Book Reviews 1
by tttabata

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Copyright © 2000-2001 by Tatsuo Tabata

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Contents of This Page
Listed in the Alphabetical Order of the Author


Aczel, Amir D.
God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe
5 of 5 stars Absorbing Story of Einstein, His Equation and Cosmology (15 Oct 00)

Amir Aczel describes Einstein's equation of general relativity that governs the behavior of the universe from its birth to a possible role in the near future. The story is beautifully woven together with the latest finding in cosmology and the riddle of creation. While a few lines of equations are shown, their meaning is explained by simple terms that can be understood by lay readers.

On the basis of Einstein's letters that became accessible recently, Aczel tells for the first time the great physicist's efforts to get a prediction of his theory experimentally proved. Thus the author well succeeds in revealing a human side of the person who discovered God's Equation. This is quite a readable and absorbing book.

Barrow, John D.
Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on Science, Art, and Philosophy
4 of 5 stars Marked by Originality of Ideas (27 Oct 00)

This book is a collection of John Barrow's 42 essays mostly published between 1980 and 1998, but none of the topics treated has become out-of-date. Each piece of essay makes a chapter, and all the chapters are grouped into 10 parts. A short introduction in each part clearly sets the theme common to all the chapters of that part as well as the specific subjects of the chapters.

The title of every chapter is quite attractive to those interested in the fundamental problems of physics and cosmology and in their relations to, or a physicist's view of, other disciplines of mathematics, aesthetics and religion. Barrow's writings are sometimes not easy to follow, but are marked by originality of ideas.

For example: In the chapter "Why is the Universe mathematical?" the author first mentions that the sorts of answers depend upon what we think mathematics. Then he puts a puzzle, which is more fundamental in the laws of Nature, symmetry or computation. In the final paragraphs, Barrow states that the science is the search for algorithmic compressions of the world of experience, and comes to the conclusion that mathematics is useful in the description of the physical world because the world is algorithmically compressible. I have difficulty in finding how the earlier paragraphs are related to the last ones. However, the conclusion seems to be simple and persuasive, and would be paraphrased as follows: Mathematics is useful in the description of Nature because she has the characters of orderly complexity.

Only if you haven't read other books by Barrow and want to know his ideas, this would be a good buy.

Blatner, David
The Joy of Pi
4 of 5 stars Good for Amusement (14 Oct 00)

This little book tells us in a cheerful manner about the history and snippets of the number pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Many facts and factoids about pi are collected here. There are some equations, but those who don't like equations can appreciate them like beautiful illustrations.

In the section "Memorizing Pi" the author gives mnemonic devices in different languages. The description of one in Japanese includes errors. In fact, there is a better one in Japanese, which goes: "San-i-shi (314) i-ko-ku (159) ni (2) mu-ko (65). San-go (35) ya-ku (89) na-ku (79) . . ." down to the 1000th digit in a version. These Japanese words mean: "An obstetrician goes to a foreign country. After childbirth, without misfortune . . ." The present reviewer told the author about the errors and the better mnemonic, so that he will possibly take them into account in the revised edition. Aside from the above minor defects, however, the present edition is quite a good read for amusement.

Close, Frank
Lucifer's Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry
4 of 5 stars Reason for the Existence of Life to Elementary Particles (27 Aug 00)

The author beautifully narrates to laypersons how broken symmetry, i.e., asymmetry born from symmetry is important in the natural world for the existence of life, molecules, atoms and elementary particles. The riddle of the symmetry associated with the last of these items when the universe was created is yet to be solved in the near future. At the end of the book, the reader will be surprised to learn that Pasteur anticipated the importance of asymmetry in 1860.

In an early chapter the author writes about the moderately well known teaser "Why do mirrors reverse left and right but not top and bottom?" His answer to this is astonishingly simple. However, he should have been careful to give a more educational answer that includes the explanation for the reversal of the left- and right-handedness in mirrors, because he describes about "mirror asymmetric" left-handed and right-handed molecules, right-handedness of DNA and left-handedness of "the mirror DNA," etc. in a later chapter. [The latest academic articles on the mirror reversal problem can be found in M. C. Corballis, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 163-169 (2000) and T. Tabata and S. Okuda, ibid. pp. 170-173 (2000).]

