Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What I'm Reading Now: The Black Hole War

You wouldn't think a book about black holes and quantum mechanics would make me laugh. But it has. Regularly. 

by Leonard Susskind

Take this tidbit, for example:

p. 147  ". . . deep holes in space whose gravitational attraction is irresistible. Wheeler (John Archibald Wheeler) began calling them black holes. At first the name was blackballed by the preeminent American physics journal Physical Review. [...] the term black hole was deemed obscene!" 

I also liked his description of running 15 miles on a freezing day in Manhattan, until there were "icicles of sweat hanging from my long hair," and then being rescued by a fellow physicist in a taxi, who whisks him to Yeshiva University where he endures a debate about toilet paper and Talmudic law in the cafeteria before walking in late to a lecture about Stephen Hawking's latest breakthrough.  

I'm also loving Einstein as a role model for novelists. Yup. That man was the master of taking a very simple thought experiment and following it out to the most far-reaching conclusions. And tell me, isn't that just what an excellent novel should do? Have a clear premise and then astound and amaze you with how it all plays out? 


  1. This sounds like just the thing to read when I don't want to read about writing (or to read for the writing, or for research).

    You familiar with Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman? Fewer than 200 (small) pages, and wonderful. When I checked just now, it had 213 reviews on Amazon and averaged around 4-1/2 of 5 stars. Yikes. :)

  2. Thanks for the book rec, JES. I'll have to check that out. Sounds like it has a cult following. :)

    I have to vary my reading, especially when I'm writing intensely. I can't read only fiction---fiction sucks me down and I want to do nothing BUT read. Non-fiction is easier, because I can dip in and out, and also because it gives me interesting ideas to use in my writing---forcing me to think outside the box (to use a tired expression.)


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