Somebody likes me.

Came home to find a package from Amazon.com addressed to me which was a surprise as I hadn’t ordered anything recently. Or at least I couldn’t remember having ordered anything recently. Got inside and opened it up to find a shiny new copy of The Elegant Universe : Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene inside purchased for me off of my Wishlist. Needless to say I was quite pleasantly surprised, though a little puzzled. The billing address was someone out of Portland whose name I shall withhold as I’m not sure if they want it known, but beyond that there was no message or explanation as to why I was the beneficiary of this generosity.

Just the same I am most appreciative as this was one of the books I spent no small amount of time debating over during my small book buying spree I went on a little while back. This one put me over my spending limit at the time so I reluctantly put it back. So allow me to offer my most sincere thanks to the person who purchased this book for me and I promise to write something up on it once I make my way through it.

19 thoughts on “Somebody likes me.

  1. Isn’t it awesome when people just do random acts of gift giving? It brightens my day. Surprises rock too.

  2. Hey! That same book is on MY wishlist! I just added it a month or so ago.

    How cool is that? A great book out of nowhere.

    The last book I got from Amazon that I didn’t order was “Mere Christianity”, from a friend who feared for my immortal soul after reading the flap on my “Einstein on Religion”. (Which is also a good book, BTW)

  3. There’s a good reason to start a blog!  Not to mention the random kindness thing, which we could all use more of (& practice more, of course.)

  4. I haven’t read Greene’s take on superstrings, but Michio Kaku’s books are quite intriguing and easy to understand.  Ever try him?
    -me

  5. No, I must confess that my reading on superstring theory is pretty minimal. I tried several years ago to read up on it and had a hard time getting my head around the theories and gave up. Greene’s book has gotten a lot of positive press for managing, like Hawkings, to present complex ideas in a manner that makes it easier to grasp so I put it on my wishlist.

    Any of Kaku’s books in particular that you’d recommend? I started in on Elegant Universe last night and am already well underway with it.

  6. I’m reading this book as well and so far I have mixed feelings about it.  The concepts are easy to follow but I’m getting frustrated with the number of times Greene says something along the lines of “don’t worry about the details of this,”  or “the math would be far too hard to discuss,” or even “the math would be far too hard and you can’t really understand it without the math, so just accept it.”  I guess I was hoping for something that delved just a tad deeper.

    But overall it is an easy introduction to string theory, which I must say I had no concept of before starting this book.

  7. I haven’t gotten far enough to run into that yet, but the copy I have made it pretty clear in the preface that it was more of a primer for the layman to familiarize you with the theory more so than an in-depth explanation. As a launching point for getting your feet wet it’s probably a good tact to take.

  8. I’m about half-way through it, and I really really like that book.

    By the way, if you hunt around NOVA’s website, you can view the entire 3 hour special built around that book online. It’s very entertaining, although obviously the book goes much deeper. I think Greene does a very good job of explaining some really abstruse concepts, but sometimes you just gotta read things over and over again if you want to understand the concepts. Then again, we’re not in school anymore and you won’t be tested on the material, so there’s no harm in saying “I don’t completely understand this concept, but I’m going on anyway.”

  9. Les, your donor made an excellent choice. Best of luck with the in depth stuff. A primer for the layman is just about my speed.

    For folks wanting a preview of the book before making a buy decision, check out a good library in your vicinity. If they have it, it’s not likely that it will be on a long waiting list.

    Recently NOVA aired a three hour program on The Elegant Universe that featured Brian Green. Wan’t to know more? The link that I posted makes available a number of resources on the subject, including the program itself.

  10. Good to know that there are still nice people around!
    Hope you are enjoying the book,Les!
    I’ve readit myself (twice) and watched the programme, which aired in Britain a while ago. It is extremely interesting,though I found myself with a few fundamental questions left unanswered and the feeling that the book is mistitled: “A Very Convoluted Model of the Universe: A Mathematicians Take On Reality”
    would have been far more to the point! But I’m probably a bit harsh as it is at least a self-consistent model and that is all Brian Greene ever sets out to provide.
    Would be good to know what you think, once you finished it. Maybe start a forum if theres enough interest?