This book would also be interesting for scientists to learn how they can talk well about scientific topics to laypersons. It would have been much better for the book to include a bibliography for citations and further reading.

Dyson, Freeman
The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolutions
5 of 5 stars An Intelligent Prediction of the 21st Century (22 Oct 00)

In this book Freeman Dyson contends that the driving force of scientific revolutions is more often new tools rather than new concepts. A tool-biased view of the history of physics was written by the experimental physicist Peter Galison, while a concept-biased analysis was made by the theoretical physicist Thomas Kuhn in his famous book. Being a theorist, though, Dyson considers that Galison's view of science more pleasing, and predicts that three new technologies -- solar energy, genetic engineering and the Internet -- will be the most important things in the twenty-first century.

Dyson's books have always fascinated me by his wide-ranging intelligence, great insight, keen analysis and convincing arguments based on concrete examples. "The Sun, the Genome, the Internet" is not an exception. An additional agreeable character of his writing consists in the fact that he attaches importance to social justice realizable by technology. He expects that the gap between the rich and the poor would be narrowed by the ethical application of science.

In the final chapters of the book, Dyson discusses the future of the society under the inexorable growth of techniques suggested by the two big surprises that happened in 1997. These surprises are the cloning of Dolly and the defeat of the world chess champion by the IBM chess-playing program Deep Blue. The first of the surprises makes Dyson think about "reprogenetics," which is a possible future technology offering the parent the opportunity to improve the quality of life of the child by removing bad genes and by inserting advantageous ones. We cannot read Dyson's discussion about this possibility without reminding ourselves of the science fiction "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.

Gamow, George, and Stannard, Russell
The New World of Mr Tompkins
4 of 5 stars Mr Tompkins' Adventure in Physical Wonderland Modernized (11 Jul 01)

The famous physicist and excellent popularizer of science George Gamow wrote the original version of this book "Mr Tompkins in Paperback" in 1965. Since then the understanding of the physical world from its smallest to largest entities has shown much progress. Thus the book, which was once one of the best classics among the genre of physics popularizations, needed a revision to continue its role of introducing the modern knowledge of fundamental physics to laypersons.

Russell Stannard, an able popularizer of science, courageously tackled this difficult problem of modernizing "Mr Tompkins." Four chapters out of 17 are entirely new. Old chapters describe the theory of relativity, quantum physics and atomic and nuclear physics through Mr Tompkins' adventurous dreams and a series of lectures given by "the professor" to the lay-audience. Tompkins is among the listeners of the lectures, gets acquainted with the professor's daughter Maud, and . . . Maud's look, hairstyle and dresses in illustrations and the episode of romance have also been modernized. The new chapters treat black holes, a high-energy accelerator ("atom smasher") and the results of physics gotten by it, quarks and the Standard Model, and the relation between the life of the Universe and particle physics.

Even the old chapters have been rewritten considerably. For example, Chapter 2 newly tells about an experimental evidence by neutral pion decay for the constancy of light speed, demonstration of relativistic time dilation at CERN by the change of life time of muons traveling at high speed, etc. The "twin paradox" of relativity has also been added in Chapter 2, and its further explanation is given in Chapter 3 (here is a minor but confusing error of "she" and "he" wrongly interchanged). I like this addition very much, because the "paradox" bothered me even after I had learned the theory of relativity at a university. (For a more complete explanation of the twin paradox, I recommend Max Born's "Einstein's Theory of Relativity" to readers of an inquiring mind.)

Being one of old Japanese fans of Tompkins, I feel a little sorry that the name of Hideki Yukawa has disappeared from the present version. Surely, his meson theory of nuclear forces became outdated, because constituents of nucleons and mesons, i.e., quarks and gluons, had been discovered. However, Yukawa's theory was a strong driving force for the birth of particle physics, and a good place where his name can be mentioned remains in Chapter 13 (in the original version it appeared in a later chapter, which has been omitted in the present version).

I highly recommend this book especially to young people who wish to major in physical sciences. There are a small number of simple equations of relativity and formulas of particle reactions. For those who are eager to learn about mysteries of the micro world and the universe, however, the presence of these would not be any hindrance to the enjoyment of the book but rather be an attractive feature. Some of old fans of Tompkins would also read the new version to welcome Stannard's good job.

