Some of my friends in Germany frequently send me newspaper articles whenever the word physics appears in whatever context. Some months ago they sent me an article about Lisa Randall's new book which started by describing the "world's most cited theoretical physicist" as "blond, small, wiry and - female". Jörg commented about this very nicely "When Lisa Randall is small and wiry, then what are you - a dwarf?" Thanks Jörg ;-)
Anyway, I bought the book and read it, I actually read more of it than I thought I would. For the simple reason that she starts every chapter with some lines of lyrics! (Something I did in all my failed attempts to write a book -- as the Stefans might remember, who very bravely made their way through all of them.)
Though I initially did not like the book, I changed my mind in chapter 5. ANDI!! It's the Billy Bragg quotation:
"The laws of gravity are very, very strict
And you're just bending them for your own benefit."
~ Billy Bragg
Lisa's book is titled "Warped Passages" and explains about everything you need to know about high energy physics and physics beyond the standard model.
From the cover: "Lisa Randall demystifies the science and beguilingly unravels the mysteries of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond the one we are only now beginning to know."
I don't see any point in giving you another detailed review on the book's content, you might want to check out those at amazon.com instead. Let me just say that the book provides you with a fairly self-consistent introduction into the idea of extra dimensions, covering general relativity, quantum mechanics (even quantum field theory) the standard model of particle physics, and string theory.
It successfully captures the excitement and the beauty, but it makes also clear what we know - and what we don't. It is well written, entertaining and very structured.
For a popular science book, it is very precise in the statements and it covers a lot of ground. If you are not familiar with the subject, you probably will have to think about it for a while. On the other hand, this makes the book also interesting for those with an education in physics.
Most subjects are explained with analogies - sometimes a confusing amount of them. E.g. the bulk is "a huge tennis stadium", perturbation theory fails for strong coupling because "it's like trying to reproduce a Jackson Pollock painting by randomly pouring paint", duality works like a five-course menu "pre-organized and prepared into salad, soup, appetizer, main course, and dessert", a small black hole evaporates more quickly than a big one "just as a small drop of coffee evaporates more quickly than a full cup" (something I still wonder about) etc.
For me, the analogies were the true challenge of the book. I admit that I find papers with equations more easy to understand. On the other hand, these analogies are the reason why I find Lisa's book enormously useful. It gives my the words to explain my work to other people.
I admit, I had been hoping for more gossip, and of course I was curios to know if it ever mattered to be not only "blond, small, and wiry" but also female. However, having thought about it, I think I wouldn't have made a point out of being a women in my first book either.
(Relax, I am not planning on writing one.)
I don't particularly like the stories with Alice and Ike as I generally don't like characters without character, but a huge plus are the short summaries of the most important points at the end of each chapter.
The book is really dangerous. If you are not already an high energy physicist, you probably want to become one after having read it. So, if you had in mind giving the book to your daughter as a gift, think twice.
Your citation-dwarf, Bee.
PS: And I learned the word jungle gym.