. Anyway, the authors refresh concepts every now and then, and guide you by the hand through the book. Really fascinating and interesting, if you're patient enough to read this and assimilate the concepts. Really really recommended to any science fan, or physics student. It might also be a good guide for refreshing some concepts, and think about them in different ways if you're taking a degree in Physics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bill Leach

    Chapter 1 - In 1981, Hawkings postulates that information is lost in black holes. Chapter 2 - Black holes and the horizon at the Shwartzchild radius described. Einstein rejected black holes. Tidal forces are less at the horizon of large black holes. Einstein Equivalence Principle states that the effects of gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable. Chapter 3 - Reimann proposed that space may be curved, an idea incorporated into General Relativity. Minkowski space incorporates space and time, Chapter 1 - In 1981, Hawkings postulates that information is lost in black holes. Chapter 2 - Black holes and the horizon at the Shwartzchild radius described. Einstein rejected black holes. Tidal forces are less at the horizon of large black holes. Einstein Equivalence Principle states that the effects of gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable. Chapter 3 - Reimann proposed that space may be curved, an idea incorporated into General Relativity. Minkowski space incorporates space and time, with a world line representing the path of an object. Einstein discovered time dilation where rapidly moving clocks slow down. General Theory of Relativity states that objects move straight ahead through space-time. If space is curved, the object follows. Gravitational force is the curvature of space-time. John Wheeler proposed wormholes but they would stay open for so short a time that even light could not pass through. Einstein discovered (General Theory of Relativity) gravitational red shift where clocks slow down near a heavy mass. Chapter 4 - Duality of light - not only wavelike but particle like - Einstein 1905. Planck constant h = 6.62 x 10 exp -34.. Information conservation, or reversibility, states that given the present, one can construct the future and the past. Quantum Mechanics respects the conservation of information. Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle states that the greater the certainty of velocity, the lesser the certainty of position. m delta v delta x > h. When a system is derived of all energy it is in ground state. QM, however, states that particles are still in motion - zero point motion or the quantum jitters. Energy of a photon E = hf. In Quantum Field Theory, the path of a particle is a propagator. A split, such as in the release of a particle, is a vertex. Chapter 5 - Planck found that if c, G (Newtons gravitational constant) and h are set to one, three fundamental Planck units result. The Planck length is very small (10 exp -35 m.), much smaller than a proton. Planck time (10 exp -42 sec) is very small, being the time it takes light to traverse the Planck length. Planck mass is about that of a dust mote. The energy equivalent is about equal to a tank of gasoline. The Planck length, time and mass are the size, half-life and mass of the smallest possible black hole. Chapter 6 - The question of how black holes decay. A possibility is that quantum fluctuations would allow a piece of the horizon to fly away. Chapter 7 - Equivalence of chemical, potential, kinetic and thermal energy. Conservation of energy is the First Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law states that entropy always increases. Entropy is a measure of the number of arrangements that conform to some specific recognizable criterion. Entropy is hidden information. Entropy increases because we lose track of the details over time. The smallest size containing a bit of information is a Planck length. Maximum amount of information that can be put into a region of space is equal to the area of the region, not the volume. Chapter 8 - John Wheeler stated that black holes have no hair, meaning the horizon was smooth. Adding one bit of information to a black hole increases its horizon by one square Planck length. Entropy of a black hole is proportional to the area of the horizon. Chapter 9 - Black holes have temperature which is inversely proportional to their size. Black holes are black bodies - they reflect no light. Black holes emit photons and therefore evaporate. A black hole the mass of the moon would be 1 deg K. One the mass of a boulder would be a billion billion deg. Photon emission from a BH is Hawking radiation. Hawking calculates that the entropy of a BH equals one quarter of the horizon area, measured in Planck units. Chapter 10 - Hawking states that when a BH evaporates, the trapped bits of information disappear from the universe. Chapter 11 - Particle collisions are described by an S or scattering matrix, which is reversible. Hawking invented the not S matrix or dollar matrix which is not reversible. Chapter 12 - Surrounding space is warmer than astronomical BH's, so they are still gathering mass rather than evaporating, although the evaporation rate is very slow. Einstein Equivalence Principle - the effects of gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable from one another. Chapter 13 - Susskind Antigravity Pill paradox where characters fall through a BH horizon. Apparently they are destroyed and emitted as evaporation products as required by QM. But apparently they also pass safely through the horizon as predicted by the Equivalence Principle. Chapter 14 - The possibility that a BH horizon is covered with quantum copying machines so that evaporation and passage are both possible. However, a quantum copying machine is not possible as it would violate Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. Chapter 15 - A BH stretched horizon is one Planck distance above the horizon. It is an energetic, hot layer. Susskind proposes complementarity whereby both alternatives of the paradox are true. No paradox because the observers on the inside and outside can never meet, so each story is true in it's own zone of reference. Chapter 16 - It requires increasingly short wavelength (high energy) photons to observe smaller particles. As an atom falls closer to a horizon, it requires increasingly high energy photons to resolve them. So as the atom falls to the horizon, it becomes increasingly blurred and appears to spread out over the horizon. Chapter 17 - About Cambridge, religion and Hawkings. Chapter 18 - The Holographic Principle - the contents of space are actually a holographic representation of the information on the area bounding that space. Perhaps all space / the universe is a hologram, coded on a distant two dimensional space. Chapter 19 - String Theory - We do not know whether this model actually represents the real world. However, it is consistent with the real world and does allow theories to be tested for consistency. Hadrons are nucleons, mesons and glueballs. Nucleons are protons and neutrons. As you spin a nucleon, the energy increases in proportion to the angular momentum, but in steps. An electron cannot be spun. Energetic nucleons are stringlike objects, made up of quarks and gluons. The simplest hadron is a meson, composed of a quark, an anti-quark joined by a stringlike gluon. Open strings, such as mesons, have ends, but there can also be closed strings. Nucleons are 3 quarks joined by a Y shaped string. Another hadron, the closed string or glueball, has no quarks. The mathematical theory of quarks and gluons is Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). Quarks are elementary particles with six flavors - up, down, strange, charmed, bottom and top. All quarks come in three colours - blue, green and red. Gluons have positive and negative poles, and each has a color - R, B or G. Therefore, nine types of gluon are possible. The propagator of a gluon has two sides corresponding to the two poles - each side is R, B or G. At a vertex, or split, each side must be consistent - e.g. a BR can split into BG - GR. While string theory applied to hadrons is well accepted, fundamental strings associated with gravity at Plank scales are not. The graviton is the primary fundamental string. Electrical and gravitational forces create waves. Hence, gravitational waves. Gravitons are conjecture. Any particle can emit a graviton, even other gravitons. Possibly, fundamental and QCD strings are the same objects at different scales. Fundamental strings require 9 dimensions. The 6 extra dimensions are compacted into geometric spaces called Calabi Yau Manifolds. Feyman theorized that electrical force is due to particles continually emitting and absorbing photons - photon exchange. Also, all matter continually emits and absorbs gravitons. Fundamental strings spawn off and absorb tiny strings - these are the gravitons. The string theory of gravity is not fully described but appears to be the best mathematical model of quantum gravity. Chapter 20 - As things slow down, more structure comes into view. Much structure cannot be seen due to cosmic jitter. Perhaps particles are much larger than thought. Chapter 21 - Going up the mass scale beyond elementary particles, are conjectural collections called superpartners, grand unification partners and string excitations. These range to the Planck mass. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) should see superpartners. T' Hooft speculates that the spectrum of particles extends beyond the Planck mass in the form of black holes. A 1 kg BH is a trillion times smaller than a proton. Strings, such as those making up photons, have temperature and entropy. The entropy of a BH is proportional to the area of the horizon, and therefore the square of the mass. Strings can cross each other, normally passing through each other. A small probability (the string coupling constant) exists that they split and re-arrange. This is how small strings are formed at a horizon, producing Hawking radiation. If an electron is dropped into a BH, it becomes charged. A charge on a BH pushes the horizon out from the singularity. If enough charge exists to balance the graviton, you have an extremal BH. Polchinski discovered D-branes, a membrane on which fundamental strings can end. These turn out to fill a large mathematical hole in String Theory. The use of D-5 branes for the extra dimensions, D-1 branes for the normal dimensions, and fundamental strings allowed the math to be developed for an extremal BH showing that the entropy = one quarter of the horizon area. Also allowed the math of the evaporation process to be developed. This clinched the argument that BH are storage containers for information, not eaters of information. Chapter 22 - De Sitter space is a four dimensional (4 + 1) space with positive curvature that satisfies Einstein's equations. It is becoming important in cosmology. Anti De Sitter (ADS) space is similar, but with negative curvature. The space time curvature in ADS creates a gravitational field that pulls objects back to the center even if there is nothing there. If matter is added to an ADS space, a BH trapped in the space (like a box) results - a BTZ black hole. Strings on a stack of D-branes are governed by the same rules as those that govern gluons in QCD. Maldacena showed that a three dimensional world with gravity is equivalent to a two dimensional quantum hologram on the boundary of space. Witten showed that a BH in ADS must be equivalent to something on the surface bounding the the space - a hot fluid of gluons. Chapter 23 - The Holographic Principle states that everything that takes place in ADS (4+1) is describable by a mathematical theory with fewer dimensions. Quantum gravity in ADS is mathematically equivalent to QCD. If an ADS space is modified to a Q space with both a UV (small scale) brane and an IR (large scale) brane, particles near the UV brane act like fundamental strings while those near the IR brane act like nuclear particles. The possibility is that fundamental particles and nuclear particles are really the same objects in different areas of space. The hot quark soup produced in nuclear collision events has an unexpected very low viscosity, as does a BH horizon. Nuclear physics may allow String Theory to be tested. Conversely, String Theory may be applicable to nuclear evenets. Chapter 24 - It appears that the cosmological constant is non zero - 10 exp -123 in Planck units. Einstein had originally included an extra term in his equations, called the cosmological term. The constant (Greek lambda) creates a repulsive force if negative; attractive if positive. Eventually, Einstein set it to zero, eliminating it from his equations, and calling it his biggest mistake. A cosmic horizon exists at 15 billion light years where the universe is receding from earth at the speed of light. This cosmic horizon may be analagous to BH horizon.

