A Book A Week Challenge – Week 12

A working theoretical physicist with particle physics and cosmology as a domain of expertise giving a talk would be the most interesting session you could ever attend.

What if, the topic that they chose is the one which is very close to your heart – the beginning of this universe and the reason what made it shape it into the current form.

Top it up with accreting concepts of sociology, philosophy, cosmology, chemistry and at times just simple physics.

Bind it into one comprehensive 363 pages book – what you experience can be referred to as ‘Intellectual Orgasm’.

If I could ever get an opportunity one day to meet Lisa Randall, I would stand up, clap and take my hat off to bow. No one had influenced me so much in the recent years as much Lisa Randall did. Like many people who admire someone, I read through her interviews, articles and talks as many as I can in whatever spare time I got after reading the book (and work).

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Book #: 12

Title: “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs- The astounding interconnectedness of the Universe” by Lisa Randall.

Pages: 363

The terminologies related to cosmology could often be intimidating when you take them simply on their face value. Take a step into a mystic universe, Lisa Randall makes these terms agonizingly simple. It would make you feel scared to admit to yourself that you understood the concept so easily – basic understanding of the terms and a bit logical connection between these fundamentals can lead you to derive something path breaking. Of course, to prove it scientifically, you would need the strength of physical evidence but, theoretical conclusions can be made that could be proven with the advancements of technology.

“Science concerns those ideas that at least in principle we can verify or rule out through experiments and observations. Philosophy, to a scientist, at least concerns questions we will never reliably answer”

AS SIMPLE AS IT AND AS PRECISE TO THE DOT.

The premise of the book is very straight forward – What is Dark Matter and how was it indirectly responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs. The book takes a lot of detours – only to make your journey even more beautiful.

The book is broadly divided into three sections:

  1. The development of the Universe
  2. An Active Solar System and
  3. Deciphering Dark Matter’s identity.

I would present examples to depict how brilliant the writing was, which proposes some of the brilliant conclusions to explain the causes of effects that we are experiencing today:

Scientific:

“Since matter and antimatter (same mass but opposite charge) together carry no charge, charge conservation and Einstein’s famous formula E=Mc2 tell us that matter can meet up with antimatter to disappear into pure energy- which also has no charge” If that is the case, then why do we have matter stuck around until today, “this is because matter dominates over antimatter – matter- antimatter asymmetry”

The origin of the asymmetry remains one of the important unsolved problems in cosmology.

Analogies:

“The redshift is the shift in the frequency of the light that a receding object emits, which, like the lowering of the pitch of an ambulance’s siren when it’s racing away, tells how quickly something moves from a source of light or sound”

Any book that would be considered brilliant would push for more intimidating questions, the answers for which is the pursuit of this life of yours.

Even though the book takes its own time to put together all the fundamentals, these are essentials that you need to be understand to appreciate the one giant potential conspiracy on what caused the extinction of dinosaurs.

As someone suggested ‘we are all only minuscule dust in this grandeur universe’, this one helps to put things in perspective and Lisa Randall contributes herself to the argument with this statement:

“Why should we have perfect senses that can directly perceive everything? The big lesson of physics over the centuries is how much is hidden from our view. From this perspective, the question is really why the stuff we do know about should constitute as much of the energy density of the Universe as it does”

That puts you right back in the spot of your own realization of this universe.

I am planning to spend some more time to pick one or two sentence descriptions of some fundamentals described in this book (hopefully that is not considered as copyright concern) which would help some of us who encounter time crunch to read books ( the irony of it).

It is such a shame that such brilliant simple explanations about our universe don’t make it our physics textbooks as much as it should.

Here is the perfect description of what science needs to accomplish as described by Maria Popova for New York Times in her review of this book:

“Science, after all, isn’t merely about advancing information — it’s about advancing understanding. Its task is to disentangle the opinions and the claims from the facts in the service of truth. But beyond the “what” of truth, successful science writing tells a complete story of the “how” — the methodical marvel building up to the “why” — and Randall does just that. “

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