ISBN: 0099421038
ISBN 13: 9780099421030
By: Brian Greene

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A fascinating and thought-provoking journey through the mysteries of space, time, and matter.With a new preface (not in any other edition) that will review the enormous public reception of the relatively obscure string theory—made possible by this book and an increased number of adherents amongst physicists—The Elegant Universe "sets a standard that will be hard to beat" (New York Times Book Review). Brian Greene, one of the world's leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter—from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas—is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. Today physicists and mathematicians throughout the world are feverishly working on one of the most ambitious theories ever proposed: superstring theory. String theory, as it is often called, is the key to the Unified Field Theory that eluded Einstein for more than thirty years. Finally, the century-old antagonism between the large and the small-General Relativity and Quantum Theory-is resolved. String theory proclaims that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe, from the frantic dancing of subatomic quarks to the majestic swirling of heavenly galaxies, are reflections of one grand physical principle and manifestations of one single entity: microscopically tiny vibrating loops of energy, a billionth of a billionth the size of an atom. In this brilliantly articulated and refreshingly clear book, Greene relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind twentieth-century physics' search for a theory of everything. Through the masterful use of metaphor and analogy, The Elegant Universe makes some of the most sophisticated concepts ever contemplated viscerally accessible and thoroughly entertaining, bringing us closer than ever to understanding how the universe works.

Reader's Thoughts

Riku Sayuj

To think I put all that effort to understand a discredited theory...


Whenever I told someone I was reading a book about string theory I would get looks of confusion and bewilderment. What would compel me to read about such a complicated and theoretical concept? I am not a physicist or a mathematician, just a programmer. I have a pretty good understanding of fundamental physics but Brian Greene does an excellent job explaining string theory concepts even for those with just a fundamental understanding.After reading this book will I be able to explain string/M-theory to someone else. No. It's still a complex topic. To quote the book "Ernest Rutherford once said, in essence, that if you can't explain a result in simple, nontechnical terms, then you don't really understand it" (p. 203). This is how I felt after reading this book. Yes, I feel confident that I could comprehend 85% of the book but I know that I still lack full understanding. I did enjoy the book enough to give it a 5-star rating because I do believe it was amazing. In fact I intend to read the book again in hopes that having read the entire book, going back over the concepts a second time will help make additional connections.

Anthony Berger

Greene took an almost ungraspable concept and delivered it to the lay person with relative panache. Giving practical, macroscopic examples of relativity and spacetime; breaking down the concepts within quantum theory; taking the various forms of string theory and mentioning the compilation of those theories to M-theory, makes Greene gifted.Unfortunately, there are digressions and obvious gaps that most readers are trying to come to terms with, which Greene doesn't even mention. Oftentimes, many people reading books about the fundamental nature of matter within our universe, search for an answer to the question of why matter manifested the way it did? This question is left completely unanswered. It took an engaging conversation with a close friend to realize that that question is simply impossible to answer and therefore completely irrelevant. It would have been nice for Greene to have stated that, however.Another "elephant in the room": while these concepts are truly phenomenal, they're also entirely theoretical. It's astounding that extraordinarily complex multivariable differential transforms, which require months for computers to process, based upon algorithms designed to answer our questions, can result in simple integer solutions. But, can we reliably say that these computer simulations give us a numerical answer that is truly representative of the physical universe? No. We can only hope it does. Therefore, it begs the question, while we search for the elegant unifying theory of the universe, when will we realize that we either come to accept elegance is lost in the complexity of our [fabled] search for unification, or finally realize we're approaching the idea all wrong?


I was given this book as a gift. I typically don't go for the sort of fluffy stuff you'd find in the "Science" section at Barnes & Noble, which I figured this would be. I'm much more into mathematics than physics and have devoted most of my academic career to math shit rather than physics shit. So I was already prepared to lose my footing at some point in this book. I have a pretty good grasp on Special Relativity though so I tried to use that as a gauge for how well this dude was describing the more recent stuff beyond the point where my eyes just glazed over. I was happy that this fella got into stuff that lost me. It worries me when I finish a book about a complex or abstract thing and it's not a struggle to understand the material. I wonder whether the writer is just that good or that bad. What I found about this dude is that his wanting to illustrate everything with a metaphor or an analogy wound up confusing the stuff more. I mean, some were cool and I think I gleaned something of the rough shape of an idea. There were other spots where he used 3-4 different metaphors to get across an idea that was already pretty damn abstract. I think at those spots I'd have preferred more elaboration in the form of the notes in the back for "the expert reader" or for "the mathematically inclined". I basically read this as a starting point. I kept a book for notes as I read and now I have a bunch of pages of leads for further investigation. On a superficial level, I liked this guy's writing style. And the book was somewhat enjoyable while discussing bananas shit. I think there was a chapter or 2 where my reading was as productive as staring at the floor. All in all I don't know who I'd recommend this to. I'm part of a math club and no one there would take it off my hands when I was done because they don't like "rock star physicists" who write fluffy science books. But at the same time I can't give it to my mom because it does get into stuff within the first page that would lose her. I'm not sure if all this explains why I gave it 3 stars, but I felt the need to be lengthy.