  8. 5 out of 5

    J.

    A good introduction to the debate in physics regarding on whether information was lost when it entered a black hole. This was a big deal because conservation of entropy would thereby be threatened if this was, in fact, the case. The current physical theory indicates that this is not so. I dislike how the emphasis of this book seems to be on this nebulous concept of "information" instead of in the physical states themselves from which this "information" is deduced. The world is made up of physical A good introduction to the debate in physics regarding on whether information was lost when it entered a black hole. This was a big deal because conservation of entropy would thereby be threatened if this was, in fact, the case. The current physical theory indicates that this is not so. I dislike how the emphasis of this book seems to be on this nebulous concept of "information" instead of in the physical states themselves from which this "information" is deduced. The world is made up of physical objects on which "information" can be coded by means of differing physical configurations of said physical objects. But it is the physical objects, it seems to me, that are the primary ones and about whom physics can be done. It may be mathematically and conceptually easier to think of these physical configurations as containing "information", but said "information" cannot exist apart from the physical objects in their respective configurations. Thus, it is not "information" which gets or doesn't get lost when it enters a black hole, but rather an ensemble of physical particles in particular configurations. The book also mentions the holographic duality principle: wherein all the physical happenings on a particular chunk of space can be coded on any surface which surrounds said chunk of space. Using this principle, the author claims that the universe is a hologram, with the real physics going on at the boundary of space-time. But this claim goes too far, I think. Just because we can recover (some of) the physical information about solid objects from shadows on a wall does not mean that the shadows are more real or have primacy over the solid 3-dimentional objects. Why do physicists want to make this jump and state that the real physics is happening at the boundary while the things going on inside the volume are as incorporeal as a hologram? Why is it not the other way around? Mildly interesting book, if you can ignore those two confusions.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Toni Daugherty