  11. I simply HAVE to make one of those wishlists!

    Let me know how the book is.  I was looking at that one a while back.

  12. re: Michio Kaku.

    I’m halfway though his book “Hyperspace”, myself, and it is really good. Superior, IMO, to Hawking’s Brief History of Time. Perhaps because the subject matter is more contained. Kaku not only deals with the straight facts on 10-dimensional theory, but he also goes step by step over the history of higher dimensional theories, and even indulges fictional explorations of it (re: “A Wrinkle in Time, and some of Heinlein’s work… etc.) which really makes the book enjoyable.

    Many people tell me that The Elegant Universe is superior, however, because it is newer and represents further developments in explorations of these theories, and that Kaku’s estimation of 10 dimensions seems to be incorrect now.

    I still reccomend it because it’s a great read.

  13. Speaker, Joshua—Thanks for the lead on Kaku, I’ll check him out.

    I found myself with a few fundamental questions left unanswered and the feeling that the book is mistitld:

  14. Thanks VernR, I’m off to add that one to my wishlist right now.

    I still don’t know for sure which of you guys sent me this book. I have a name from the shipping statement, but haven’t matched it with anyone who comments here on the blog as of yet.

  15. Thanks VernR, I’ll defininetly check out Michio Kaku’s books!
    My main problem with strings (bearing in mind that they are supposed to be two-dimensional) is how they can influence or be anything without falsifying E=mc^2?
    Given that mass is the product of volume and density and thus 0 volume equals 0 mass equals 0 energy!
    Does Kaku explain that somewhere?
    I think I don’t trust pure mathematicians when it comes to predictions about the world because (nearly) everything in the universe will eventually behave in a nonlinear fashion
    (from quantum mechanics to biology) yet the only branch of maths that deals with nonlinear functions at all is chaos theory.

  16. Yeah, I read Hyperspace and it was surprisingly an easy read.  My first one by him I borrowed from my Father-In-Law.  It was called “Beyond Einstein : The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe”  It explains a LOT of the basics.

  17. Golix, My main problem with strings (bearing in mind that they are supposed to be two-dimensional) is how they can influence or be anything without falsifying E=mc^2?
    Given that mass is the product of volume and density and thus 0 volume equals 0 mass equals 0 energy!
    Does Kaku explain that somewhere?

    I haven’t read Kaku. I have only just put him on my to read list.

    To your concern about string theory, here is something that might help. To solve the vibrating string problem in elementary physics, we characterize the string as a two dimensional object with mass. I’m pretty sure that there is a parallel in string theory. Towards the end of the article they talk about momentum and then bring in mass. At the very end they briefly mention a zero mass solution.

    Please don’t ask me to explain the math. I think I was able to work through the vibrating string problem at one time. The rest of that stuff is beyond me.

  18. Along these lines, I just have to say that I read a review of B. Greene’s latest in Popular Sci., decided I needed to check out his stuff, and then a couple of weeks ago, my father-in-law saw Greene’s “Fabric of the Cosmos” at the bookstore and thought I might like it.  So I get a package in the mail, out of the blue.  And I haven’t even put Greene on my Amazon list yet, nor did my wife tell him about Greene.  Coolness!

    I read Kaku’s “Hyperspace” a few years ago.  I thought it was a good read, ‘specially since my math skills were kinda atrophied at that point.

    Anyone ever do the “Quality Paperback Book Club”?  For a while, they sent out mailers with the “buy 4 for $1” plus shipping, with no commitment.  I picked up Hawking’s “Brief History..”(hardback) & “Baby Universes” along with “Hyperspace” that way.  Along w/ a hardcover of S. King’s “The Stand” unabridged.  Sure would like to do that for Greene’s books!

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