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# Book Order

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Paperback)

There is an ill-concealed skeleton in the closet of physics: “As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right.” Each is exceedingly accurate in its field: general relativity explains the behavior of the universe at large scales, while quantum mechanics describes the behavior of subatomic particles. Yet the theories collide horribly under extreme conditions such as black holes or times close to the big bang. Brian Greene, a specialist in quantum field theory, believes that the two pillars of physics can be reconciled in superstring theory, a theory of everything.

Superstring theory has been called “a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century.” In other words, it isnt all worked out yet. Despite the uncertainties–“string theorists work to find approximate solutions to approximate equations”–Greene gives a tour of string theory solid enough to satisfy the scientifically literate.

Though Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study is in many ways the human hero of The Elegant Universe, it is not a human-side-of-physics story. Greenes focus throughout is the science, and he gives the nonspecialist at least an illusion of understanding–or the sense of knowing what it is that you dont know. And that is traditionally the first step on the road to knowledge. –Mary Ellen Curtin

A Room of Ones Own (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Virginia Woolf (shelved 142 times as non-fiction)

Surprisingly, this long essay about society and art and sexism is one of Woolfs most accessible works. Woolf, a major modernist writer and critic, takes us on an erudite yet conversational–and completely entertaining–walk around the history of women in writing, smoothly comparing the architecture of sentences by the likes of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, all the while lampooning the chauvinistic state of university education in the England of her day. When she concluded that to achieve their full greatness as writers women will need a solid income and a privacy, Woolf pretty much invented modern feminist criticism.

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