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The Little Book of String Theory

(Science Essentials)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  780 ratings  ·  82 reviews
The Little Book of String Theory offers a short, accessible, and entertaining introduction to one of the most talked-about areas of physics today. String theory has been called the "theory of everything." It seeks to describe all the fundamental forces of nature. It encompasses gravity and quantum mechanics in one unifying theory. But it is unproven and fraught with contro ...more
Hardcover, 174 pages
Published March 18th 2010 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Dec 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Could not finish

In a 150 page book for laymen,you should not be able to get your audience to the point the they can understand sentences like "...D5-branes are exchanged with solitonic 5-branes, and D3-branes are unaffected by the duality..."

Actually, you should never write sentences like that. Real articles don't even say things like that. If they do, then it is something like "GiantEquation... where the variables XYZ are exchanged to form GiantEquation..."

This dude somehow thought he just tran
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
An incredibly well-written book on ST. Makes difficult things look easy via routine use of mind-experiments.

I can imagine that for readers with aphantasia this might prove to be a chore, so they might want to skip it altogether. The ones who live to love imagining quirky stuff would benefit from it greatly.
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a mystery. "The Little Book of String Theory" occupies a strange space: not accessible enough to be a true introduction, yet not technical enough to be more than a primer for those with more familiarity with the topic. It is therefore an admirable attempt, with enough successes to invite a second read after a period of digesting its contents, but enough failures to keep it from easy recommendation.

Gubser's writing style is strangely conversational and inviting, clearly aiming at the
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics
An introduction to string theory

This book starts with a brief introduction to the basic laws of physics, and the search for an ultimate theory to explain the physical reality. When the author starts describing the string theory, things get complicated. The reader must bear in mind that this is not an easy field to appreciate since it involves multi-dimensions of space and one time dimension; string theory has 26 dimensions, and superstring theory has 10 dimensions. Besides this, the fundamental
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
this book had so much potential! too bad the narrative was bogged down by the lengthy analogies and the authors self inserts. any insightful thoughts were buried within the long-winded descriptions of equations, that could have easily been better represented numerically. not a book for me.

at least the cover is nice!

mikayla bree
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like physics
I enjoy the Gubser's narration, and the content of the book engrosses me. However, I've reached a point in this novel where I can't fully understand everything and will most likely revisit this at a later date when I'm further along in school. ...more
Fuzzball Baggins
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
It was interesting, but it would've been better without so many unnecessary analogies. Especially the ones where the author went on a wild tangent in order to find some excuse to show off about his rock climbing abilities. 'One time, I was rock climbing this really hard mountain, and it was super cool and I'm awesome and a really good rock climber' - this goes on for like three pages - 'and in a way, rock climbing reminds me of gluons...' and then there's a dumb one-line analogy about particle p ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
A marvelous and incredibly detailed introduction for science literate audiences on the horizons of string theory in theoretical physics. While I did enjoy this I also found the ideas around string theory to be challenging, which it is even for physicists, but I recognize that this is better suited for those who have some more advanced understanding of physics including quantum mechanics and black holes, of which I only know a little about them and almost nothing of their mathematics. I congratul ...more
Steve Chisnell
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Like several other reviewers, I found the density of the information here, at times, quite off-putting. Other writers of science (Covelli, Hawking, Gould) manage to make their thinking more accessible. Gubser has so long retreated into his field that he does not understand what it means to re-emerge. (His use of exclamation marks, for instance, show his passion for the comparative mass of different sub-atomic particles, and I suppose I'm expected to share that excitement . . . .)

That aside, the
Mac n cheese
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gubser does a fine job of explaining most of the concepts covered in this book, notably supersymmetry, but had a harder time with string theory itself, though that has more to do with how abstract and unintuitive string theory is. He does unfortunately repeatedly use weird or inappropriate analogies, and his repeated misspellings of "Fantaisie impromptu" irrationally annoyed me.

As a side note - his climbing/mountaineering analogies feel eerie and prophetic after his tragic, untimely death
Louise Dexter
Mar 08, 2021 rated it liked it
I would have to say this book was in my opinion not the best introduction to string theory.

Coming from a physics perspective, it seemed like too much was trying to be explained in too brief a time with not enough depth?

I also feel due to how fleetingly the tops are explored it wouldn't be good for someone without a science background, even though it is lacking 'scary' equations.

Overall, it is what it is, a little book on string theory, now I want to find one that really goes in depth on these to
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Somehow, a book about string theory made me really doubt the whole field... The explanations are poorly written, and often leave the reader more confused than enlightened. The numerous analogies for the layman are both not able to encapsulate the problem well, and are tediously long. However, the underlying theoretical ideas are none the less fascinating.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Well, I guess the Gubser method of instruction does not work too well on me.

Having finished a beautiful, elegant popular-level explanation of the main competing quantum gravity theory to strings - LQG - I wanted to be fair and look (once again) into what the deal is with those damn strings and whether anything worthwhile has been dug up recently. However, not wanting to waste too much time on a theory I’m not sure I buy, I decided to go with this, well, little book on string theory.

It, however,
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not easy to understand if you do not have a science background. However if you do you won’t be disappointed with this purchase as the author does an amazing job of describing string theory in layman’s terms.
Lauren Dill
Mar 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
The book The Little Book of String Theory by Steven S. Gubser is a good book to read for someone who already has a basic understanding of the concept of String Theory to gain more knowledge about the subject. Although writing is clearly not Steven S. Gubser's strong suit, theoretical physics certainly is. The Little Book of String Theory is lacking in the sense of high quality writing that engages the reader, but is plentiful in well researched information pertaining to M-Theory and Super String ...more
Bogdan Kulinich
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
That's a highly recommended book for all the weirdos interested in string theory. First of all, it is really little. So that when you've decided that enough is enough, you will be reading the last page. Second, it is written in a real english and not in its poor imitation as is often the case with the most non-fiction books written by scientists for lay people community. There are a lot of funny stories taken from the authors life woven into the main theme of physics and mathematics of strings. ...more
Kieran Wood
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
Good book, it realy ramps up from chapter 4 onward. Sometimes the work is hard to tell which theory he is discussing, and keeping track of that is somewhat difficult. It would have been better to dedicate either whole chapters, or sections to different theories to help keep it straight. All in all a good book, although because it was published in 2010 it would be interesting to see the advances in the field since then.
Jess Davis
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a pre-LHC read so is slightly out of date. You may need a physics background to not be phased by the second half of this book, but I'm so impressed at how such a high level topic has been so well-explained by the author! You're not going to come out of this book an expert - that would be silly to assume after one book - you will instead come out with a vague idea of what on Earth string theory is about, which is a win to me! ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not for beginners but for individuals already in the field. This book is good in my opinion for college students in the subject area looking for a more main stream direct way of understanding the material.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
Another popular science attempt that they had no idea what to do with.
John Micallef
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Good information, poorly written. The interesting parts of the book were heavily bogged down by myriads of unnecessary analogies.
Henry Sloan
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People with a bit of particle physics background
Bottom line: Coming in with cursory knowledge of particle physics, expect for your answer to the question "Do you know about {insert string theory concept here}?" to go from "no" to "yes, I'm familiar". Do not, however, expect to give any "yes"'s.

This book is a solid, unassuming introduction to string theory and elementary quantum/particle physics. I began reading this book with an intermediate non-academic understanding of quantum mechanics (years of googling and Sixty Symbols, barely any math
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
In many ways, I appear to be the ideal audience for this book. I'm college educated, but not in physics. Therefore, educated enough to grapple with method and difficult subjects, but ignorant enough about physics itself that the book should make for a helpful primer. I've even engaged with physics through other books and helpful videos, so I had some idea of the overriding concepts. And still, there was much about this book that made little to no sense. The first 60 or so pages were extremely he ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m not quite sure how to feel about this book. The biggest thing I took away from it is that maths is very, VERY important when describing string theory. And the book contained almost no maths at all.

In a lot of other reviews, people have said that the book was very bogged down in analogies, and that it was a poorly written account about good content. I would slightly disagree with that - I guess it depends on whether you get on well with analogies or not, as I found them extremely useful, esp
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, science
An informal and elegant story-telling of String theory for non-technical readers (zero math required). The book covers very very basic ideas in modern Physics, String theory, Particles Physics, their relationship and the struggle of String theory for experimental verification.

My strongest impression about the book is its elegance, which probably is owing to the author's personality. It's extremely difficult to talk about least accessible topics like String theory in such a short book, but Steven
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
The little book of string theory is an interesting attempt, caught between making itself understood, and not making itself too dense. I have somewhat of an underpinning of quantum mechanics and related fields from my degree. I found that when I already knew the topic, the explanations seemed very clear and well put together and even drew a chuckle or two from me (sparticle is honestly one of my favourite words).
Unfortunately, when the topic was unfamiliar to me, it was very easy to lose the thre
Mike Jiang
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is not a beginner's guide to string theory

If you are a grad student in physics or someone who already knows the fundamentals of string theory, ignore this comment, this book will be a very enjoyable read. But if you're new to the world of string theory or perhaps even the world of physics, you will have a hard time comprehending the concepts in this book. The author has done reasonably well at keeping mathematical equations out of this book, but you simply cannot expect a 200-page book
Suramrit Singh
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
To paraphrase Brian Greene, its not clear whether String Theorists are just being smart in trying to fit experimental data onto their theories or if String theory is indeed an actual theory of everything.

The author seems to be in a category of former. There are sections which were lucid clear but some that are just about comprehensible from a lay perspective.

Personally, statements like 'but I wont try to explain them completely' seems to emphasize authors insistence on the elegance of string t
May 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I really wanted to like this book. I really wish I was smart enough to understand this book. This book went way over my head but there were still pieces that were interesting and it definitely increased my curiosity (that's a success, right?). I wish he would've broken it down more simply (is that even possible?). I envy all the people that read this book and understood it completely. Envy! Oh, if there's someone that can explain branes to me, that'd be great 😬 ...more
Pavan Dharanipragada
Dec 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I agree almost word-to-word with the other critical reviews of this book on here. This book is neither enlightening, not entertaining.
I got no sense of why string theory is supposed to be beautiful, or even what problems it is attempting to solve and why no other theory is as good a candidate as string theory to solve those problems. Nor did I get a sense of why it is not successful yet, except that it is really difficult to make a pop science book out of.
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Steven Scott Gubser (May 4, 1972 – August 3, 2019) was a professor of physics at Princeton University.
His research focused on theoretical particle physics, especially string theory, and the AdS/CFT correspondence. He was a widely cited scholar in these and other related areas.
Gubser did foundational work in the AdS/CFT correspondence as a graduate student. In particular, his 1998 paper Gauge Theor

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