    Could the King of physics be wrong about black holes? For 30 years Hawking and Susskind debated whether or not information disappears once it is sucked into a black hole. I commend Susskind for his courage not in debating Hawking, but in explaining concepts like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Gravity, and String Theory to regular people like me. If you want to learn more about your universe and you don't want to spend a lot of time on the math - this is the book. These black hole ideas are important Could the King of physics be wrong about black holes? For 30 years Hawking and Susskind debated whether or not information disappears once it is sucked into a black hole. I commend Susskind for his courage not in debating Hawking, but in explaining concepts like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Gravity, and String Theory to regular people like me. If you want to learn more about your universe and you don't want to spend a lot of time on the math - this is the book. These black hole ideas are important because if Hawking is right and information really does disappear once the black hole evaporates then we too disappear - erased forever! One day we will all be at the horizon of a black hole and eventually at the singularity - and sucked in! Once that black hole takes in more "information" (stuff) than it can hold, it begins to evaporate - as it sucks in more & more stuff - cuz the gravity won't quit. It becomes so dense that it begins to expand (evaporate) & information is lost - according to Hawking. Susskind proves his own argument (theoretically) using Gerardus 'et Hoofts "holographic principle" and Hawking is forced to make a statement that gives Susskind victory (once Suskind proves the math). This book is a twisty, unexpected, real-life story about real people who set physics on a new path. You'll learn physics terms and a lot about influential people who changed the way we see the world today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fabio Kung

    All I wanted was to take a peek on our modern understanding of quantum gravity and black holes. This book gave me exactly that. And more! If you are looking for in-depth details and advanced math, I would say it is probably not for you. For non-physicists like me, this was a fantastic introduction on what we currently know about quantum gravity and its relation with other areas of science. As a bonus, it also (finally) helped me start grasping string theory, and better understand entropy, the eve All I wanted was to take a peek on our modern understanding of quantum gravity and black holes. This book gave me exactly that. And more! If you are looking for in-depth details and advanced math, I would say it is probably not for you. For non-physicists like me, this was a fantastic introduction on what we currently know about quantum gravity and its relation with other areas of science. As a bonus, it also (finally) helped me start grasping string theory, and better understand entropy, the event horizon (complementarity, information paradox) and the holographic principle. Great book. Highly recommended if you are curious on what's beyond the Standard Model and what questions some of most brilliant physicists are trying to answer.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Isk