Goldsmith, Donald
The Runaway Universe: The Race to Find the Future of the Cosmos
4 of 5 stars Can We Know the Future of the Cosmos in the Near Future? (29 Dec 00)

From observation of supernovae, i.e., large exploding stars, two rival teams of astronomers recently found that the expansion of the universe was very possibly accelerating. The astronomer and science writer Donald Goldsmith tells laypersons the story centered on this discovery in this book. To explain the accelerating expansion, astronomers have revived Albert Einstein's "cosmological constant," which he called his greatest blunder. It is interesting that the same author published a book entitled "Einstein's Greatest Blunder?" just a little before the announcement of the above discovery.

Before going into the main topic of the finding of the accelerating expansion, Goldsmith gives an introductory chapters on the discovery of galaxies, the expansion of the universe, the inflationary theory of the cosmos, and the existence of dark matter in the universe. These chapters might be somewhat tedious for those who already learned about them. When the story comes to the central theme, however, almost all readers would be fascinated by the author's clear explanation of painstaking research into cosmic riddles.

Without using equations but effectively using some photographs and diagrams, Goldsmith succeeds in telling what has happened and is going to happen at the forefront of cosmology. The last chapter deals with pleasant prospects of astronomical observations in the nearest future, which will use new satellites and other powerful instruments to resolve many of the mysterious issues of cosmology including the fate of the universe.

Gould, Steven J.
Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
4 of 5 stars An Almost Self-Evident Principle Well Treated (14 Oct 00)

Steven Gould treats the long-standing problem of the relation between science and religion in this book. The author explores the contemporary principle he calls NOMA, which is an acronym of Non-Overlapping Magisteria. A magisterium represents a domain of authority in teaching. The NOMA principle is that the magisterium of science and that of religion do not overlap, because the two magisteria cover different realms of empirical facts and moral value.

This might seem to some readers almost self-evident. Describing the historical and psychological bases extensively, however, Gould elaborates the above concept so deeply and persuasively that even such readers will find the reading of this book rewarding. Especially this is a must read for those who are on either side of the debate of evolution versus creation in education.

Johnson, George
Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics
5 of 5 stars Success and Frailties of a Nobel-Prize Physicist (15 Sept 00)

The author beautifully describes the life and work of the Nobel-Prize physicist Murray Gell-Mann and the revolutionary history of elementary particle physics. In addition to how the important discoveries of the Eightfold Way and quarks were made, we learn Gell-Mann's diverse interests in linguistics, ornithology, archaeology, environmental problems and complex phenomena.

The author writes not only about the physicist's brilliance and success but also his human frailties such as his experiences of writer's block and procrastination and his brooding temper, thus making the biography complete as viewed from every side. This is a good book for laypersons as well as for physicists.

Kane, Gordon
Supersymmetry: Unveiling the Ultimate Laws of Nature
5 of 5 stars Inspiring Story of Understanding the Physical Universe (19 Sept 00)

For forty thousand years humans have tried to know how the universe works, and now physicists are approaching to the ultimate understanding of the laws that govern the natural world. Gordon Kane, a renowned particle physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, describes the theories at the forefront of this majestic human endeavor in a readily understandable manner. The author calls the theories that work at different distance scales "effective theories," and an ultimate theory of nature "the primary theory."

The central theme of this book is the supersymmetry theory. This theory is expected to extend the Standard Model, the validated effective theory on a scale of about a hundred million billionth meter, down to the wondrous scale of nearly a hundred million billion billion billionth meter (Planck scale), but it is not yet the primary theory. Thus the author also explains the possible relations of the supersymmetry and the next possible effective theory called string theory, and their way up to the primary theory.

Kane writes not only about the features of the theories but also how these would be tested experimentally. To confirm the supersymmetry really to be the next stage toward the primary theory, particles called a Higgs boson and a "superpartner" have to be found in the giant accelerators. Topics of research in progress are often referred to in this book, so that the author uses an acronym of RIP for such research. It is wonderful that many problems in RIP are treated in simple words. This is quite an inspiring book, and I strongly recommend it to all the readers of an inquisitive mind.

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Kayzer, Wim
A Glorious Accident: Understanding Our Place in the Cosmic Puzzle
3 of 5 stars Enjoy Brilliant Words of Great Minds! (1 Nov 00)

Wim Kayzer interviewed six great thinkers: the psychiatrist and neurologist Oliver Sacks, the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, the paleontologist and evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the biochemist Rupert Sheldrake, and the historian and philosopher of science Stephen Toumlin. Then all of them participated in a round table to discuss the deep and 'unanswerable" questions mainly related to our consciousness. The content of this book was originally broadcast as a television series.

