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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
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The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,431 ratings  ·  180 reviews
What happens when something is sucked into a black hole? Does it disappear? Three decades ago, a young physicist named Stephen Hawking claimed it did-and in doing so put at risk everything we know about physics and the fundamental laws of the universe. Most scientists didn't recognize the import of Hawking's claims, but Leonard Susskind and Gerard t'Hooft realized the thre ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published July 7th 2008 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2008)
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
134th out of 904 books — 2,222 voters
A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence M. KraussStuff Matters by Mark MiodownikThe Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian GreeneThe Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard FeynmanThe Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind
Best Physical Science Books
5th out of 16 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

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Claudio Arena
An amazing book.
It needs to be said, that this is not for everybody. Even if Leonard Susskind does a perfect job to explain even the more difficult concepts, what he talks about is still incredibly complex.
It needs to be read by somebody that has the basis for physics (but not too much: high school physics is enough to follow the reasoning), and is used to scientific reasoning.

That said, I would say this book is one of the few that classify still as not being technical (as I said before, you don
Toni Daugherty
Could the King of physics be wrong about black holes? For 30 years Hawking and Susskind debated whether or not information disappears once it is sucked into a black hole. I commend Susskind for his courage not in debating Hawking, but in explaining concepts like Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Gravity, and String Theory to regular people like me. If you want to learn more about your universe and you don't want to spend a lot of time on the math - this is the book.
These black hole ideas are important
Jul 30, 2009 DJ rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: only my worst enemies
Shelves: popular-physics
Light on "science" and heavy on "popular", this is the kind of "popular science" that makes me cringe.

The Black Hole War is a book that fears offending any reader by asking them to think for an entire chapter. Genuinely interesting yet shallow islands of physics are sprinkled in a vast sea of mundane travel stories, idle cultural speculations, and weakly veiled self-aggrandizement.

The central physical question of the book, the black hole information paradox, is a very fascinating issue that has
Bill Leach
Chapter 1 - In 1981, Hawkings postulates that information is lost in black holes.

Chapter 2 - Black holes and the horizon at the Shwartzchild radius described. Einstein rejected black holes. Tidal forces are less at the horizon of large black holes. Einstein Equivalence Principle states that the effects of gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable.

Chapter 3 - Reimann proposed that space may be curved, an idea incorporated into General Relativity. Minkowski space incorporates space and time,
Science is boring work. Most scientific discoveries are a result of doing boring tasks meticulously. Since finding the true picture of Universe requires such laborious work, it is unfair to expect an average human to spend so much time, which is a luxury for many, to properly understand scientific discoveries.

However, the urge to know what is happening in the Universe is strong in every human. Due to lack of time, many will take comfort in lazy explanations. Attention Span is a major impediment
მეგონა შავ ხვრელებზე საკმაოდ ბევრი რამ ვიცოდი,მაგრამ შევმცდარვარ..
მოკლედ ძალიან საინტერესო წიგნია.სასკინდი სიტყვა-სიტყვით მოგვითხრობს სინგულარობაზე,ენტროპიაზე,მოვლენათა ჰორიზონტზე და ყველაფერს აკეთებს,რომ მკითხველი ჩაითრიოს.თან განმარტავს,რომ ჩვენ ბევრი არ გვესმის,არა სისულელის,არამედ ჩვენი ტვინის ერთგვარი “tuning”-ის გამო,რომელიც ევოლუციის პროცესში გვაქვს შეძენილი.:)
ფიზიკოსებისთვის წიგნის 3/4 მოსაწყენი იქნება,მაგრამ ბოლოში მათაც ელით სიამოვნება. სასკინდი თვითონ დიდი ფიზიკოსი და პენროუზისა და ტ’
"Science is a human affair, and during the painful struggles for new paradigms, opinions and emotions can be just as volatile as in any other human endeavor."

Leonard Susskind's expertise as a leading theoretical physicist is beyond dispute. He is skilled in teaching students at several levels: university college students; continuing-education adults (the heavy-math, nearly-legendary Theoretical Minimum series of lectures and books); and readers of popular science books (The Cosmic Landscape: Str
William Ramsdell
3-stars here means: Fabulous subject matter, good pedagogy, and way too much of the authors voice.