    Started a year ago, finally finished! Hate Susskind's writing -- shut the fuck up with your inane and bloated "war" metaphor that appears every other page. And no, you don't need to constantly remind that why you were always so sure you were right and that you couldn't believe all the other physicists were too dense to see why the war was important. But the cool physics is inside. Hawking: seemed to prove that information is irretrievably lost in a black hole. Also, empty space full of super-flee Started a year ago, finally finished! Hate Susskind's writing -- shut the fuck up with your inane and bloated "war" metaphor that appears every other page. And no, you don't need to constantly remind that why you were always so sure you were right and that you couldn't believe all the other physicists were too dense to see why the war was important. But the cool physics is inside. Hawking: seemed to prove that information is irretrievably lost in a black hole. Also, empty space full of super-fleeting black holes that pop in and out of existence almost instantaneously (and these quickies do erase info). Susskind: WTF! Also, losing information = increasing entropy = generating heat, so empty space should be super hot. Einstein's equivalence principle: You can't distinguish between accelerating (e.g., in an elevator in space) and gravity. So, e.g., gravity bends light. Pollywog dumb hole-illustration of black holes: Doppler effect. The pollywog falling into the sinkhole does fall, but the pollywog watching the doomedee sees the doomedee taking an infinite amount of time to reach the horizon. Minkowski space and proper time: the proper time between two events along a worldline in Minkowski space is the amount of time passed according to a stopwatch that travels along that worldline. According to this proper time metric, a straight worldline between two events has the largest proper time! Quantum jitters: put a bunch of particles in a super-tiny box, and then cool the box down to absolute zero. Classically, you'd think that this means the particles have velocity zero, but by the Uncertainty Principle, these particles are jittering! Maximum amount of information allowable in a region of space is proportional to the *area* of that region, not the volume. Black holes can be thought of as regions of maximally compressed information. Bekenstein showed that adding one unit of entropy to a black hole (by sending a photon whose wavelength is equal to the radius of the horizon -- this ensures that all we know is that the photon is somewhere in the black hole, not where) increases the mass of the black hole such that the surface area of the horizon increases by one square Planck unit. So the entropy of a black hole (in bits) is proportional to the surface area of its horizon (in Planck units). But note that the horizon is supposed to be indistinguishable to someone passing through -- this disparity is fundamental to the BHW. It used to be thought that black holes of any fixed size were indistinguishable from one another. But Hawking showed that black holes have a temperature, and thus, that they must radiate electromagnetic radiation (i.e., photons) in the same way a hot black pot does, meaning it loses energy (and thus, by Einstein's equation) mass, and thus the size of the black hole must decrease. Two kinds of jitters: quantum jitters and thermal jitters (the latter are due to excess energy). Thermal jitters are due to real photons that bombard our skin and transfer energy to it; quantum jitters are due to virtual photon pairs which are created and then quickly disappear. One member of a virtual photon pair may be inside the horizon, while the other may be outside -- but someone outside the horizon can't see the photon trapped inside. So what someone near the horizon detects as quantum jitters will look like thermal jitters to someone outside the horizon. From Hawking's formula for the temperature of a black hole, temperature is inversely related to mass, so that smaller black holes are hotter and larger black holes are colder. But if black holes evaporate, what happens to the information that gets sucked into them? Hawking says that this information disappears. But to Susskind, this violates the law of information conservation, which he thinks is always satisfied. (The real-world is either perfectly deterministic -- such that if A -> B, then only A can go to B, and only B can follow from A -- or its quantum randomness is reversible (as long as we don't observe it)). Einstein's Principle of Relativity: physics is the same in all reference frames moving with uniform velocity relative to each other. But how can you make this compatible with Maxwell's Principle (that the speed of light is constant)? -- It seems like if you're also moving at the speed of light, then light should stand still. Also, Einstein's Equivalence Principle: the effects of gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable. What happens to someone falling into a black hole? By quantum mechanics (and quantum jitters), an observer sees the poor dude evaporating as he crosses the horizon (since particles near the horizon must be super energetic, since after all they're escaping from a black hole!). By relativity and the Equivalence Principle, the person falling into the black hole survives until hitting the singularity. Which is right? Susskind says that this is black hole *complementarity* -- both are right, and it's not a contradiction, since nobody surviving the pass through the horizon can ever come out again and prove the observers wrong. (Complementarity, as in the complementary particle-wave nature of photons.) If a photon is trapped inside a box (say, by making the sides of the box mirrors), then as the box gets smaller, the photon's wavelength must also get smaller (since the photon's wavelength can't be larger than the sides of the box). This means that the energy in the box increases, so its max increases. So smaller is heavier. Holographic principle. There is a 2-dimensional (scrambled) representation of our 3-dimensional world for out on the boundaries (or beyond) of our universe. Why? Take any spherical region of space. The maximum amount of entropy this region of space can contain is given by the entropy of a black hole, which is proportional to the surface area of the black hole's horizon. How to tell whether a particle is elementary or not? One way: see if you can spin it. If so, then it's not elementary. String theory: there are two applications. One is 'large-scale'. Mesons are two quarks connected by a string made of gluons. Nucleons (= protons and neutrons) are three quarks connected by gluons. Quarks can come in six flavors (up, down, strange, charmed, bottom, top) and three colors (red, blue, green). Gluons have a positive and negative pole, and each pole has a color (red, blue, green). Glueballs are closed string-gluons without quarks. The other application is small-scale fundamental strings, and these are the ones causing all the excitement. We need six more *compact* dimensions of space in order to make the equations of string theory consistent. Compact means that as you travel along that dimension, you eventually return to the starting point. Think of one-dimension balls along a line -- and if you zoom in, you see that the line is actually a cylinder along which ants can travel in the transverse direction. One counterintuitive part of black hole complementarity: Alice, falling through the horizon, sees an atom fall through as well; Bob, observing Alice, sees the atom get destroyed and get spread throughout the horizon. How to reconcile? Think of plane propellers -- at first, all you see is the hub, but as you increase the shutter speed, you can make out the individual propellers. Next, imagine that on each propeller is another set of plane propellers revolving even faster, ad infinitum. If Alice flies along with such an airplane toward the horizon, she sees nothing but the central hub; but Bob, as his shutter speed increases, sees more and more of the propellers. Similarly, while in Quantum Field Theory we see progressively smaller things as we increase the shutter speed (e.g., first we see a blur of electric charge around a nucleus, then we see these resolve into electrons, etc.), in String Theory we see the strings get progressively larger (because we see the wild fluctuations and vibrations of the string).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    "Science is a human affair, and during the painful struggles for new paradigms, opinions and emotions can be just as volatile as in any other human endeavor." Leonard Susskind's expertise as a leading theoretical physicist is beyond dispute. He is skilled in teaching students at several levels: university college students; continuing-education adults (the heavy-math, nearly-legendary Theoretical Minimum series of lectures and books); and readers of popular science books (The Cosmic Landscape: Str "Science is a human affair, and during the painful struggles for new paradigms, opinions and emotions can be just as volatile as in any other human endeavor." Leonard Susskind's expertise as a leading theoretical physicist is beyond dispute. He is skilled in teaching students at several levels: university college students; continuing-education adults (the heavy-math, nearly-legendary Theoretical Minimum series of lectures and books); and readers of popular science books (The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design is his other book, about his leadership role in String Theory.) Nevertheless, looking over some reviews, I am disturbed by the near animus some people have toward him and this book. What is the source of this? I suspect some criticism of The Black Hole War is misdirected at best, or is mere grandstanding by the reviewer. Before you pick up this book to read, be sure you have chosen correctly. This one is intended for smart people–of course—but without mathematics. If you are expecting a graduate-level course, and a deep understanding, this is not the book. For mathematical thoroughness, you may be interested in the same topic in his own online Theoretical Minimum course. Naturally, any modern textbook on general relativity is even better if you can handle it. But to pan this book as mind-numbingly simple is to miss the point of this book entirely. The Black Hole War is not a physics course, it is a personalized, practical history of discovery, of how the nuts and bolts of science work; how one, sometimes insecure, scientist participated in a modern "paradigm shift." Susskind is not shy to expose his joy of discovery, his envy of others, particularly Stephen Hawking, his frustration at being ignored, his outsized ego, and his fearless evangelization of the truth. In Susskind's mind, it was definitely war, even though it likely wasn't for most others. To appreciate Susskind's dramatic tale, he knows the reader must appreciate, if not understand, physics across the spectrum of classical mechanics, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and cosmology. Since this book assumes none of that from the reader, he devotes the first 178 pages to a whirlwind tour of all those topics. It's highly readable, internally consistent and complete enough to understand the topic of the book...amazingly done without math, as is appropriate for the target audience. Of course, if you are a physicist or working scientist or just a really smart person, this 178-page preliminary overview will too simple for you—so just skip it! The purpose of this book is to tell the dramatic history of an exciting breakthrough in modern science, not to serve as a 4-year undergraduate course in Physics. To criticize it for not being so is simply stupid. Humor, and other non-scientific "human" elements are scattered throughout. Susskind doesn't spare us the droll jokes and anecdotes—most groaningly bad, which is his trademark. Also there are short asides on religion, politics, bits of amusing cultural criticism, and other non-scientific topics. These items may go a long way toward explaining why some readers—who basically need to lighten up—don't like this book. Then, he gives us his unabashed opinions of coworkers in the field. You'll know who he likes and doesn't like by the end. Susskind justifies his argumentative relationship with his key antagonist Stephen Hawking because he confidently thought Hawking to be terribly wrong on the main controversy: that information is irrecoverably destroyed inside a black hole. From this the major tension in the book arises: Susskind felt guilty attacking the most famous scientist in the world today. This guilt has two causes. Hawking had trouble "fighting back" because of his physical difficulties, so apparently obvious, but which also unmentionably hindered progress. Sometimes months, and years, passed before Hawking would address some criticism; by then Susskind and his fellows had resolved and moved far beyond the point in question. Some readers criticize Susskind for criticizing Hawking, themselves presumably resonating with this same guilt. Whatever the reason, scientific criticism is not personal, and this is one of the key lessons Susskind teaches in this book, really a characteristic of true science. Susskind's unease also stems from his own unconventional working-class background. He was a plumber (as was his father) before getting into physics rather late, initially through "lesser" institutions. He relates how this made him feel uncomfortable in the halls of Cambridge, for example. It took him some years before he felt the equal of his peers. Many readers feel that such details detract from, or even tarnish, the science. In a peer-reviewed paper that would be the case. Here in a book about teamwork and its resultant emotions, it is entirely relevant. To wrap: Is all this a display of authorial ego as many claim? Yes! Absolutely it is! And it's justified, since he is fair to others, honest with himself, true to intellectual principles—and scientifically right.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rohith