In general one expects to get more systematic information from a book on science or philosophy of science than from a television program on the same topic, but naturally we cannot have this expectation for a book produced from a television program. Further, when an interview or round-table program is put into printed lines, the discursiveness of spoken words comes to the surface, and the program is apt to lose some of exciting flavors present in broadcasting. This book is not an exception of this phenomenon, and thus is good only for casual entertainment but not good for obtaining substantial knowledge. Reading carefully, nevertheless, one can find some brilliant words of the great minds here and there.

Krauss, Lawrence
Quintessence: The Mystery of the Missing Mass in the Universe
3 of 5 stars A Moderately Bright Description of Dark Matter (8 Oct 00)

Will the universe expand forever, begin to contract at some time in the future, or get to a balanced state? The answer depends on the amount of mass it contains. To explain the behavior of galaxies unaccountable by the mass of visible matter, the idea of "dark matter" was proposed in the 1980s.

The title of the book "Quintessence" means "The Fifth Essence." The latter was the title of the first edition of this book published in 1989. In ancient philosophy, it meant the heavenly material that was supposed not only to form stars but also to pervade all things, and is used here to represent dark matter.

Lawrence Krauss starts the story by an intriguing brief review of the earliest notions of cosmologies and gives an updated and much detailed account of the dark matter problem for lay readers. The account covers both theoretical and experimental studies including those to be done in the near future. Some chapters might be hard for bedside reading even for scientists, because the author often lays one reason upon the other for an explanation. However, thorough reading of this book would be rewarding if you like to wonder about the mysteries of the universe and scientists' efforts to resolve them.

The book contains some irritating misprints. For example, "decrease" should read "increase" at one place, and "charge" should read "change" at another.

Livingston, James D.
Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets
5 of 5 stars The Title Has Triple Meaning (31 Aug 00)

The author starts this book by the story of Albert Einstein at the age of four or five, when his father showed him a compass needle. The behavior of the needle gave a deep and lasting impression on young Einstein. Then the author describes ten facts about the magnetic force in earlier chapters. Using these facts, he gives detailed explanations on the workings of various magnetic devices and the modern technologies of magnets in plain words.

The topics covered includes superconducting magnets, magnets in motors, speakers, TVs, toys, fiction, magic and weapons, magnetic recording, magnets in medicine, biomagnetism, and so on, namely everything about magnets. The book is also interspersed with humorous comments.

In the last chapter the author goes back again to young Einstein's wondering at a compass needle. The reader notices here that the title of the book has the triple meaning. This is one of the most educational and well written books I have ever read in the genre of science for laypersons.

Livio, Mario
The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant, and the Beauty of the Cosmos
5 of 5 stars Will the Beauty of the Final Theory Be Hold out? (31 Oct 00)

A cosmologist and art fanatic, Mario Livio, elegantly tells the general reader about the recent observational finding that the expansion of the universe is speeding up contrary to the long-held belief of slowing-down expansion. He stresses the effect of this finding on the beauty of the fundamental theory of the universe; or rather the central theme of the book is that beauty.

Livio clearly explains his requirements for the beauty in physical and cosmological theories: symmetry, simplicity, and the Copernican principle (we are nothing special). According to the author, the tentative discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe poses a frightening challenge to the beauty of the final theory by raising difficult questions about the non-zero value of the cosmological constant (or the energy of the vacuum). From the viewpoint of the Copernican principle Livio rejects resorting to the anthropic principle for giving a quick answer to those questions. The story told about the recent finding of extrasolar planets is intriguing and helps strengthen the basis of the expanding Copernican principle.

The book is so good that I am tempted to write all of its minor deficiencies I have noticed: The explanation of the inflationary model is not very understandable as the author himself admits in the book. The author's bottom line for Carter's argument about the rarity of extraterrestrial intelligent civilization is rather confusing, because the latter's argument seems simply wrong due to the contradiction of his conclusion to his two-possibility reasoning, aside from the dubiousness of his crucial assumption at the start. In the last chapter Livio writes about Wheeler's view of the participatory universe, but its distinction from the anthropic principle, if any, is not made clear. The first name of the Japanese physicist and cosmologist Katsuhiko Sato is misprinted as Katsuoko. It would have been much better to include bibliography of the books cited and the photographs of many paintings referred to.

