Knocking On Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Knocking On Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  699 ratings  ·  90 reviews
The latest developments in physics have the potential to radically revise our understanding of the universe: its make-up, its evolution and the fundamental forces that determine its operation. Knocking on Heaven's Door is an exhilarating and accessible overview of these developments and a rousing defence of the role of science in our lives.





There could be no better guide th...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Bodley Head (first published 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,475)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
David
Feb 27, 2014 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Gendou
Shelves: physics, science
Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist at Harvard University. She is well known for her research in high-energy physics. You can view a video of Jon Stewart interviewing Randall on The Daily Show. She is a very articulate speaker, and her writing is crystal clear.

The book is divided into five parts. The first part explores the philosophy of science, and gets into some aspects of the science-vs.-religion debate. Randall notes that some people turn to religion for answers that science cannot yet...more
Ben Babcock
I love physics. I love that we know so much about physics, and that we still have so much left to learn! I love reading about how far we have come from Ptolemaic ideas of geocentricity to mapping the cosmic microwave background radiation itself. And don’t get me started about the Large Hadron Collider: 7 TeV? Really? Up to 14 TeV in the next few years? Various atrocious self-help books claim they’ll help you unlock “the secrets of the universe”. The scientists and engineers at CERN are quite lit...more
John
Eminent theoretical physicist Lisa Randall regards her new book "Knocking on Heaven's Door" as a "prequel" to her earlier "Warped Passages". But it is much more than that, as a clearly written statement by a distinguished scientist explaining how science works to an interested, if substantially scientific illiterate, public. While there are other books, such as those written by her high school and college classmate, physicist Brian Greene, which emphasize the state-of-the-art thinking in theoret...more
Kelly
What I don’t know about particle physics amounts to an enormous trove of data. Before reading this book, I had no idea just how much I didn’t know. Now, however, I have a much better idea about what the parameters of what I don’t know might be. I can’t visualize them, but through the process of examining what I do know, the conspicuous absences in the shadows of my knowledge subtly hint at vast deserts of unknowable terrain. Fluctuations of confusion, blackness, and chaos are sometimes the only...more
Todd Martin
I’m not sure how this book came about, but it’s the kind of mish-mash that suggests the work of a committee. First, there’s the title Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, which bears no resemblance to the content of the book. Then, there’s the subject matter itself. The book begins with an overly involved discussion of scale, and how scientists select the scale of their observations depending on the type of phenomenon they a...more
Vanessa
I will admit defeat. As much as I love popular physics books I just cannot bear to finish this one. The author is obviously brilliant, knows her field well, and has an infectious enthusiasm for science. Unfortunately, she seems to have fallen into the trap that some brilliant people do: she assumes her intelligence and acumen in the field of physics means that her insights outside of that field are similarly brilliant. Alas, this is not so. Repeatedly, she discusses the financial world and does...more
Richard
Once I had a guitar. I worked really, really hard on learning how to play, but never got the hang of it. I put it away. Ten years later I took it out of the closet, thinking to myself, I've been listening to a lot of music, and it's been ten years, I should be much better at this. That's right, I wasn't.

I'm interested in cosmology and physics in much the same way I'm interested in Buddhism, and a bit more than I was actually interested in the guitar. Let's take Buddhism first. I've read lots of...more
Nathan Kibler
I don't give many books five stars before I read them in their entirety, but I am so impressed with Lisa Randall and her philosophical arguments in the first part of this very timely book. Namely she tackles the issue of religious thinking vs. scientific thinking head on.

While she is clearly prejudiced in favor of the latter, being an honored Theoretical Physicist and Professor, she covers many salient points that concern both and manages to assert her understandings of the arguments without be...more
Bob Nichols
This is a disappointing book. The collection of the author's thoughts about the role of science and many of the key insights of physics seem repetitive of what has been said before. A good part of the book is about the Higgs boson and the Large Hadron Collider. That presentation was heavy on jargon and detail, and light on why all of this is significant for the non-expert reader, although it's probably excellent for those who want to get a full story on the Collider. The organization of the book...more
David Rubin
Lisa Randall's book is another attempt in a long line of books about contemporary physics which is aimed at the interested buy not scientifically educated public. It must be extremely difficult to explain highly sophisticated, highly-mathematically oriented concepts to the lay reader while maintaining his or her interest. We should thank these brilliant and gifted scientists for making the effort to help us understand these often non-intuitive concepts without the use of the difficult math which...more
David
This book introduces the reader to some of the recent research in the field of fundamental physics, with an emphasis on the now-constructed Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. The author's enthusiasm and excitement for this new system is apparent on every page. As she correctly describes the LHC as simultaneously the world's most advanced and sophisticated machine, and also its largest in physical extent. It is certainly the most remarkable scientific instrument ever created, a...more
Matt Heavner
This was quite a mish-mash of topics and quality. I really enjoyed some of the super-symmetry/particle physics discussion. The LHC motivation/justification seemed to be the main topic of this book, however, my impression was that this really should have been broken up into three or four separate books. There was some good physics and LHC background motivation. There was a totally disconnected chapter on the financial crises and climate change. There was a good proportion of this book on the phil...more
Gendou
This "prequel" to Randall's other book, Warped Passages, is quite good.
Her writing style is (thankfully) much improved.
She talks a lot about scale and model dependent realism.

She tactfully tackles the topic of religion vs. science.
Her thesis is that these activities involve incompatible brain processes.
It's a neat insight, but she avoids stomping on religion's plethora of poor predictions.

My wife and I played a drinking game where we took a shot every time the book uses the word "phenomena".
We g...more
Matt
A nice summary of recent happenings at the LHC and, through that, a survey of contemporary physics. Randall's got an interesting perspective on the intersection of particle physics and cosmology, two topics which have fascinated me since I was a teenager, and this is a good overview of where those fields stand.

Randall intersperses the book with her thoughts on creativity and science-thinking, which I appreciated as she touches on the disparity between theory and data that underlies so many publ...more
Roger
This was interesting and generally pretty clear in describing some physics that is just ridiculously complex. Randall is a serious theoretical physicist and brings a good first hand view of what such people actually do with the LHC and what they hope to do next. It's topical just now because of the Higgs and she goes into just what the Higgs is and what it means. At the time of writing the Higgs had not been announced, of course, but reading this helped me understand the announcement much better...more
Richard
My rating has less to do with any recommendation for this book but more of my own personal reaction to it. In terms of recommendation, I recommend this book highly to those who want to know more about particle physics and the Higgs-Boson business and a thing or two about scientific thought. For my own purposes, I found Simon Singh's Big Bang theory much more enlightening in terms of how scientific thought progresses. Lisa Randall is much more contemporary with her content, of course, but this bo...more
Zach
Well-written but gets a little too detailed in Physics (I know this is written for the layman but maybe I'm slower than I thought...). The parts that discuss the differences in how science and religion view and interpret the world are interesting but when it gets into the Large Hadron Collider my eyes glaze over. I think reading the comic strip xkcd is the closest I will get to being able to read, comprehend and enjoy information about physics.
Karl W.
Nice overview of the aims, means, achievements, and open questions associated with contemporary particle physics and comsomology, with an emphais on work being done at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. To get the most from this book you should first read Randall's "Warped Passages," which is technically and stylistically more demanding of the reader; however, "Knocking on Heaven's Door" can still be appreciated as a stand-alone volume.
Don
Particle physics has always fascinated me and Lisa Randall has taught me more about that than I would have thought possible. But much more than that, but she explores elements of the history of physics and gave me a new way of looking at how we got to where we are today. Very timely too with the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson. I will be reading more from her.
Gerald Lizee
Fantastic voyage through current science

Professor Randall is one of the most brilliant scientist of our times. In her book, she invites us to accompany her in the numerous theoretical searches in which she has been and still is involved. She is at the forefront of current science : theories and models underlying large hadron collider (LHC) experiments, dark matter, dark energy, particles masses, Higgs boson, extradimensions.

Her presentation of LHC in Geneva is the most comprehensive I have ever...more
Steve
I wish Lisa Randall would write more book, but I guess she is too busy climbing mountains and doing particle physics. This book answered many questions I had about particle accelerators, and how they do what they do. It is an easy read, and very approachable. I have a to-do now to go back to her previous work and read that one too.
Deb
Aug 09, 2011 Deb marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
reviewed in Discover Magazine. In this lucid dissection of the scientific method from Galileo to string theory, physicist Lisa Randall of Harvard University charts the relentless efforts to understand the fundamental construction of the universe.
Bill Leach
Average chapters on general philosophy interspersed with excellent chapters on the LHC. The details of the LHC and detectors are terrific and the discussion on the Higgs boson and where it is leading is very good.
Dave Vander
Excellent book. Lisa Randall does a great job explaining the subjects in this awesome book.
Angie
Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, but I could not tell from the title, subtitle, or jacket that this is primarily a book about the Large Hadron Collider. It's a very good book about the LHC. And probably I would have read it sooner if I had realized that -- it just looked like another general "science is great" book that happened to be overhyped, and I took my sweet time in getting to it.