    Science is boring work. Most scientific discoveries are a result of doing boring tasks meticulously. Since finding the true picture of Universe requires such laborious work, it is unfair to expect an average human to spend so much time, which is a luxury for many, to properly understand scientific discoveries. However, the urge to know what is happening in the Universe is strong in every human. Due to lack of time, many will take comfort in lazy explanations. Attention Span is a major impediment Science is boring work. Most scientific discoveries are a result of doing boring tasks meticulously. Since finding the true picture of Universe requires such laborious work, it is unfair to expect an average human to spend so much time, which is a luxury for many, to properly understand scientific discoveries. However, the urge to know what is happening in the Universe is strong in every human. Due to lack of time, many will take comfort in lazy explanations. Attention Span is a major impediment. So how do you communicate the scientific discoveries to laypeople? Talk in their own linguistic style. Once the people are connected and are familiar with the basic terms of the scientific theory, their own curiosity will drive them to read advanced books in that area, hopefully. And this is preciously what Leonard Susskind has done. Written in style of a travelogue/auto biography/human stories, this physicist from Stanford, tried to explain both Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics in order to describe the Information Paradox and how the Physicists finally solved the paradox. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who are confident about their high school physics knowledge. Even if you didn't understand the solution to the paradox, the analogies that were used to explain the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are very useful for further study or just appreciate the complexity. The war metaphors are what makes this book interesting. I certainly started reading the book only because I saw a chapter named "Battle of Santa Barbara" and decided to see what a battle means in Scientific Community :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    About 60% (and that's a conservative estimate) went over my head, despite Susskind's valiant effort to dumb it down. In a nutshell, he explains how he and a group of like-minded theoretical physicists ultimately proved Stephen Hawking wrong. What was the issue? Hawking said he had proven that information that enters a black hole is lost forever. Susskind disagreed, mainly because that would mean that one of the fundamental tenets of physics -- that matter is never destroyed -- would be wrong. And About 60% (and that's a conservative estimate) went over my head, despite Susskind's valiant effort to dumb it down. In a nutshell, he explains how he and a group of like-minded theoretical physicists ultimately proved Stephen Hawking wrong. What was the issue? Hawking said he had proven that information that enters a black hole is lost forever. Susskind disagreed, mainly because that would mean that one of the fundamental tenets of physics -- that matter is never destroyed -- would be wrong. And if that was true, then everything known about physics would have to be wrong, too. The book was fascinating (and elicited some funny looks from my friends when I showed them what I was reading) and I had to re-read a lot of it just to be able to follow along on the fringes of understanding. But the gist of it was that no, information is not lost forever in a black hole. It eventually escapes the black hole through quantum evaporations at the black hole's event horizon. Oh, and the entire universe is a hologram. I wish I could say I feel smarter now, but I don't. I do, however, realize why I didn't major in physics in college.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    An absolutely fascinating recounting of the process to reconcile our understanding of Einstein's General Relativity and gravity with Quantum Mechanics and the surprising discoveries in String Theory that made it possible. This reader has always been fascinated with physics and is always on the lookout for works like this that explore the current state of our understanding of the universe and how it works. The author does a masterful job of explaining complex concepts in simple terms using word p An absolutely fascinating recounting of the process to reconcile our understanding of Einstein's General Relativity and gravity with Quantum Mechanics and the surprising discoveries in String Theory that made it possible. This reader has always been fascinated with physics and is always on the lookout for works like this that explore the current state of our understanding of the universe and how it works. The author does a masterful job of explaining complex concepts in simple terms using word pictures, thought experiments, and metaphors, and without resorting to the esoteric mathematics, except in the most general terms. I know that this is not for everyone (anybody?) but I thoroughly enjoyed this. The anecdotes, the humor, and the clear way the author presented the material kept me enthralled. Certainly not lightweight reading but, eminently entertaining nonetheless.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hasher