Overbye, Dennis
Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance
4 of 5 stars Young Einstein's Love and Work Well Depicted (21 Jun 01)

After studying a large number of published and unpublished letters for a decade, Dennis Overbye, the author of another well-written book "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos," successfully portrayed young Albert Einstein from the two sides of his personal life and scientific endeavor. In "Einstein in Love" Albert is depicted vividly as a lad who loved his former physics classmate Mileva and constantly tackled the most profound problems of physics. The author also writes in detail about the social and scientific backgrounds of the time and views of the places Albert lived in. Albert's marriage with Mileva comes to an unhappy ending. Then he marries his cousin Elsa. Albert's dark side during the years of these events does not elude Overbye's polished writing. In the section about Albert's relation to the physicist Hendrik Lorentz, the author writes, "Albert was the eternal outsider"; and at another place, "When it came to women he could be like a child." These words cogently summarize the human side of the scientific giant.

A reviewer who is an expert in physics (A. J. Kox for "Physics Today") has criticized that Overbye's discussion of science is not always accurate. The present reviewer thinks that if the description of physics were made more compact, this book would have been much more absorbing. Inclusion of a chronological table might have been a good idea. It is a little disappointing that the source of citation is often of secondary nature; for example, "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations" is cited many times. However, these are only minor defects. This is a laboriously and skillfully written book to be read by all those who love passion and science and revere "Time" magazine's Man of the Century.

Pirsig, Robert M.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
4 of 5 stars An Enchanting Novel Invoking Philosophical Ideas (11 Nov 00)

A Japanese biologist wrote about this book in a Japanese magazine as follows: Many years ago when she was studying in England and going to buy a motorcycle, one of her colleagues recommended her to read this book, but it was not really a book on motorcycle maintenance but a book that taught philosophy in a simple manner. She liked this book and read it repeatedly.

Reading this story and finding that the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this book was published in paperback, I bought a copy and began to read it by expecting to learn something about philosophy or the history of philosophy. To some extent, this expectation made me read the book quickly in an effort to get to possible chapters where the teaching of philosophy might be fully given. Even without such a motivation, however, one could read this book speedily, because the story magically enchants the reader and because the style of Pirsig's writing is very readable even to the non-native speaker of English who, like me, has read only a small number of novels in English.

Surely, descriptions of classical philosophies and contemporary philosophical problems are given in parallel with the story of motorcycle traveling, I have found that this is essentially a novel, which invokes ideas about the reunification of art and technology and about the quality of life. The great point of the book is that it can also be entertained as a book on philosophy, though descriptions of ancient Greek philosophies in later chapters are not very understandable. In the last chapters the story of a relation between a father and his son reaches a moving climax.

Rees, Martin
Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
4 of 5 stars Provocative for Thinking about Providence or Multiverse (31 Aug 00)

Martin Rees skillfully describes the mysteries of the physical laws that govern our universe for a general readership. On page 2, he gives a list of explanations for the six numbers he uses in this book. Readers may feel it necessary to look back this list often while reading later chapters. For this purpose, the explanations are a little lengthy and lack the rigor of definition. However, this is a minor defect.

The author ingeniously makes the readers wonder about the deep forces that shape everything from galaxies to life on earth to lead them to the final chapter. There they would be interested in guessing by themselves if the fine-tuning of the values of the six numbers is the result of providence or multiverse.

Smolin, Lee
Three Roads to Quantum Gravity
4 of 5 stars Readers Get at Least a Vague Picture of a Difficult Problem (27 Jul 01)

The completion of a quantum theory of gravity (quantum gravity for short) is one of the most challenging problems in science in the twenty-first century. This theory aims at unifying Einstein's theory of general relativity for large-scale phenomena with the quantum theory for the micro-world, to get understanding of everything from space and time to matter and the universe. Lee Smolin, Professor of Physics at Pennsylvania State University, tells the story of recent and future research pursuing this theory for the intelligent layperson.