Awe-inspiring, mind-boggling, paradigm-shattering, head-scratching. Like other theoretical physics writers for the general public, Greene assiduously (and mercifully) leaves out any whiff of the formulas and calculations underpinning the theories; still, tracking the explanations can be breathtakingly difficult, and I confess to being unpleasantly lost more often than I'd care to admit. Greene's gift is his ability to find the right metaphor, or the right thought experiment, to elucidate the subject. This book is an excellent intermediate layperson's guide to String Theory, but I would have preferred a beginner's guide, with more of the big picture stuff and fewer details. The book was at its best when the author explored the bizarre implications of the multiplicity of dimensions made theoretically possible--and likely--under the framework of String Theory. BTW, unbelievably, this book was available on Amazon as an e-book for two dollars! That's pretty amazing for a best-selling book like this.

April Khaito

Let me start by saying I'm no physicist and I don't claim to fully understand all of the nuances underlying string theory. From what I've learned, I find it hard to believe and, in many instances, too coincidental for my liking. Despite this reaction, I found "The Elegant Universe" wholly and utterly fascinating. It's rare that you come away from a book with a changed perception, a broadened view, and a host of core-shaking questions. The physics was engrossing, but more than that, Greene does what I've heard few in the scientific community do. He doesn't propose to have all the answers. Be it string theory, the big bang theory, or other cosmological ideas, he challenges his views as well as the reader's. "Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer," Greene says. For me, the allure of this book was that it forced me to contemplate the "how" of our universe and our existence (in a new and separate way from my firmly-held beliefs) and in so doing raise the ultimate question of the "why". It's a question Greene hints at and, personally, I think it's the one most pressing.

Younes ben amara

لنقل ان الفيزياء تنقسم الى نظريات .فيزياء كلاسيكة ، فيزياء حديثة .الفيزياء الكلاسيكة تفسر الكون على اساس معادلات نيوتن وهي صادقة لحد كبير في التنبوءات ومازالت تستعمل وتدرس في المدارس لحد الآن.الحديثة تنقسم الى عدة اقسام : نظرية النسبية العامة والخاصة . نظرية الكم ، نظرية الاوتار الفائقة التي ادعت انها جمعت كل النظريات السابقة ..هناك ايضا سيناريوهات اخرى منها نظرية –ام و عدة اقتراحات اخرى تسمى بنظريات كل شيء ..ان رأيت ان الامر صعب –كما ظهر لي من قبل – فاقرا كتاب (الكون الانيق ) لبرايان غرين ويكفيك ذلك لكي تفهم كل هاته المصطلحات حتى لو كانت ثقافتك الفيزيائية عادية ، ان كنت تريد الفهم حقا فزد اطلع على سيتفن هونكينغ في' الكون في قشرة جوز' .وكتاب من الذرة للكوارك ..والمنظمة العربية للترجمة باشراف الدكتور جابر عصفور فعلت خيرا باخراج كل هاته الروائع بصفة ممتازة جدا ..الكون الانيق كتاب ممتاز جدا لدرجة كبيرة ولو كانت لي القدرة لجعلت كل الذين يدرسون الفيزياء يقرئونه اجباريا بدل الكتب البيداغوجية التافهة التي توزع عليهم ..لقد قال (هل وجود الجسيمة الأولية نهاية الطريق ؟ ابدا، انها بداية الطريق –الطويل – نحو بناء نظرية كل شيء).انا اعتقد ان كل الفيزيائيين الذين مارسوا معادلات الكم و مجال هيغز والنموذج المعياري للجسميات والنسبية ونظرية الاوتار الفائقة وطول بلانك ومعادلات شرونديجر .. مؤمنون بالله في اعماق انفسهم ..انه كون باهر لدرجة لا تصدق انه رائع ومدهش ومميز وليس عشوائيا .. ممتعا مسليا ممتازا غامضا مليئا بالاسرار مشوق مثير وكل الصفات الرائعة التي تجعلك متحمساً ..لذا لا غرابة في ان سمى كتابه (الكون الانيق (..انه ببساطة كذلك ..من مقال لي : بوزون هيغز : الرابط للمقال الكامل هنا :

