The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory


How is the universe put together? What came before the big bang? What would happen to you if, god forbid, you fell into a black hole? Is time travel possible? What is space?

For answers to the deepest questions in science, physicists have sought to merge their current theories into a unified theory. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory captures the present state of that search. My latest book, Spooky Action at a Distance, published in November 2015, focuses on the single most important piece of the puzzle: the question of what space is and the possibility of a deeper reality that does not exist within space.

The natural world is seamless; there are no signposts proclaiming that one set of rules applies here and another there. Theories so far have failed to capture this unity. A veritable Who’s Who of physicists over the past century, beginning with Albert Einstein, has tried to reconcile them. They have made substantial progress, deepened their understanding, and made Nobel-winning discoveries along the way. Yet unification still eludes them.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to String Theory brings you up to speed on the leading contender for a unified theory, known as string theory, as well as the major alternatives. The book is available in bookstores in both the virtual and physical universes, and you can download Kindle, iBook, eBook, and audiobook versions.

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The book is designed for anyone who feels intimidated by physics. Even experts tell me they have found it helpful—it lays out the principles that most textbooks gloss over:

  1. Brings you up to speed on Einstein’s theories of relativity and quantum theory

  2. Explains why unifying them is so important—and so challenging

  3. Demystifies black holes and the big bang

  4. Describes not just string theory but also its main alternatives, such as loop quantum gravity and “buckyspace”

  5. Outlines experiments that are planned or ongoing to test these theories, notably the Large Hadron Collider

  6. Sorts out the claims and counterclaims in the public controversy over string theory

And don’t miss my TEDx talk on the end of time: