The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality

Dave Goldberg, Author
Dave Goldberg. Dutton, $27.95 (336 p) ISBN 978-0-525-95366-1
Paperback - 330 pages - 978-0-14-218104-1
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A Drexel University physics professor offers readers an informative, math-free, and completely entertaining look at the concept of symmetry in physics. Goldberg begins by explaining that for something to be considered symmetrical, it must look the same after undergoing a transformation—whether being flipped over, spun around, or reflected in a mirror. Sounds simple enough, but Goldberg insists that symmetries reveal some compelling rules of the universe. For example, CPT symmetry (or charge, parity, and time symmetry, the kind found when all particles and antiparticles have been turned into the opposite of themselves, everything has been flipped in a mirror, and the flow of time has been reversed—basically the ultimate transformation) suggests that “the universe is more or less the same in all directions and in all places.” Throughout his fascinating discussion, Goldberg’s writing remains accessible and full of humor. Intriguing asides cover topics like the veracity of Star Trek (it “could totally happen”), how black holes shrink the more matter they consume, and why you should never teleport a teaspoon of material from a neutron star into the cargo hold of your starship. Seasoning his exposé with pop culture references that range from Doctor Who to Lewis Carroll to Angry Birds, Goldberg succeeds in making complex topics clear with a winning style. Photos & illus. (July)
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