Joao Vaz

Dear God, Will you ever allow us folks down here on Earth to come up with Einstein’s dream of a Theory of Everything (ToE)? The fact of the matter is that there are essentially two opposing theories upon which rests our knowledge of the universe: General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. That is, the world of the large and the world of the miniscule. But whenever we try to unify them, our calculations just fall short; or better, fall large!, for we bump into infinity. Oh wait!, this book has just told me that String theorists already have! They claim that all fundamental particles are composed of tiny vibrating strings of energy whose movement gives rise to all those different particles that we know of. And in so doing, not only do these strings fit into Quantum theory, but they're also able to accurately predict the whys and wherefores of the big bulks of matter, like those of stars and galaxies! TADÃÃN!BUT, not only are there five different versions to the theory, but also, and because we are talking about excruciatingly small objects, it is impossible to test it! Not really a theory is it? (daimn!) It shamelessly enters the realm of Philosophy… Oh those naysayers! Tell me of one thing that we take for granted today that hasn’t started as Cartesian doubt! You go get them my fairy little oscillating strings, which so happen to explain black holes! But back to you old man, you never really cease to surprise me! So you’re telling me that the universe is this big cosmic symphony whose musical notes are the sounds exuded by the movement of strings? Oh you shrewd mayster!, I always knew you had a bend for drama! With my heart in your stars, J


I was tired of reading nothing but literature, my main squeeze, and having only vague notions about scientific concepts whose names are often thrown around in public discourse. And so I've resolved to throw in a non-fiction book into my reading now and then, and, physics representing one of the larger gaps in my knowledge, I chose to read The Elegant Universe. How glad I am to have read it. As it turns out, my idea of string theory was erroneous, as was my rudimentary grasp of Einstein's theory of relativity. I wasn't expecting to read about the latter, but it turns out that the casual understanding of string theory that this book seeks to instill requires some understanding of relativity and some other ideas in physics. The first chapters of the book give a crash course on what's happened in physics since about the turn of the century, and then Greene starts in on string theory. The Elegant Universe is therefore a wonderful resource for any reader interested not only in an introduction to string theory but to relativity, quantum mechanics, and (in the final chapters) the big bang. Though I admit that other science books could have done the same, this one rekindled in me an interest in science that's lain dormant since middle school. (I'm now in my mid-20s). Often the book challenges the reader with somewhat dense passages about difficult concepts, but, considering the subject matter, Greene proves a passionate, lucid teacher.

Jared Della Rocca

This book could easily be split into two sections: the first half devoted to general physics ideas, cosmology (black holes) and the progression of physics throughout history; the second half is string theory.The first half, though at times a bit harder to follow (I often found I just had to accept the arguments being made in order to understand the implications), presents some fascinating ideas. For instance, I was particularly interested in the passage on black holes and the event horizon. Because of the extreme gravity, time literally slows down on the event horizon. Therefore if a person were able to sit on the event horizon of a black hole for a year, when they returned to earth, something like 700 years will have passed. ACTUAL time travel! Another interesting insight is the relation between space and time. Traveling through time (as we do) can be seen as akin to traveling through spatial dimensions. If you were to travel at 60 miles an hour (1 mile per minute) directly north, you would reach a point 60 miles from the start in one hour. But if you went west and east a little bit, despite traveling the same speed, it would take you longer. (Nothing shocking there). Utilizing that analogy, traveling through our world is akin to moving north and south, with time being east and west. Therefore if we were to move at the speed of light, using all energy to move north and south, NO TIME WOULD PASS! All our energy would be utilized in moving in that direction literally allowing no time to pass. Fascinating!Of course, there was also the second part: string theory. Each page found me understanding less and less and becoming less and less interested. Brian Greene is supposed to be the Everyman Physician, but even his descriptions were often beyond my imagination. Likewise, as a strong proponent of the theory, Brian Greene often considers it the ultimate theory in his book, despite relatively little empirical evidence of such.If you are interested in string theory, black holes, etc. I'd highly recommend checking out NOVA, which Brian Greene worked with to present these theories in visual form.

