Author Topic: Astronomy Book Section  (Read 1570 times)


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Astronomy Book Section
« on: September 08, 2009, 03:08:43 pm »

What's your favourite astronomy book? Any that got you into astronomy particularly?

Talk about your favourite one or your least favourite, say what you wish people wrote more or less of, what you'd really like a book to explain, suggest what somebody else might enjoy judging by their posts; or agree or disagree with the Book Reviews!


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Re: Astronomy Book Section
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 10:02:42 pm »
Collapsing the Wave Function of Parallel Worlds

I recently finished reading Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. The layman physics book (A Brief History of Time-Hawkings, The Elegant Universe-Greene) has become a recent interest of mine. The structure is simple enough: Part 1: History of Physics/Cosmology, Part 2: Where are our studies today?, Part 3: Implications of/Future studies. Einstein may have envisioned this type of writing when describing his Theory of Relativity using the common images of trains and elevators as his guiding metaphors to explain the complex to the inexpert, but since then I think that another element has entered the lay-physics book, and that is one of inspiration.

Michio Kaku, though he doesn't write it explicitly, seems to understand that the future of science can be largely influenced by creative, engaging, and inspired writing. He is not afraid to reference literature, film, and religious texts to expound upon the big ideas in physics today and the possible implications they may have on our sense of morality and individuality.

Kaku's vision of the cosmos is as much an artistic one as it is scientific. This however does not get in the way of the all important second section of the layman physics text. The most exciting portion of the second section is Kaku's description of the Wave Function--the idea derived from the uncertainty principal which states that you cannot know an electron's speed (velocity) and location at the same time. A wave function is then a set of possible locations for an electron (or series of, such as yourself) which stretch across the universe. Some probabilities are incredibly small--finding yourself suddenly transported to the surface of the moon from your computer chair for example--and others incredibly likely--such as where you are at this moment--but until some outside force interacts or observes the wave function, thereby collapsing the possibilities into a definite state, all possibilities exist.

The second section is where we find Kaku's passion and expertise. These undoubtedly contribute to the sections natural and elegant flow, whereas some of that feels lost in the third. Looking into the future, Kaku describes a time so distant (thousands, millions, billions, trillions of years into the future) that the rich and textured description exemplified in the previous two sections is impossible for a work of non-fiction. I found myself wanting to merely skim over these sections in search of the best bits. At the same time, Kaku's look into the eons before us is daring and inventive; not only inspiring to young minds but serves as invaluable fodder for science fiction writers who don't have the benefit of being professional astronomers or theoretical physicists.
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