The Void

Frank Close, Author . Oxford Univ. $19.95 (166p) ISBN 978-0-19-922590-3

Aristotle famously wrote that “nature abhors a vacuum,” but as Oxford physicist Close illustrates in this concise study, that depends on what you mean by a vacuum or a void. Greek and medieval philosophers gave philosophical arguments against the existence of the void, but an artificial vacuum was finally created in 1643 and quickly used to investigate atmospheric pressure. Scientific exploration of a vacuum’s properties and applications took off in the 19th century, although ancient ideas like the concept of an “ether” that pervaded empty space masqueraded as serious science until Einstein explained them away via relativity. Close (Lucifer’s Legacy ) is a particle physicist at heart, and he hits his stride as he explains why scientists now don’t think a void is really empty at all, but is teeming with particles popping in and out of existence and pervaded by a contemporary version of the ether, called the Higgs field. Close misses opportunities to make this a more rewarding interdisciplinary study that would attract a broader readership, and science buffs will find it redundant with other books in their collections. The moral of Close’s book should be, as Nietzsche said, that when you look into the void, it really is looking back at you. 20 b&w illus. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 182 pages - 978-1-4027-7538-3
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-4027-8236-7
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