The rub: an investigation of black holes and their framework used to describe them (classical on one hand, QM on the other). Problems arise: information is destroyed according to Hawking, and Susskind is certain that, due to QM, this is wrong. 30 years of discoveries ensue, resulting in the all kinds of fun things like Anti-De Sitter Space, Extremal Black Holes, the "expanded horizon", Black Hole C
Started a year ago, finally finished! Hate Susskind's writing -- shut the fuck up with your inane and bloated "war" metaphor that appears every other page. And no, you don't need to constantly remind that why you were always so sure you were right and that you couldn't believe all the other physicists were too dense to see why the war was important. But the cool physics is inside.

Hawking: seemed to prove that information is irretrievably lost in a black hole. Also, empty space full of super-flee
A good introduction to the debate in physics regarding on whether information was lost when it entered a black hole. This was a big deal because conservation of entropy would thereby be threatened if this was, in fact, the case. The current physical theory indicates that this is not so.

I dislike how the emphasis of this book seems to be on this nebulous concept of "information" instead of in the physical states themselves from which this "information" is deduced. The world is made up of physical
I found this book interesting, Susskind seems to be a bit egotistical, but it is my understanding that that is a common trait among physicists and seeing as his claim is finally winning the war with Stephen Hawking (a name in physics known even to the general populace) I don't suppose I can really fault him for that. This book isn't for the faint of heart, but if you have the time (and energy!) to put into comprehending strange abstract physics concepts (String Theory anyone?) then it can really ...more
"What is it that takes a fringe idea, something that may have lain dormant for years, and abruptly tips the scale in its favor?"
Leonard Susskind

I was in the physics section of the library, and this book caught my eye. I have to admit that the title was the major contributing factor that incited me to read this. Now I have a soft spot for quantum mechanics and string theory (not to mention puppies, kittens and cheesecake, but that's an entirely different matter) and so it's no surprise that I j
About 60% (and that's a conservative estimate) went over my head, despite Susskind's valiant effort to dumb it down. In a nutshell, he explains how he and a group of like-minded theoretical physicists ultimately proved Stephen Hawking wrong.

What was the issue? Hawking said he had proven that information that enters a black hole is lost forever. Susskind disagreed, mainly because that would mean that one of the fundamental tenets of physics -- that matter is never destroyed -- would be wrong. And
Jul 28, 2013 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in black hole physics
Shelves: rm
The Black Hole War is at times an autobiographical tale about the theoretical physics community, and at times a physics lesson. It introduces the minds, senses of humor, and egos of the great theoretical physicists of our time, and attempts to explain the ideas they contributed to the argument at hand.
I enjoyed learning about the physicists themselves. Their personalities, competitive yet respectful spirit, and comradery were the highlights of the book. The most memorable bits are Susskind's mus
An absolutely fascinating recounting of the process to reconcile our understanding of Einstein's General Relativity and gravity with Quantum Mechanics and the surprising discoveries in String Theory that made it possible. This reader has always been fascinated with physics and is always on the lookout for works like this that explore the current state of our understanding of the universe and how it works. The author does a masterful job of explaining complex concepts in simple terms using word p ...more
The ability of man to doggedly investigate the pure strangeness of the universe is mindbogglingly awesome. I cannot claim to understand much of what was written about in this book, but it is fun to try. This book was an interesting combination of the explanation of aspects of the quantum world and a story of great minds at opposite ends of theoretical beliefs trying to come to grips with their differences. I've read several "physics for the non-physicist" books, and this was one of the first tha ...more
Tony Bertauski
For the average Joe, Susskind addresses the secrets of the universe -- as the world's physicists understand it -- in plain English. He tunes into focus the big picture of time, space and black holes as well as the elementary level of quarks and gluons. It was (somewhat) easy to follow, and fascinating to experience the thought experiments developed by physicists, past and present.

Regardless of Susskind's accessibility and storytelling method of explaining complex thought, there were still eleme
Anthony Tenaglier
I have always enjoyed Susskind and his writing style. Despite his arrogance (which he also explicitly states in this book) which sometimes distracts me from the read, he makes excellent analogies as to illustrate the basic principles of what I will call "higher level" physics. I would rather see him "show" and not "tell" us of his innovative ideas that went against the great Stephen Hawking.

He makes a great claim as to the information that can escape from a black hole, with the use of strings h
After reading this book, i can truly say that i have found my Guru Dronacharya. Throughout the reading of the book it was almost as if, Leonard sir was near me prodding me with his words to understand the world in a much simpler and better manner.

Synopsis: This book is all about a statement by Stephen Hawkings that once any information/thing enters a black hole it lost for ever. Leonard was furious as to how is it possible and works proves that he is right and not that the other person is wrong!
Greg Talbot
Imbued with personality and charm, Susskind's "Black Hole War" shows how little and much we understand about black holes. Quoting Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Susskind shows readers just how tenuous our firm knowledge can be, and how the differing opinions on black holes was waged and won.

