Scientists studying the universe find strange things in two places out in space and in their heads. This is the story of how the most imaginative physicists of our time perceive strange features of the universe in advance of the actual discoveries.
It is almost a given that physics and cosmology present us with some of the grandest mysteries of all. What weightier questions to ponder than, "How does the universe work?" or "What is the universe made of?" There are any number of bizarre phenomena that could provide clues or even answers to these queries. The strangeness ranges from unusual forms of matter and realms of existence to wild ideas about how time and space are related to one another. Many of these proposals may well turn out to be wrong. But how many will be proven to be right?
This book speaks for the scientific theorists who are bold enough to imagine and predict the impossible. New ideas are percolating in their heads every day. One physicist may dream of subatomic particles that could resolve a variety of cosmological conundrums while another may study the likes of "funny energy," which may explain how rapidly the universe is expanding. This is the stuff of Strange Matters.
In broad terms, this book is about a variety of discoveries that theorists of the past imagined before the observers and experimenters actually saw them. Moreover, it is about the things that today s are now imagining but haven't yet been discovered or confirmed by the observers. Strange Matters artfully mixes the present with the past and future, reporting from the frontiers of research where history is in the process of being made.
Each chapter examines a different step along the twisted path we've walked to gain our rudimentary understanding of the universe, incorporating historical examples of successful "prediscoveries" with current stories that relate brand new ideas. We come to see the universe not only in terms of what has already been discovered, but also in terms of what has yet to be observed.
Strange Matters is a guide to the discoveries of the twenty-first century, a series of visions dreamt by the most imaginative scientists of our time merged with the achievements of the past to point the way towards even greater accomplishments of the future.
"...fascinating... [Siegfried's] breezy treatment is a welcome addition to efforts to give access to the latest developments in fields that are hard for outsiders to keep track of... [Siegfried is] an exceptionally knowledgeable guide... "
-- The New York Times Book Review, September 29, 2002
"Tom Siegfried...takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the world of physics and the universe, explaining the thoughts of scientists who fashion theories and then set out to prove them. His pace is light, and the writing is clever."
-- Newsday, July 2, 2002
"[Siegfried's] enthusiasm for these topics is apparent throughout the book, which is written in the breezy style of the more popular news magazines. ... his commitment to explaining the nearly unexplainable is present on almost every page. He confronts head-on the formidable challenge of popular explication, and for the most part he succeeds. ... Siegfried's musings, combined with the breadth of his coverage, provide an unreasonably effective tour of much of modern physical theory."
-- Science, January 3, 2002
"...a highly accessible and engaging look at mind-bending theories..."
-- Science News, January 4, 2003
"...frequently fascinating... a captivating discussion of where science is headed... Siegfried is an engaging writer and often produces inventive imagery... Strange Matters is one of the most stimulating popular science works published in the last few years. Not only does Siegfried lead us through the tangled webs of science at the outer limits with an appealingly breezy manner, but the book is worth picking up just to revisit it 20 years from now to see which conjectures have proved to be prediscoveries and which have fizzled out over time."
-- Salon.com, September 24, 2002
"...a collection of unique insights into the theoretician's brain, coupled with Siegfried's approachable writing style. ... this book is a romp. It's enjoyable, there's a lot to learn, and Siegfried is mostly equal to the task of explaining the complex theories that make up cosmology and the brains that come up with those theories. ... Strange Matters is a remarkable trip on the road to understanding the cosmos. ... The tales and Siegfried's ability to pull them together are what make this book a satisfying and absorbing read."
-- Sky & Telescope, April 2003
"[an] enjoyable new book... The end result is not just a tour of current theoretical speculation on time, space and matter, but rather a cogent argument as to why we should take these exotic ideas seriously. ... the eclectic mix [of topics] helps to set the book apart from other recent popular books on similar subjects. ...the pace is just right and the presentation engaging."
-- Nature, November 28, 2002
"I highly recommend Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time for anyone interested in the frontiers of modern science, weird as it is. Although the book deals with math, it isn't written in equations. Siegfried uses analogies, examples, even humor, in describing what is the latest thinking of scientists such as Murray Gell-Mann and Edward Witten, who may in the future be recognized as Einsteins. ... Siegfried's 'Strange Matters' are very strange indeed and, therefore, very, very interesting."
-- Nancy Schapiro, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 27, 2002
"Without resorting to math, Mr. Siegfried illuminates the essential questions of each chapter and finds analogies that put those into perspective."
-- Dallas Morning News, September 22, 2002
"Though the concepts he describes are enormously complex and often quite bizarre, his clear, simple style makes them, if not fully comprehensible, at least accessible. ...as we get in step with Siegfried, we learn that just as one needn't be a musician to appreciate music, it is not necessary to understand these concepts in great detail."
