An important work about an ongoing quest that may befuddle those without a solid grounding in its scientific concepts.



An expert account of the search for “the holy grail of physics." A veteran science writer, theoretical physicist, and lucid educator, Kaku wisely begins with ancient history, providing an illuminating minihistory of physics. Aristotle got science off on the wrong foot by proclaiming that everything in the universe has a purpose. Thus, objects fall because they yearn to unite with the Earth. Newton restored some order, mostly by taking metaphysics out of physics, and he contributed vital theories of gravity, motion, space, and light. Electromagnetism was a puzzle until the 19th century, when Faraday and Maxwell explained it. The 20th century began with Einstein’s theory of relativity, an unnerving but mathematically precise description of space, time, and gravity as it applies to the universe we experience. During the following decades, scientists fleshed out quantum theory, which illuminated the three other forms of energy besides gravity (electromagnetism, strong and weak force), and added a more unnerving but equally precise description of matter and forces at the subatomic level. The 1970s saw the first attempt at a theory of everything with the “standard model,” a dazzling achievement but still a flawed “patchwork.” Kaku shows why efforts to fix the standard model have failed so far and why the leading candidate is string theory. Saving the bad news till last, the author reaches strings in the final quarter of the book, and he communicates his enthusiasm more effectively than the mechanics of the theory, which propose that subatomic particles are not points but tiny loops whose vibrations produce all physical phenomena. Converting particles to strings was a good idea (physicists hate infinities), and string vibrations produce all forces, including gravity. Sadly, strings are infinitesimally (but not infinitely) small, and their vibrations, describable by complex math, don’t produce phenomena that scientists can test. Although a brilliant idea, no concrete evidence exists for the theory. An important work about an ongoing quest that may befuddle those without a solid grounding in its scientific concepts.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54274-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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