My guess is that this was a book she had in preparation for quite a while waiting for the discovery of...more
Steve
I've had this on my to-read list for a while, so thought I ought to get to it. I have found Lisa Randell's communications on TV programs to be interesting and her views worth listening to.

The thrust of the book appears to be about the LHC, clearly something Randell is very enthusiastic about. While it is my fault for leaving it so long to read this book, the enthusiasm about 'what could be' discovered is a little out-dated (although this in itself is interesting, a lot on SuperSymmetry here whi...more
Terry
This is an unremarkable book that glams together a bunch of topics in modern science poorly. The beginning discussion of scale is interesting as the author notes that in physics, laws are rarely overturned universally, but adjustments need to be made at particular scale points at either very big or very small sizes. This was an nice way of summarizing the places where physics needs to be updated but much beyond this the book does nothing particularly well.

*The technical detail on the LHC is abso...more
John Maguire
Great start to this book. Really had me hooked on the finer points of arguing the differences between the scientific method and religion. Some great insights on the fundamental importance of understanding scale when thinking about...well anything.

But ultimately this book kind of lost its hold on me about half way through. It's like it couldn't totally decide whether it was a philosophical tome on science vs. religion, or a summary of current day research and what they might find, or a primer on...more
Ron Arden
Lisa Randall brings the complex topics of particle physics and cosmology to life in this detailed book. So many things have happened in these fields since I was in school that I felt like I was back in the classroom. Aside from explaining what the Large Hadron Collider and similar instruments are trying to accomplish, she delves into discussions on the smallest and largest scales of things in the universe. I now have a better understanding of the tiniest elements that make up our world (quarks a...more
Arvind Balasundaram
In this book, noted particle physicist and cosmologist Lisa Randall provides a survey of the most recent developments in physics. She succeeds, for most part, although the content frequently oscillates between easy to comprehend to highly advanced for the lay-reader. The book begins with a very comprehensive explanation of scales and why they matter, and why the human scale and our familiarity with it inhibits our understanding of quantum goings-on as well as that in the far reaches of the expan...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 82 83 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles
  • The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
  • Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking
  • The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
  • Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System
  • The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
  • From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
  • The Theory of Almost Everything: The Standard Model, the Unsung Triumph of Modern Physics
  • The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us
  • Absolutely Small: How Quantum Theory Explains Our Everyday World
  • Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
  • The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe
  • The Day We Found the Universe
  • Three Roads To Quantum Gravity
  • The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
  • The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces
  • The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments
  • Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law
38333
LISA RANDALL is Professor of Physics at Harvard University. She began her physics career at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. She was a finalist, and tied for first place, in the National Westinghouse Science Talent Search. She went on to Harvard where she earned the BS (1983) and PhD (1987) in physics. She was a President's Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, a postdoctoral...more
More about Lisa Randall...
Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space Ijigen Wa Sonzaisuru Eventing Explained

Share This Book

“Despite my resistance to hyperbole, the LHC belongs to a world that can only be described with superlatives. It is not merely large: the LHC is the biggest machine ever built. It is not merely cold: the 1.9 kelvin (1.9 degrees Celsius above absolute zero) temperature necessary for the LHC’s supercomputing magnets to operate is the coldest extended region that we know of in the universe—even colder than outer space. The magnetic field is not merely big: the superconducting dipole magnets generating a magnetic field more than 100,000 times stronger than the Earth’s are the strongest magnets in industrial production ever made.

And the extremes don’t end there. The vacuum inside the proton-containing tubes, a 10 trillionth of an atmosphere, is the most complete vacuum over the largest region ever produced. The energy of the collisions are the highest ever generated on Earth, allowing us to study the interactions that occurred in the early universe the furthest back in time.”
6 likes
“[The ceremonial key to the city of Padua] is engraved with a quote from Galileo that is also on display at the physics department of the university...'I deem it of more value to find out a truth about however light a matter than to engage in long disputes about the greatest questions without achieving any truth.” 3 likes
More quotes…