Mark Laflamme

For me, "The Elegant Universe" is the book that started it all. Greene has such a smooth way of easing the novice into the complexities of string theory, the reader feels almost acquainted by the time the science is introduced. Never boring or tedious, Greene deftly guides us through the basics of relativity, explains the importance of frames of reference, and eases us into the almost magical world of gravity and timespace.Like Einstein, Greene presents the science through simple visuals - balls and bicycles, funny cars and cartoon spaceships. The reader will never feel as though he sits in a classroom with a boring professor droning away the afternoon. Instead, Greene describes the physics in a real world way and in doing so, prepares even the most casual student for the truly strange world of strings.String theory appears to be the road to a unified theory, the long sought Theory of Everything that will unite relativity and quantum mechanics. Along the way is a wonderous world of possibilities, with extra dimensions, parallel worlds, and all the while, tiny strings vibrating the symphony of the universe.I read this book with a zeal normally reserved for action novels. Each night was a new lesson and a new glimpse at a different part of the universe. Greene's gift is a clear and friendly writing style that makes this heavy science accessible to those of us without a string of initials at the end of our name.Many physicists came before Greene and others have followed suit. But for me, "The Elegant Universe" is the book that opened my eyes to the mind blowing world of strings and the possibilities they present. And I've been hooked on string theory since. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever looked at a sky full of stars and wondered what it's all about.Mark LaFlamme, author of "The Pink Room"


Do I understand string theory? Not sure.Do I understand M theory? A little bit but don't ask for any algebraic reasoning.Do I know exactly what a Calabi-Yau is? Not really but I think they look a little like the hair balls from my cat.This is the second time I've equated quantum physics and all its detours to a hair-ball. That's because I can study a hair ball and still have no idea what it is for and why they exist. String Theory and the elusive TOE is in the same category. I could go on my entire life not knowing about them but now that I do, I need to know why. Newton, Einstein, Feynman, Hawking, and my cat can't all be right. Or can they?That is essentially the dilemma of string theory and the book. Greene does a great job of putting everything in layman's term but there is a point which he must exceed the intellectual ionosphere and soar into the incalculable. I really like this type of book. The challenge is the fun. But rest assured when the scientists get their act together and write an Idiot's guide to The Unified Theory Of Everything, I'll be the first in line.P. S. Hair balls and string theories have something else in common. Once you tore one apart, you can never get your hands clean.

Genia Lukin

I never really got the hang of String Theory. I find it awfully weird and almost nigh-unscientific. Not being a physicist, I try not to make judgments about it, since I clearly don't understand it one bit - at least on the math level! - but I have to say that Brian Greene didn't endear it to me.I also fervently found myself wishing for the Nth time that science books were not so firmly divided between "professional, terrifying math texts" and "written for people who never figured out the Theory of Relativity". I think we need "Science for the Educated Sci-Fi Reader" or something like that. As it is, unless you're Stephen Hawking, who pretty much has the right to do anything he liked, if you're trying to explain relativity to me, again, you will put me off.


An Introduction to SuperstringTheory/M TheoryThis book offers an enjoyable ride through a lovely landscape of Superstring theory/M theory. The author is an active researcher and a popular writer in this field who is also known for his presentation on PBS's NOVA about quantum cosmology. Since the postulation of special theory of relativity, Einstein and subsequent physicists have struggled to explain the four natural forces of the most basic components of matter; the electromagnetic force; the strong and weak nuclear forces; and the gravitational force by one unified field theory (a.k.a., theory of everything: Superstring/M Theory). This theory must unify the forces of the cosmos, and forces of microcosm thereby explaining the creation of heaven and earth. The author covers significant amount of material in simple clearly written non-technical and non-mathematical form. The book is described in four parts; first two parts introduces theory of relativity and quantum mechanics and the unholy marriage of the two that results in the complexity of understanding the forces of the cosmos and subatomic forces. The latter two parts describes Superstring theory that evolves into more focused M theory to explain all physical forces of nature. This theory suffers from lack of experimental evidence, but rests solely on mathematical calculations. Hence it was subjected to heavy criticism during early years of the theory by leading physicists. However it has emerged as a winner as the theory grew out of academic obscurity to leading contender in quantum cosmology. The book has interesting tales about the leaders of the field such as Ed Witten who is strongly favored as the true successor of Albert Einstein. The author's enthusiasm and excitement about his involvement in this field is evident abundantly, when he discovers that fabric of space tears and repairs itself. This book is lot more informative and enjoyable than Michio Kaku's Hyperspace (see my review of this book). At the end of the book, notes to each chapter, Glossary of scientific terms, and suggested books for further reading offers stepping stones to more enthusiastic readers for furthering their knowledge. The author has done an excellent job of writing this book, and I encourage you to buy it: But he could have considered writing a chapter on mathematical methodology and some basic approaches to calculations that probably would have made this book one of the top few in this field.


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