    A really excellent book. Susskind is that rare breed of scientist with the ability to take incredibly complex concepts and make them intelligible to a lay reader. This book stands in sharp contrast to Hawking's 'A Brief History..' which, despite its popularity is very hard to grasp for an average person. I would say this is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about cutting edge concepts in Physics like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Gravity, and String Theory which can be very hard to unde A really excellent book. Susskind is that rare breed of scientist with the ability to take incredibly complex concepts and make them intelligible to a lay reader. This book stands in sharp contrast to Hawking's 'A Brief History..' which, despite its popularity is very hard to grasp for an average person. I would say this is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about cutting edge concepts in Physics like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Gravity, and String Theory which can be very hard to understand for a lay person through existing introductory literature. That the book basically tells the story of a bet between the author and Hawking on whether or not information is lost in black holes provides a human element to the difficult Physics concepts brilliantly explained within without recourse to complex mathematics.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brahm

    Overall, I really liked it. Susskind's "diss track" (how Robyn referred to the book) on Stephen Hawking. The conflict was centered around Hawking's belief that information (in the physics context, any matter) absorbed into black holes is irretrievably lost forever, whereas Susskind and others believed that matter slowly radiates out of black holes. Susskind is an above-average science communicator and brought a lot of concepts to life - most of the book is accessible to a general audience with h Overall, I really liked it. Susskind's "diss track" (how Robyn referred to the book) on Stephen Hawking. The conflict was centered around Hawking's belief that information (in the physics context, any matter) absorbed into black holes is irretrievably lost forever, whereas Susskind and others believed that matter slowly radiates out of black holes. Susskind is an above-average science communicator and brought a lot of concepts to life - most of the book is accessible to a general audience with high school physics. The last 100 pages or so, I really struggled to comprehend the details about string theory, multiple dimensions... so the book's thrilling conclusion fell a bit flat for me. Still, really interesting read. A good one if you're into science books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason Furman

    One of the best popular physics books I have read in a long time. Leonard Susskind's The Black Hole War spends 450 pages focused on one question: what happens when information is absorbed by a black hole? It is a debate between Stephen Hawking and other general relativists who think that the information is lost and Gerard 't Hooft, Leonard Susskind and others, who are deeply uncomfortable with the conclusion that black holes can violate the second law of thermodynamics by reducing entropy. In the One of the best popular physics books I have read in a long time. Leonard Susskind's The Black Hole War spends 450 pages focused on one question: what happens when information is absorbed by a black hole? It is a debate between Stephen Hawking and other general relativists who think that the information is lost and Gerard 't Hooft, Leonard Susskind and others, who are deeply uncomfortable with the conclusion that black holes can violate the second law of thermodynamics by reducing entropy. In the course of explaining this debate, Susskind necessarily goes through quantum mechanics, general relativity, string theory, and other areas of physics. And it is leavened with first person discussion of his personal odyssey and his obsession with Stephen Hawking, whose unvarnished portrait as epically arrogant and self-centered yet brilliant and charismatic is considerably more impressive than the pop culture version. The first person account not only makes for interesting reading it also lets you learn something about how science is advanced and debates are settled. Hawking posed his view in 1981. By 1993, there was significant theory/evidence that it was wrong but it still was not universally clear: at a conference in Santa Barbara the Susskind view prevailed in a 39-25 vote, not exactly the method most of us would recognize in determining universal scientific truths. By 2007 Hawking himself conceded in writing and paid a debt. What makes the book so good, however, is how much Susskind explains in a fundamental way, as close to first principals as possible. One of the remarkable results of the last few decades is that the amount of information stored in a black hole is proportional to its surface area, not its volume. Susskind shows how this result is derived by solving several equations, most of them explained or semi-derived in the text itself, ending with the remarkable result that almost all of the arbitrary constants cancel and you're left with what appears to be one of those fundamental equations that make you believe that physicists really have figured out some of the fundamental laws of nature. From explanations of Hawking radiation and Black Hole entropy, the book takes you through understanding why Hawking's view was so persuasive and the physical discoveries that were needed to overthrow it -- almost all of them generated by simple and profound thought experiments. The book shows that whether or not string theory is "true," it still helps settle existing questions and generate new ones, including the fact that the world can be thought of us a hologram that has a dual in a lower-dimensional, gravity-less world. I felt myself following almost everything until the last quarter of the book, which focused on Quantum Chromodynamics and string theory. Not sure if my increasingly low comprehension rate was anything that could be remedied by Susskind or inherent in the material.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    A while ago I read an essay by Susskind and put this book on my to read list. If I had known it was going to be the single best explanation I have yet encountered on the nature of black holes and the information paradox, I would have bumped it to the top of the list. If you are at all unclear about the following, this book is for you: - What is Alices experience as she passes the event horizon? - What is Bob's experience as he sees Alice enter the black hole? - If they have contradictory experience A while ago I read an essay by Susskind and put this book on my to read list. If I had known it was going to be the single best explanation I have yet encountered on the nature of black holes and the information paradox, I would have bumped it to the top of the list. If you are at all unclear about the following, this book is for you: - What is Alices experience as she passes the event horizon? - What is Bob's experience as he sees Alice enter the black hole? - If they have contradictory experiences, can both be true? - If so, how? - Is the event horizon actually a storage area for information? - If so, does that information get projected as matter (as the very reality we see around us), just like the eye projects an image in front of us? - Is the whole universe a hologram? Other authors have tackled these questions. Many have done well. I have to say that Susskind does very well. There are few books more exciting, more mind-bending, or clearer than Susskind's Black Hole War. If you have this on your to read list, it's worth putting at the top. A+ This video covers some of what Susskind addresses in the book. It's a great accompaniment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR3Ms... Here is an interesting article about how, depending on the manner in which information is stored on the horizon, time can run forward or backward in a black hole. In this article, they suggest that the black holes already know the past and future before it is even formed. In fact, they argue that black holes knows everything you, or anything else in the universe, will ever do. Fun to think about. http://phys.org/news/2015-09-law-impl... At the end of the day, Susskind thinks string theory is correct. I have no idea what will come of Hoagn's research (see article below), but he suggests string theory is incorrect and posits that there are discrete units of quantum space ("chunky space). I am not sure what that will mean for our understanding of black holes. But it's a very exciting time in physics. So many wonderful debates and discoveries. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    William

