Part science writing and part memoir, this adventurous fact-finding romp takes readers across the landscape of ideas about the universe, calling on the expertise of the biggest names in science—and also the author's lifelong partner in her pursuit of the meaning of everything: her father.
Gefter, an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow and founding editor of CultureLab at New Scientist, is a crafty storyteller and journalist; she describes how she jump-started her career by crashing physics conferences and faking her way into interviews with world-famous physicists. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity about how the universe could be at once governed by the laws of cosmology (which define large-scale properties of the universe) and also by the laws of quantum mechanics (which define the behavior of microscopic particles), the author embarked on a scientific scavenger hunt while chasing leads across time and space. Gefter makes even the most esoteric concepts—and there are a lot of them in this book—lucid and approachable. From string theory to the multiverse to the holographic principle, the author's exuberance for physics and the possibility that cutting-edge theories may lead to a new understanding of "reality" is evident in her passionate prose. Underlying the joys of scientific pursuit is the author's formative relationship with her father, who first asked the big question—"How would you define nothing?"—that inspired her yearslong quest to define how "nothing" and "everything" can be explained by the forces that govern the universe. What she discovered about the new frontier of quantum cosmology and the importance of the role of the individual observer is astonishing and awesome, and Gefter's book is a useful presentation of this thrilling ontological shift for a general audience.
Beautifully written and hugely entertaining, this book is a heartfelt introduction to the many mind-bending theories in contemporary physics.