-- Philadelphia Inquirer, November 21, 2002
"Making sense of these fascinating but complex ideas for the general reader is a difficult task, one that science journalist Siegfried accomplishes deftly, with wit and insight. ... Siegfried brings clarity and a great deal of enthusiasm to the search for understanding. ... Along the way, he presents a thoroughly engaging, if just a big eclectic, history of physics. Siegfried has turned a difficult subject into a book that is difficult to put down."
-- Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002
"Despite ideas as expansive and far reaching as the universe itself, Siegfried manages to convey his message in an easily digestible, down to earth way. The reader will be provided with an intriguing preview to what may be the next version of science's continually changing truth."
-- Foreword Magazine, September 2002
"...a penetrating study of how some of the most brilliant scientific minds have perceived and anticipated reality. ... Laudable effort to bridge the gap between ordinary readers and science at its weirdest."
-- Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002
"This is a thoroughly engaging book that discusses many of the most puzzling aspects about our Universe. ... Strange Matters is in the tradition of popular science writing. Siegfried is not a scientist -- though you would never tell -- but a journalist, and he understands the art of simplifying without 'dumbing down.' If you are just beginning to explore this material you would be hard-pressed to find a clearer account to start."
-- Astronomy Now, February 2004
"Mr. Siegfried's breezy account includes a healthy dose of exposition of current physical theories, but focuses on the unconventional implications some have drawn from them."
-- Washington Times, December 22, 2002
"It's a brave science writer who tries to take on this vast uncharted mass of not always related or relatable concepts, and makes some sense of it all. But that's what Tom Siegfried has done in Strange Matters... and he's even made it fun and accessible... At the end you're left with the remarkable feeling that you can almost understand everything you've been told. ...this book is comprehensive, entertaining, and a delight to read."
-- Focus, April 1, 2003
"[Strange Matters] presents some very original angles into well-trodden science history."
-- The Times Higher Education Supplement, September 19, 2003
"The author, science editor at the Dallas Morning News, is a journalist by trade, but he writes about science like a pro, making complex ideas seem straightforward. ... There are lots of mind-bending ideas in here, but nowhere does the author get bogged down in convoluted explanations or high-tech prose. A light, energetic introduction to cutting-edge physics and cosmology."
-- Booklist, August 2002
"...a very readable study that should give intelligent lay readers a good idea of what theorists are up to and why they are venturing into this remarkably challenging terrain. Recommended for college and large public libraries."
-- Library Journal, August 2002
"Expect a twisted, convoluted story, just like the real universe! Die-hard science buffs will find the book hard to put down. Summing up: Highly recommended."
-- CHOICE, March 2003
"Siegfried is a laudable guide to the increasingly mind-bending escapades of contemporary astronomy and particle physics precisely because he has the ability to tap the minds of some of the best scientists at work today. And what he shows us with his reporter's flair for clarity and controversy is nothing less than fascinating. By plumbing the sagas--and human dramas--of science's past and present, Siegfried indeed makes a compelling case... Siegfried lucidly depicts the pure ingenuity in our quintessentially human quest to illuminate, through the abstract tools of mathematics, 'previously hidden features of the physical world.'"
-- Rain Taxi Review of Books, Spring 2003
"...a collection of essays for the lay reader, covering topics ranging from the mainstream to the avant-garde. ... Placing modern developments in their historical context, Siegfried does a good job in showing that these ideas are not just fantasies but logical developments of earlier well-established theory. ... Siegfried has taken his lead from Weinberg's view that there is no better way to teach science than through its history, and the result is both interesting and informative."
-- The Observatory, October 2003
"Tom Siegfried provides a cook's tour of the current menagerie of wild ideas and theories that have been developed. With clarity and a fluid style, he captures the breadth of current thinking, based on discussions with many of today's active physicists. Thought provoking and fun."
-- Lawrence M. Krauss, author of Atom: A Single Oxygen Atom's Journey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond and The Physics of Star Trek
"With the seasoned authority of Dan Rather, the dry wit of Mark Twain and a prescience that puts astrology to shame, Tom Siegfried makes the perfect guide on this rollicking good ride to the frontiers of truly weird science--and beyond. Describing discoveries that have yet to be made, but probably should be, Siegfried homes in on the throbbing heart of things--the exciting if sometimes fuzzy frontier where science really is stranger than fiction. Will strangelets inherit the Earth? Is the universe a hologram? Does time swing both ways? Read on."
-- K.C. Cole, author the The Universe and the Teacup and The Hole in the Universe
"Tom Siegfried takes the reader on a fascinating tour of some of the strange things that have been discovered in the universe--and some of the even stranger ideas that have been conjectured by scientists in seeking to understand the universe better. Surely not all of the wild ideas described here will pan out--but probably some of them will!"
-- Edward Witten, Simonyi Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey