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The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  530 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Our understanding of nature’s deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past twenty-five years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. He calls it “ ...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Basic Books (first published August 25th 2008)
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This book is not my favorite type.It's about something that I am not interest in.The view is such rubbish.Though lots of professors write some good comment about,I don't liike it too.The comments about the book are so empty and white.It's not worth to get the nobel price in physics.What the hell!!
Physics is a dismal science. It does not have the authority of economics. I remember being told “what goes up must go down”. This, patently, is not true. Look at rockets.
Absolutely terrific and definitely in my top three science favorites. Wilczek delves further into modern physics than any other "popular" physics book out there without tip-toeing around the more complicated topics.

He describes particle theory and the Standard Model better than Leon Lederman, relativity better than Brian Greene, gravity better than Stephen Hawking, and QCD better than... well, no one tries to explain QCD.

He did do a few things that bothered me a little though. On occasion, Wilc
Review originally posted at My Bookshelf is Ready.

I liked it. There were jokes sprinkled throughout that had me chuckling, but there was also a bit too much math in it. It went from a conversational tone to a lecture with formulas taking up a good portion of page space and making my eyes cross.

I think this is why we have such a disparity right now in our STEM programs: it isn’t approachable to the masses. Maybe since most of these books are written by right-brained individuals, they aren’t writt
Brian Clegg
I need to start this review with two clarifications and a proviso. The first clarification is that this quite an old book (2008), but someone just brought it to my attention. The second clarification is about the book's title. It's not about 'The lightness of being Frank Wilczek', that's just an unfortunate choice of title. The proviso is about the four star rating. This, to me, is a very mixed book. It does two things brilliantly, and quite a lot of other things not very well. If you are intere ...more
As an expert writing for laypersons, Frank does well. He includes humor and good metaphors to help the layperson understand a world beyond our perceptions and which stretches our understanding--for instance he makes 32 dimensions sound fairly reasonable and shows why Quantum Theory is so persuasive. However, he seems to think that saying when he'll tackle particularly thorny issues later in the book excuses him from connecting all the many and convoluted dots for his non-physicist readers (who s ...more
Zach Augustine
A strange sort of science book.

It has almost no appeal to non-scientifically minded people so I'm curious why Wilczek makes an attempt to limit the jargon and simplify his explanations to the point where they don't give the full picture. In the places where he does trust the reader and explain, it's not very good and overly complicated.

Thus we have the worst qualities of what is meant to be an informative book on his corner of science. The tone is also just bizarre and even sort of awkward.

Bojan Tunguz
One of the most important scientific stories of 2008 has been the calculation of the heavy particle masses ("hadrons") using some of the most elaborate computational methods yet. This has been yet another vindication of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), a strange theory that governs the interactions of particles that make up atomic nuclei. This theory is a cousin of electromagnetism, and like the theory of electromagnetism it is deceptively easy to formulate (at least with the aid of some higher mat ...more
A must read for anyone intrigued by the ultimate make up and signifcance of all that is real. I finished reading this on July 4, 2012 as the probable verification of the existence of the Higgs Bosom (the "God" particle [originally the "god dammed particle"]) was being announced. In many ways, the entire book looked forward to this day. This is only the beginning.
The work consists of three parts, "The Origin of Mass", "The Feebleness of Gravity", and "Is Beauty Truth?".
Wilczek, a winner of the No
The Lightness of Being, by Frank Wilczek. Basic Books, 2008. Note: I am also posting (probably several times) about this book and others like it on Gyre&Gimble.

This book is an exposition for the layman of the modern theory of particle physics – the Standard Model, Supersymmetry and other possible extensions. I recommend it for anyone interested in the subject.

This book and Symmetry and the Monster are examples of the modern trend in science expository writing, using metaphors, anecdotes, g
It has always upset me that I was not able to become a poet. I have the hair, the looks and the personality, but it never worked out for me. This book certainly wasn’t written by a poet. Instead, it was written by a hater; a man who only has hate in his life. I guess you can see that in the choice of colour for the book cover. It’s dark, just like the author’s sole.When the author is a childern His mother was died.He was born in an unhappy family His
Koen Crolla
Frank Wilczek tries to explain why things have mass, and why gravity is so phenomenally weak.
I think this is the first popular physics book I've read that focused explicitly on quantum chromodynamics; many others mention that there is such a thing as colour charge, but neglect to go into where it came from. Wilczek manages to explain why it exists and what it means on a very visceral level, doing for QCD what Feynman did for QED, only more successfully.
Like most popular science writers, he's ave
A difficult book to rate. For a physicist familiar with QFT it offers some unique interpretations of some of the stickier issues in QFT. This is the only book intended for a popular audience that I've read that tries to explain QFT. It's also the only popular book I've read that writes down spin states in bra-ket notation.

Wilczek does have the annoying habit of making up his own names for things. The term"ultrastroboscopic nanomicroscope" for the Stanford Linear Accelerator is the most annoying.
Disclaimer: I love theoretical physics and I was an undergrad physics major. That being said, I loved this book. Wilczek does a wonderful job of explaining a very complex topic- physics almost exclusively explored by PhD's in Physics or those pursuing PhD's. His genius is evident in his work and his ability to explain his studies clearly. While there are many topics Wilczek discussed that I do not understand fully (and probably couldn't without seeing the mathematics involved), I feel I have a m ...more
This book reminds me of my first day at school. On my first day at school I met Vix. Vix was and still is everything I want in my life. There was something about her
An enjoyable read, but while it seems as though it was written for laypeople, with a casual approach, and sometimes light-hearted remarks, it also goes right into the thorny thick of things with very little briefing or background information. I've read at least a half-dozen books on this general topic, and although Physics is certainly not my field (I'm an English literature/arts person), I learned quite a bit from reading books by Lisa Randall, Brian Greene, etc. I always felt, in those books, ...more
Robert Vlach
Protože mě zajímá moderní fyzika v nezkresleném podání, velmi mě potěšila kniha The Lightness of Being. Česky vyšla jako Lehkost bytí a napsal ji nobelový fyzik Frank Wilczek, kterého mi nedávno doporučoval Petr Koubský v diskusi o Feynmanovi. Název odkazuje na Kunderu, ale text je vysoce technický a blízký jiným vědcům jako David Deutsch (Beginning of Infinity) či Stephen Hawking (Velkolepý plán). Wilczek píše především o podstatě hmoty a gravitace, přičemž čtenáře rozhodně nešetří detailů. Kni ...more
Although written in a "clear and concise" manner it still didn't make much sense to me.Its probably fine if your IQ is 150+ but to my average IQ it was, in a sense, easy to read but hard to understand.It did enlighten me on a few subjects and it did get me to understand that some particles get their mass through field disturbance,but Frank Wilczek is certainly no Brian Greene or Paul Davies as far as his abilities to elucidate through analogy go.
Blake Kanewischer
This book far exceeded the limits of my physics understanding, even though it was written for laypeople. The upshot of it is that Newton, Einstein, and Planck all came up with part of the puzzle, but people like Feynman and Wilczek have decided that it's actually a whole new puzzle! It's worth a read, if only for the completely knotted feeling you'll get in your brain when you're done!
Nick Gotch
Dr. Wilczek's tale of the subnuclear is one of the more thorough while still avoiding too much rehashing of the same old stories you find in most physics books on the same subject area. He does well in mixing in some layman's imagery and analogy but not to the extent it out does the subject he's trying to explain.

The material, while significant effort was taken to reduce the mathematics and abstractness, is still pretty technical. I have some background training in physics and I'll still need at
David Wiley
This book is awesome! Wilczek has a great, understandable way of explaining recent advances toward unification. Fabulous read for the armchair theoretical physicist.
If I had to describe this book in one sentence it would be: Wilczek does for QCD what Feynman did for QED. A very pleasant and interesting read.
Matthew Dambro
Dr. Wilczek's volume is wonderful. For a non scientist like myself, he leads me by the hand through the hallways of the finest minds in physics. I appreciated every step of the journey. He does not oversimplify. He explains as well as he can and shows you the basic mathematics behind the statements. His knowledge is encyclopedic but not pedantic. He dismisses superstring theory quite rightly. He is honest when he (or anyone else) doesn't know the answer. He does not treat the reader as a child b ...more
Brad VanAuken
I am not a physicist but I have been fascinated by cosmology, general relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, multi-dimensional theories, black holes, grand unified theory (GUT), etc. since my college days in the mid-to-late seventies. I have read many books on these topics and many are very difficult reads given that I am not grounded in the advanced mathematical models and approaches that underpin the theories. Having said that, this book is a very easy read for the layman (as easy as a ...more
Slap Happy
About eighty pages in, I made the decision to shelve it.

The last book I read on science-y things I said that the topics and the information was too familair. I was bored half the time because the information was redundant for me. The topics touched on things I loved but I wasn't learning anything new.

So, I grabbed this book here. It kicked my ass. Not familair with the topic (sixty pages in leads to the author's theory about the Grid) and definitely unfamilair with the information contained with
This was a bit of a primer for me; I'd not been aware of the specifics of particle physics and field theory(s) prior.

That being the case, this might've been a better read had I more of a history with some of the material. As it stands, the book did prompt me more than once to Wikipedia and other relevant resources.

Wilczek here tries to infuse the "Grid" and a theoretical unification of forces with a romance that's forced. When he does romanticize the science his language becomes stilted and obv
Mike Mcdonald
Frank Wilczek is a noble prize winning physicist. (Discovered asymptotic freedom). In this book he goes over some basic particle physics concepts as well as the current state of the field in a casual readable style. The key fact/insight that stands out for me was his answer to why gravity is so weak compared to the other forces.. I won't spoil the answer for anyone.
This book would blow my father's mind. Having finished it, I still believe so. It's a very dense subject, of course, but one on which there have been quite a few books for the layman. As such a book, this one is pretty dense. There were bits that caused my eyes to glaze. Nevertheless I thought he did a great job of explaining certain things - a better job of explaining quarks and how we can "look" at them, and what exactly "looking" at a quark means, than any other book I've read.

The whole dark
This book is an insult to humanity. I remind my childhood and my happy days.It make me cry .I like it very much. It very helpful for me. It exactly tell me the what human is. The man have nose, eyes, mouth, legs, arms ,hands and feet.It is a very fantastic book.I say that sentence again ,I like it very much.
Aravind Ingalalli
Particle physics is an amazing saga which has been explained in the book in so simple way so as to any average man can conceive the real physical world which is way beyond the experience to his naked senses in routine life. Though he throughs some sofesticated unquenchable concepts on unification, it is not so convincing unless it is experimentally proven. Yeah, I'm kind of not that happy with the prettiest pebble and I'm waiting for the day when all the secrets of the nature are revealed, and t ...more
So far so good! A witty style, very captivating.
I ended up highlighting about 3/4 of the book, that's how essential it is.
Although mass is not directly correlated to the Higgs mechanism, Wilczek hints at it through concepts he invents: The Grid and The Core to describe the strata of fields and the standard model, respectively. He is also very funny with makes the reading much more enjoyable.
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