The author writes earlier chapters very understandably. The reader who knew nothing about the quantum gravity learns easily the following interesting things: There are three approaches to quantum gravity, i.e., the route from quantum theory (string theory), the road from the theory of general relativity (loop quantum gravity), and the path from fundamental principles. To do cosmology the classical logic demanding that every statement be either true or false is inadequate. A theory of quantum gravity has to answer about the nature of the information tapped in a quantum black hole. The search for the meaning of the temperature and entropy of a black hole is now leading to the discovery of the atomic structure of space and time. Etc.

In the middle of the book the author states that the style of these chapters will be more narrative than others because he can describe from personal experience some of the episodes in the development of loop quantum gravity. Lessons told are, for example, as follows: Science progresses quickly when people with different backgrounds and educations join forces. Einstein's example teach us that trying to invent new laws of physics requires not only intelligence and hard work but also insight, stubbornness, patience and character. Of course, these are also quite understandable.

In the last three chapters some or most of readers might find it difficult to follow the author's explanation. After reading the whole book, however, all the readers would feel that they have gotten at least a vague picture about the difficult problem of proceeding to quantum gravity. This is an exciting book for those who want to catch a glimpse of theoretical physics at its forefront.

There are some typos. Among them the followings are especially unfortunate, because the meanings of one of the laws of thermodynamics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle are completely reversed to lead laypersons astray: In chapter 7, "The second law of thermodynamics requires only that the total entropy of the world never increase" should read ". . . never decreases." In two inequalities in chapter 11, the symbol of "less than" should be that of "greater than or equal to."

Sobel, Dava
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
5 of 5 stars An Excellent Biography with a Mystery-Like Ending (31 Jan 01)

In the first one-third of the volume the author writes about Galileo's invention of a telescope, first observation of the moon's mountains and valleys, discovery of four satellites of the planet Jupiter, observation of a "nova" to impugn the Aristotelian immutability of the heavens, guess about the nature of sunspots, endeavor to support the sun-centered theory of Copernicus, etc., etc. Thus I thought that the title of the book was quite inappropriate.

Even reading later chapters, where many letters addressed to Galileo by his daughter with the name of Suor Maria Celeste are cited, I thought that this was a biography of Galileo himself, which well depicted not only his scientific but also his personal life together with family and social backgrounds. Near the end of the volume, however, there was an episode like a mystery. I felt like thunderstruck, and smiled and said to myself, "Yes, the title is quite appropriate!"

I could not help but imagine what wonderful work would Suor Maria Celeste have done if she had lived in the modern age not as a nun but as a scientist. The book also invoked in my mind great desires to read Galileo's books, "Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems" and "Two New Sciences," and to observe planets with a telescope. These facts would prove the excellence of this book.

Stewart, Ian
Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So
4 of 5 stars A Pleasing Guided Tour to Higher Dimensions (17 Jun 01)

The heroine Vikki Line is a great-great-granddaughter of the narrator A. Square of Edwin Abbott's classic book, "Flatland." The teenaged Flatlander heroine goes to a tour to higher dimensional worlds guided by a Space Hopper. She visits the Fractal Forest, Topologica, Platterland, Cat Country, the Domain of Hawk King, etc., and learns, together with the reader, about many concepts of modern mathematics and physics. The author Ian Stewart, a winner of the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Medal for furthering the public understanding of science, writes the story in the style of "Alice in Wonderland" by using enjoyable wordplay and putting exotic and cute creatures he invented to familiarize the difficult concepts.

Some topics are treated in a manner to give the reader good understanding, but others are described only superficially. There are simple errors in giving a number for fractal dimension and describing the behavior of the decoherence time. (I leave it to the reader as exercises to spot them.) The author explains the particle nature of the photon by the uncommon use of the process of electron-impact photon emission, while the orthodox explanation uses the inverse process, i.e., the photoelectric effect.

In spite of these minor defects, this is a joyous read for holidays. The heroine is depicted as such a clever, adventurous and charming linear being (near the end of the story she comes to know that she is something superior than a line) that I think how I would have been happy if I had had a girlfriend like her in my youth. Her guide and tutor, the Space Hopper, often shows a big grin, reminding us of the popular physicist and good lecturer Richard Feynman. In the short last chapter, the reader feels it important that more of us, "Planiturthians," become aware of the possible ten-dimensional reality of our physical universe, which Vikki learned at the final stage of her tour. Thus, I would like to recommend this book to every curious mind.

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