The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay, I need to face facts: I'm a physics geek. I may not be brilliant on all that math stuff, but I have a pretty good intuitive feel for all the big and a lot of the really small questions. Just don't ask me to actually DO the math.
So after all these fun-filled years of grabbing all the popular science books by all the great names in physics today, I revel in all the conflicting theories and directions that they take.
Sometimes, they can get bitter and protracted, and other times... friendly, if still intractable. This particular book had a little of it all. But about what? Susskind VS Hawking square-off about BLACK HOLES. Specifically, whether or not entropy is, in fact, happening on the other side of the Schwarzschild radius.
The war is over now and Hawking had backstepped in the early 2000's, but it still meant that two camps of physicists were up in arms against each other about whether information COULD actually be lost in the special conditions of a Black Hole.
From the start to the end of this book, I was hooked. It FELT like we were on the stage of a grand debate. Susskind always felt like he was on the losing side, but you know how those niggling doubts are. Conflict, losses, concessions, brief respites, and ultimate vindication. It's all here. :) Fun. :)
Yeah, but what about the science? Oh? You want to know about that? Well in the spaces of these years, we went from total loss of information and not just scrambled information (information being any kind of physical state in the universe) to a discovery of a cool little idea that states that if you add information (matter or energy) into a Singularity, it will either A: get bigger by at least a Plank or B: heat up. We must incorporate the little idea that the information of a holographic universe is contained on the SURFACE of any kind of container and not its volume.
Cool, right? Well, things get better once we start introducing String Theory. :)
Susskind makes one hell of a narrative here. I love reading about all these great men battling it out over long stretches of time and visiting each other amiably and still holding on to their positions for their lives.
The point is... none of them knew who was going to be right. The battle was the thing. And in the end, it was the very real and fundamental conflicts on a pure science level that pushed everyone to new heights. :) And we got to see it. :)
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