    3-stars here means: Fabulous subject matter, good pedagogy, and way too much of the authors voice. The rub: an investigation of black holes and their framework used to describe them (classical on one hand, QM on the other). Problems arise: information is destroyed according to Hawking, and Susskind is certain that, due to QM, this is wrong. 30 years of discoveries ensue, resulting in the all kinds of fun things like Anti-De Sitter Space, Extremal Black Holes, the "expanded horizon", Black Hole C 3-stars here means: Fabulous subject matter, good pedagogy, and way too much of the authors voice. The rub: an investigation of black holes and their framework used to describe them (classical on one hand, QM on the other). Problems arise: information is destroyed according to Hawking, and Susskind is certain that, due to QM, this is wrong. 30 years of discoveries ensue, resulting in the all kinds of fun things like Anti-De Sitter Space, Extremal Black Holes, the "expanded horizon", Black Hole Complimentarity, and for lay readers, fun facts like: - black holes are hot and evaporate (when the universe is colder than them, which it isn't...yet) - Planck Units are whack - Small things are heavy and big things are light (read the book) - Information is a function of surface area not volume AND WHAT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR— 3D Space is a hologram, aka the Holographic Principle. It's good stuff. Not much math, but so much is resting on faith already that one can hardly ask for some Calculus to be thrown in to make us feel cool. The explanations are strong. Susskind is obviously—and he admits this in the book—an egomaniac of monumental proportions. The result is that he is always showing how he knew things before everyone else, or knew the most important people. More annoyingly, he passes judgement on ALL of his fellow physicists in some way, describing their pro's and con's as people and scientists, and it gave me a distinctly icky feeling. The book fascinates, explains, and succeeds in spite of its author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The Black Hole War is at times an autobiographical tale about the theoretical physics community, and at times a physics lesson. It introduces the minds, senses of humor, and egos of the great theoretical physicists of our time, and attempts to explain the ideas they contributed to the argument at hand. I enjoyed learning about the physicists themselves. Their personalities, competitive yet respectful spirit, and comradery were the highlights of the book. The most memorable bits are Susskind's mus The Black Hole War is at times an autobiographical tale about the theoretical physics community, and at times a physics lesson. It introduces the minds, senses of humor, and egos of the great theoretical physicists of our time, and attempts to explain the ideas they contributed to the argument at hand. I enjoyed learning about the physicists themselves. Their personalities, competitive yet respectful spirit, and comradery were the highlights of the book. The most memorable bits are Susskind's musings on the ego, and on the meaning of Stephen Hawking's almost perpetual half-smile. However I paid special attention to the science lessons, since I enjoy that sort of thing. I found Susskind went to some lengths to keep the language in these explanations simple and accessible, but often enough he would seem to forget this mandate and begin to narrate in more obscure terms peculiar to physicists. The result was a sometimes confusing science lesson, with parts very interesting and mind-widening, and other parts during which I had to take a deep breath and gloss over things that were inaccessible to me. Overall, I would recommend Stephen Hawking's work before I would recommend Susskind, and not because of Hawking's larger celebrity. Susskind presents his mind and thoughts in a way that seems unedited. This makes The Black Hole War a more difficult read, but there is something to be said for the honesty and openness with which Susskind tells his tale.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charbel

