Black holes, wormholes and time machines (1999)

Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines

Front cover of Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines by Jim Al-Khalili

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Do you know:- what might happen if you fall into a black hole! -that the Universe does not have an edge! -that the reason it gets dark at night is proof of the Big Bang! -that cosmic particles time-travel through the atmosphere defying death! -that our past, present and future might all coexist “out there”! With two remarkable ideas Albert Einstein revolutionized our view of the Universe. His first was that nothing can travel faster than light – the ultimate speed limit. This simple fact leads to the unavoidable conclusion that space and time must be linked together, forever as Spacetime. With his second monumental insight, Einstein showed how Spacetime is warped and stretched by the gravity of all objects in the Universe and even punctured by black holes. But such possible twisting of Spacetime allowed a magic not even Einstein could have imagined: time-travel. Theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili finally lays science fiction to rest as he opens up Einstein’s Universe. Leading us gently and light-heartedly through the dizzying world of our space and time, he even gives us the recipe for a time machine, capable of taking us Back to the Future, to Alice’s Wonderland or on a trip with the Terminator.

The book is meant for all those people–which is pretty much everyone I know–who are curious about such exotic sounding concepts as black holes, space warps, the Big Bang, time travel and parallel universes. In writing the book I have asked myself whether complete non-experts can learn a little about some of the ideas of modern physics without feeling the urge to check that their IQ is up to the task before embarking.

The subject matter of the book has been covered elsewhere at many different levels. At the very top is the advanced text or monograph for the practitioner in the field. This is the sorcerer’s spell book, decipherable only by the privileged few. Then comes the textbook aimed at the university physics student. It too contains some spells, but nothing very powerful. Below that comes the top end of the popular science market. Such books are aimed at the non-scientist in that they contain little or no mathematics. However, they appeal only to those who are either (a) other scientists or (b) fans of such books already, who have invariably read similar books on the subject. So, when writing this book I have made every effort to cut out as much scientific jargon as possible.

I hope this book is entertaining as well as informative. I never set out to write an introductory course in relativity theory, but what I offer is a glimpse of what modern physics is about and an opportunity to share with me the sheer excitement of contemplating some of the deepest questions of existence. I hope you enjoy it.

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