Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire: The Biggest Ideas in Science from Quanta

Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire: The Biggest Ideas in Science from Quanta


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Accessible and essential coverage of today's challenging, speculative, cutting-edge science from Quanta Magazine.

If you're a science and data nerd like me, you may be interested in "Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire" and "The Prime Number Conspiracy" from Quanta Magazine and Thomas Lin. - Bill Gates

These stories reveal the latest efforts to untangle the mysteries of the universe. Bringing together the best and most interesting science stories appearing in Quanta Magazine over the past five years, Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire reports on some of the greatest scientific minds as they test the limits of human knowledge. Quanta, under editor-in-chief Thomas Lin, is the only popular publication that offers in-depth coverage of today's challenging, speculative, cutting-edge science. It communicates science by taking it seriously, wrestling with difficult concepts and clearly explaining them in a way that speaks to our innate curiosity about our world and ourselves.

In the title story, Alice and Bob—beloved characters of various thought experiments in physics—grapple with gravitational forces, possible spaghettification, and a massive wall of fire as Alice jumps into a black hole. Another story considers whether the universe is impossible, in light of experimental results at the Large Hadron Collider. We learn about quantum reality and the mystery of quantum entanglement; explore the source of time's arrow; and witness a eureka moment when a quantum physicist exclaims: “Finally, we can understand why a cup of coffee equilibrates in a room.” We reflect on humans' enormous skulls and the Brain Boom; consider the evolutionary benefits of loneliness; peel back the layers of the newest artificial-intelligence algorithms; follow the “battle for the heart and soul of physics”; and mourn the disappearance of the “diphoton bump,” revealed to be a statistical fluctuation rather than a revolutionary new particle. These stories from Quanta give us a front-row seat to scientific discovery.

Philip Ball, K. C. Cole, Robbert Dijkgraaf, Dan Falk, Courtney Humphries, Ferris Jabr, Katia Moskvitch, George Musser, Michael Nielsen, Jennifer Ouellette, John Pavlus, Emily Singer, Andreas von Bubnoff, Frank Wilczek, Natalie Wolchover, Carl Zimmer

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262536349
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 11/20/2018
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 199,127
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas Lin is the founding editor-in-chief of Quanta Magazine, an online publication that reports on developments in science and mathematics, with content syndicated in publications such as WiredThe Atlantic, Scientific American and The Washington Post. Lin previously worked for The New York Times, where he edited online features and wrote about science, technology and tennis. He has also written for Quanta, The New YorkerTennis, and other publications.

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Caltech and the author of popular science books, including The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself.

Table of Contents

Foreword Sean Carroll xi

Introduction Thomas Lin xvii

I Why Doesn't Our Universe Make Sense?

Is Nature Unnatural? Natalie Wolchover 3

Alice And Bob Meet The Wall Of Fire Jennifer Ouellette 9

Wormholes Untangle A Black Hole Paradox K. C. Cole 15

How Quantum Pairs Stitch Space-Time Jennifer Ouellette 21

In A Multiverse, What Are The Odds? Natalie Wolchover 27

Multiverse Collisions May Dot The Sky Jennifer Ouellette 35

How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space Frank Wilczek 43

II What Is Quantum Reality, Really?

A Jewel At The Heart Of Quantum Physics Natalie Wolchover 53

New Support For Alternative Quantum View Dan Falk 61

Entanglement Made Simple Frank Wilczek 67

Quantum Theory Rebuilt From Simple Physical Principles Philip Ball 75

III What Is Time?

Time's Arrow Traces To Quantum Source Natalie Wolchover 87

Quantum Weirdness Now A Matter Of Time George Musser 93

A Debate Over The Physics Of Time Dan Falk 101

IV What Is Life?

A New Physics Theory Of Life Natalie Wolchover 111

How Life (And Death) Spring From Disorder Philip Ball 117

In Newly Created Life-Form, A Major Mystery Emily Singer 127

Break Through DNA Editor Born Of Bacteria Carl Zimmer 131

New Letters Added To The Genetic Alphabet Emily Singer 139

The Surprising Origins Of Life's Complexity Carl Zimmer 145

Ancient Survivors Could Redefine Sex Emily Singer 153

Did Neurons Evolve Twice? Emily Singer 159

V What Makes Us Human?

How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains Ferris Jabr 167

New Evidence For The Necessity Of Loneliness Emily Singer 177

How Neanderthal DNA Helps Humanity Emily Singer 183

The Neuroscience Behind Bad Decisions Emily Singer 189

Infant Brains Reveal How The Mind Gets Built Courtney Humphries 195

VI How Do Machines Learn?

Is Alphago Really Such A Big Deal? Michael Nielsen 203

New Theory Cracks Open The Black Box Of Deep Learning Natalie Wolchover 209

A Brain Built From Atomic Switches Can Learn Andreas von Bubnoff 217

Clever Machines Learn How To Be Curious John Pavlus 223

VII How Will We Learn More?

Gravitational Waves Discovered At Long Last Natalie Wolchover 233

Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story Of Stars Natalie Wolchover 239

Neutron-Star Collision Shakes Space-Time And Lights Up The Sky Katia Moskvitch 245

VIII Where Do We Go From Here?

What No New Particles Means For Physics Natalie Wolchover 253

To Solve The Biggest Mystery In Physics. Join Two Kinds Of Law Robbert Dijkgraaf 259

The Strange Second Life Of String Theory K. C Cole 263

A Fight For The Soul Of Science Natalie Wolchover 271

Acknowledgments 281

Contributors 283

Notes 287

Index 303

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire takes the reader on one fascinating adventure, an exploration of the universe with all its mystery and wonder and starlit dazzle, told by some of the best science writers working today.

Deborah Blum , Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist and author of The Poison Squad

This collection of beautifully written articles introduces, in a manner accessible to all, some of the most exciting ideas being contemplated as we search for answers to the profound mysteries at the frontiers of science.

David Gross , Nobel Prize–winning physicist

I'm thrilled to have this collection in physical form—a thoughtfully curated compilation that reflects Quanta 's depth and breadth, from wild abstractions to the human-centric. This book is an absolute pleasure. I cannot wait to share.

Janna Levin , Barnard/Columbia astrophysicist and author of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space

This collection of thought-provoking missives from the front lines of scientific research—across several fields—is essential reading, and should have pride of place on any bookshelf or nightstand.

Clifford Johnson , Professor of Physics at the University of Southern California and author of The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe

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