“A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertainty” answers the sorts of the questions that we (as physicists) have been drunkenly asked at cocktail parties, but lacked the wherewithal to coherently answer.
- “Can I build a time machine?”
- “What is the universe expanding into?”
- “Won’t the LHC destroy the world?”
Each chapter focuses on a single question, and in the process of answering it, we’ll take you on a roundabout tour of the surrounding countryside, with lots of groan-worthy puns and awesome cartoons to boot. In the process, we promise not to lie to you. No false claims about what physicists know; no describing by analogy; most importantly, no equations (save one famous one).
Dave Goldberg has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Princeton University, and is currently an Associate Professor in the Drexel University Department of Physics and Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He has published more than 20 papers in theoretical and observational cosmology.
Jeff Blomquist earned his Master’s degree in Physics from Drexel University in 2008. He is also the recipient of 2007 award for TA Excellence. He has published comics, pictures, and prose in “The Pioneer Review”, “The Dome”, and “The Astrophysical Journal.”
What People are Saying
What a delightful book! It pulls no punches-or punch lines-in explaining all the fun topics in physics and cosmology. From quarks to quasars, from electrons to extraterrestrials-it’s all here. Whether you are interested in how to build a time machine or a transporter, or would like to know why curiosity killed Schrödinger’s Cat, you will find clear and memorably illustrated explanations. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the recent exciting developments in physics and astronomy.
–J. Richard Gott, Professor of Astrophysics, Princeton University, and
author of Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe
I wish I’d had Goldberg and Blomquist as my physics teachers. Strangelets that grow until they strangle the world! Instructions for building an awesome teleportation device, and then transforming it into a super-awesome time machine! Speculations on the odds against our own existence! (And even deeper speculations on being in two places at once!) I’m going to recommend this book to my students, who are science journalists–and to any and all readers who want to have more fun in the universe.
— Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch
- 11/19/09 – “Dr. Goldberg’s User’s Guide to the Universe” — by Maia Livengood of Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences ASK magazine.
- 11/20/09 – “Studio 360: The Science and Fiction of Time Travel” — by Ellen Wright of tor.com.
- 3/11/10 – “A User’s Guide to the Universe” — by Susan Quinn at Ink Spells. We quote:
I NEEDED to own this book (and NOT as an e-book, mind you, but that’s the subject of another post).
Not like I need food, air, my husband’s love or a kiss goodbye from my 6 year old. Need as in the pure knowledge that my life will be less rich without it.
And I was pretty sure Worm Burner would love it too.
Did I mention they have comics? And jokes?
So, what are you waiting for?
- 3/19/10 – “Goldberg *00 finds fun in physics” — Brett Tomlinson, Princeton Alumni Weekly Blog. Borrowing liberally from our introduction, they say:
There is no math or equations (save one: E=mc2); instead each chapter begins with a cartoon illustration by Blomquist that features an “inexcusably terrible pun” and a “question about how the universe works.” The chapter then provides the answer. “Our aim,” the authors write, “is to find some middle ground between those who appreciate the underlying majesty of the physics foundation and those who would rather gag themselves with a spoon than be caught dead within a hundred yards of a protractor.”
- 3/22/10 – “Physics for the Rest of Us” — The Christian Science Monitor:
If you’ve ever wondered what happened before the big bang or where the universe is expanding, then the new book “A User’s Guide to the Universe” (Wiley, $24.95) is for you. A hilariously serious journey through all the big questions (Can I build a time machine?) with answers from real-life physicist David Goldberg and sly illustrator Jeff Blomquist, this indispensable window on modern science makes a great nonfiction companion to the beloved, “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
- 3/29/2010 – “Book Review: A User’s Guide to the Universe” — by reader alfredw at slashdot. Among many other nice things, he says:
A User’s Guide to the Universe (hereinafter “A User’s Guide”) is the physicist’s answer to Phil Plait’s Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End…. What Goldberg and Blomquist have created is a fun, light read about interesting areas of modern physics that will entertain while it educates. The book assumes very little scientific background on the part of the reader. Those with some knowledge (this is Slashdot, after all) will find the explanations of well-known concepts (the double slit experiment, for example) lucid, direct, brief and entertaining.
But in the cause of full disclosure, we have to tell you that we know him, personally.
- 3/29/10 – “Publisher’s Weekly Online Review”:
With a large measure of humor and a minimum of math (one equation), physics professor Goldberg and engineer Blomquist delve into the fascinating physics topics that rarely make it into introductory classes, including time travel, extraterrestrials, and “quantum weirdness” to prove that physics’ “reputation for being hard, impractical, and boring” is wrong by at least two-thirds: “Hard? Perhaps. Impractical? Definitely not… But boring? That’s where we really take issue.” Breaking up each topic into common sense questions (“How many habitable planets are there?” “What is Dark Matter?” “If the universe is expanding, what’s it expanding into?”), the duo provides explanations in everyday language with helpful examples, analogies, and Blomquist’s charmingly unpolished cartoons. Among other lessons, readers will learn about randomness through gambling; how a Star Trek-style transporter might function in the real world; and what may have existed before the Big Bang. Despite the absence of math, this nearly-painless guide is still involved and scientific, aimed at science hobbyists rather than science-phobes; it should also prove an ideal reference companion for more technical classroom texts. 100 b&w photos. (Mar.)
- 3/30/10 – “Young Widener Alumnus Co-Authors and Illustrates Book Addressing Universal Questions” — A story all about Jeff (including a movie) in the Widener Magazine blog.
- 8/6/10 – “Rarely There: Books, Crafts, Arts and Life” — a book blog which (despite feeling like we overdid it with the footnotes) says:
With a direct and seemingly effortless manner, peppered with humorous analogies and footnotes that call upon pop-culture freely, the book addresses some of the profoundly confounding information many great minds have spent their lifetimes pondering on… The cartoons by Jeff Blomquist are mostly witty, but sometimes cheesy. They certainly make it easier to catch the complicated ideas being discussed, even if in a superficial sort of way – which is more than most physics books do to help understand such mind-boggling concepts.