The book delivers on a number of fronts. As a reader without a strong physics background, I found the elemental physics parts riveting, but often lost when Susskind makes the leaps
1. I chose this book because I have always had great interest in theoretical physics, and this was a great event in the world of science that changed the way we though about the universe, by explaining what happens to an object that falls into a black hole, and validates the law of conservation of information.
2. This book recalls the "war" between physicists that took place in the late 1900's. On one side, Stephen Hawking, who believed that an object that falls into a black hole is destroyed, vi
The author is incredibly full of himself, but a worthwhile overview

Even though I already have 6 books going, and a book club deadline bearing down, the need to read this grew out of a late night discussion with KKB when all we had was wikipedia and a National Geographic article for reference.
Rich Baker
I loved this book! But it's not for everyone. It's a great read and you'll learn a lot, but it's some heavy shit to follow sometimes. In one chapter he explains how the universe is potentially a hologram. I was able to follow most of it mainly because I've read many articles and listened to many podcasts trying to explain that concept before. And even I don't think I got all of it.

The book is about a disagreement about an unproven scientific concept about black holes, mainly whether they break
Jonathan  McGaha
The biggest take-away I had from this book, in addition to expanding my awareness of exactly how poorly I understand the String Theory notion of course, is the insight into the world of physicists themselves more than the physics which they study. It's fascinating to see how the egos of physicists clash and create interesting interactions between them. No delusions of the dispassionate, stodgy scientist can be maintained while reading this book: these are vibrant, hard-headed, and harmlessly arr ...more
Shamik Ghosh
One word to describe this book: PROFOUND.
Written by one of the modern day stalwarts of Physics, The Black Hole War is Susskind's first hand account of the intellectual argument between him and Stephen Hawking. Susskind's calm and informal style with his clear thinking shines through the book as he presents some of the deepest concepts of core physics in a way that is accessible to even a layman. This book is made even more enjoyable by Susskind's style of writing. Unlike other famous author like
Orville Jenkins
A fascinating recounting of the various Quantum theories attempting to account for the phenomena associated with Black Holes. Susskind provides a historical perspective as well as summing up the varieties of approach to the problem. I especially appreciated the good detailing of String Theory, which I was only vaguely familiar with.

He provides actual mathematical formulae and their variations that illustrate the problems and approaches he is discussing to a solution to the lose ends existing in
Jeff Landry
Very good book on string theory and quantum mechanics. Susskind is witty, and his anecdotal approach to framing his professional disagreement with Hawking provided a smooth, accessible forum for the science. It sort of lost me at the end, once he got into the nitty gritty of the Holographic Principle and Quantum Chromodynamics, but its an inherent problem with a books that try to stay away from being overloaded with math. The math is too hard for people like me to understand, but the concepts ar ...more
Michael Mangold
An intermediate-level presentation of the disagreement between Leonard Susskind and Stephen Hawking over whether information is lost inside black holes, with particular emphasis on the new discoveries that were made while wrestling with the conundrum. Primary among these is the holographic principle, which reveals the universe as a hologram.

I learned more physics from this book than any I've read previously, but as a layman much of the material was still far above my ability. One thing is clear-
Faust Mephisto
A wonderfully written book. I read it again after watching the movie "Interstellar", which popularizes wormholes and black holes but skips over the Holographic Principle, the focus of this book. Stories and debates surrounding the physical concepts of black holes are enjoyably narrated by Susskind as well as how he and t'Hooft came up with the Holographic Principle. He also has the best visual metaphors I've ever seen to explain string theory. Personal stories with his fellow physicists, some wi ...more
I'm glad Susskind won the war. Holographic principle is mind-boggling.
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Leonard Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University. His research interests include string theory, quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics and quantum cosmology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an associate member of the faculty of Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Phys ...more
More about Leonard Susskind...
The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics (Theoretical Minimum #1) Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum (Theoretical Minimum #2) An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe El paisaje cósmico: Teoría de cuerdas y el mito del diseño inteligente

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“There is a philosophy that says that if something is unobservable -- unobservable in principle -- it is not part of science. If there is no way to falsify or confirm a hypothesis, it belongs to the realm of metaphysical speculation, together with astrology and spiritualism. By that standard, most of the universe has no scientific reality -- it's just a figment of our imaginations.” 46 likes
“There is so much to groak; So little to groak from.” 7 likes
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