    "What is it that takes a fringe idea, something that may have lain dormant for years, and abruptly tips the scale in its favor?" Leonard Susskind I was in the physics section of the library, and this book caught my eye. I have to admit that the title was the major contributing factor that incited me to read this. Now I have a soft spot for quantum mechanics and string theory (not to mention puppies, kittens and cheesecake, but that's an entirely different matter) and so it's no surprise that I j "What is it that takes a fringe idea, something that may have lain dormant for years, and abruptly tips the scale in its favor?" Leonard Susskind I was in the physics section of the library, and this book caught my eye. I have to admit that the title was the major contributing factor that incited me to read this. Now I have a soft spot for quantum mechanics and string theory (not to mention puppies, kittens and cheesecake, but that's an entirely different matter) and so it's no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. I am glad to say that professor Susskind did not disappoint. It was as if a friend was explaining these amazing concepts, which made the book feel like a once-in-a-lifetime lecture. The Black Hole War is filled with emotion, suspense and science, could you get a better combination? For the sake of clarification, the purpose of this book is not to humiliate Stephen Hawking (whose work I deeply enjoy). There isn't a "haha-I-defeated-Stephen-Hawking" bit, but a vivid a description of a true intellectual battle. Now just a warning, if you're not willing to follow vigorous concepts, analyse a number of laws and principles and "rewire" you brain for quantum mechanics, then this book is not for you. But if you are willing to take a chance, then stick with it because it's worth it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I found this book interesting, Susskind seems to be a bit egotistical, but it is my understanding that that is a common trait among physicists and seeing as his claim is finally winning the war with Stephen Hawking (a name in physics known even to the general populace) I don't suppose I can really fault him for that. This book isn't for the faint of heart, but if you have the time (and energy!) to put into comprehending strange abstract physics concepts (String Theory anyone?) then it can really I found this book interesting, Susskind seems to be a bit egotistical, but it is my understanding that that is a common trait among physicists and seeing as his claim is finally winning the war with Stephen Hawking (a name in physics known even to the general populace) I don't suppose I can really fault him for that. This book isn't for the faint of heart, but if you have the time (and energy!) to put into comprehending strange abstract physics concepts (String Theory anyone?) then it can really be an entertaining read. I was somewhat disappointed in his adamant disbelief in God, mostly just because he bothered bringing it up at all. I felt like he was belittling faith in general while maintaining such a steadfast belief in his mathematics. It's not that I'm trying to say that mathematics is some mystical concept not to be taken seriously, but when you're doing math that requires adding six extra dimensions at a scale that in order to prove anything you would need a collider the size of the our galaxy, I think there is definitely an element of faith to that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fight! Fight! Fight! - shame we already know Hawkins volte face on the subject and that things (aka neutrinos) can, thanks to CERN, move faster than the speed of light. So although this is interesting, the paradigm has shifted somewhat. I also have to 'fess up that a lot of this went over my head and it maybe that I was listening to this in the early morning slot, however exhilarating it was not - softly gloating? maybe a little. Anyway - I can wipe this from my mp3 as I wouldn't want to revis Fight! Fight! Fight! - shame we already know Hawkins volte face on the subject and that things (aka neutrinos) can, thanks to CERN, move faster than the speed of light. So although this is interesting, the paradigm has shifted somewhat. I also have to 'fess up that a lot of this went over my head and it maybe that I was listening to this in the early morning slot, however exhilarating it was not - softly gloating? maybe a little. Anyway - I can wipe this from my mp3 as I wouldn't want to revisit.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    The ability of man to doggedly investigate the pure strangeness of the universe is mindbogglingly awesome. I cannot claim to understand much of what was written about in this book, but it is fun to try. This book was an interesting combination of the explanation of aspects of the quantum world and a story of great minds at opposite ends of theoretical beliefs trying to come to grips with their differences. I've read several "physics for the non-physicist" books, and this was one of the first tha The ability of man to doggedly investigate the pure strangeness of the universe is mindbogglingly awesome. I cannot claim to understand much of what was written about in this book, but it is fun to try. This book was an interesting combination of the explanation of aspects of the quantum world and a story of great minds at opposite ends of theoretical beliefs trying to come to grips with their differences. I've read several "physics for the non-physicist" books, and this was one of the first that had this kind of human connection wrapped up in the mix. Echoing a quote from the book- "We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special." Stephen Hawking

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tony Bertauski

    For the average Joe, Susskind addresses the secrets of the universe -- as the world's physicists understand it -- in plain English. He tunes into focus the big picture of time, space and black holes as well as the elementary level of quarks and gluons. It was (somewhat) easy to follow, and fascinating to experience the thought experiments developed by physicists, past and present. Regardless of Susskind's accessibility and storytelling method of explaining complex thought, there were still eleme For the average Joe, Susskind addresses the secrets of the universe -- as the world's physicists understand it -- in plain English. He tunes into focus the big picture of time, space and black holes as well as the elementary level of quarks and gluons. It was (somewhat) easy to follow, and fascinating to experience the thought experiments developed by physicists, past and present. Regardless of Susskind's accessibility and storytelling method of explaining complex thought, there were still elements that left me spinning. And the book is long. I was fried before I reached the end. I put it down, feeling stuffed like Thanksgiving. I couldn't take another bite. I think I've had my fill of physics for dummies. For quite some time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    Susskind's vivid and engaging account of developments in theoretical physics over the past few decades during the dominance of Hawking's ideas in the field uses his fight against the flow on behalf of quantum mechanics as a narrative focus. I loved reading this book, which never patronised the non-specialist, and contained plenty for someone in my own position, a student of physics at post-16ish level as well as the proverbial general reader. In my opinion Susskind is a better and much more likea Susskind's vivid and engaging account of developments in theoretical physics over the past few decades during the dominance of Hawking's ideas in the field uses his fight against the flow on behalf of quantum mechanics as a narrative focus. I loved reading this book, which never patronised the non-specialist, and contained plenty for someone in my own position, a student of physics at post-16ish level as well as the proverbial general reader. In my opinion Susskind is a better and much more likeable author than his opponent.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nguyễn

    This is not the war of Hawking and Susskind, this it the war of each physicist and the question of being.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vlad

    I'm glad Susskind won the war. Holographic principle is mind-boggling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Atti

    I really enjoyed this one, lots of good anecdotes about my favourite physicists and also some good physics explanations in there.

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