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New Scientist

Frank Close

The Void

In ancient times philosophers wondered whether it was possible to have a part of space with absolutely nothing in it. Aristotle decided that it was not - Nature abhors a vacuum. When Frank Close was young he also wondered whether nothingness was possible. In The Void he tells the reader how people have answered this question. He explains how it was found that a vacuum could be produced with a sufficiently good air pump. But then people began to wonder how light and gravity was transmitted through such a vacuum, and invented the luminiferous aether.

Einstein showed that postulating the aether was pointless, but his general relativity introduced a new structure to space and time. An quantum theory introduced more structure to the vacuum - a sea of filled energy states and virtual particles popping in and out of existence. Close goes on to show how this lead to the idea of the Higgs field which gives mass to elementary particles, and he looks at how everything began - could the big bang have arisen from a vacuum fluctuation?

There have been plenty of books about nothing. This one sticks to the point more than most, although sometimes I felt that it wasn't particularly inspiring. But other readers might disagree- it's a short, easy to read book, and if you are interested in some of the deep questions concerning the vacuum then you might well find it worth reading info
Hardcover 166 pages  
ISBN: 0199225907
Salesrank: 1751420
Published: 2008 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from $27.97:Used from $2.82
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Hardcover 176 pages  
ISBN: 0199225907
Salesrank: 1061518
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2007 OUP Oxford
Marketplace:New from £26.65:Used from £0.01
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Hardcover 176 pages  
ISBN: 0199225907
Salesrank: 2099210
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2007 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 64.47:Used from CDN$ 0.08
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Product Description
What is the void? What remains when you take all the matter away? Can empty Space--nothing--exist?
To answer these questions, eminent scientist Frank Close takes us on a lively and accessible journey that ranges from ancient ideas and cultural superstitions to the frontiers of current research, illuminating the story of how scientists have explored the void and the rich discoveries they have made there. Readers will find an enlightening history of the vacuum: how the efforts to make a better vacuum led to the discovery of the electron; the understanding that the vacuum is filled with fields; the ideas of Newton, Mach, and Einstein on the nature of space and time; the mysterious aether and how Einstein did away with it; and the latest ideas that the vacuum is filled with the Higgs field. The story ranges from the absolute zero of temperature and the seething vacuum of virtual particles and anti-particles that fills space, to the extreme heat and energy of the early universe. It compares the ways that substances change from gas to liquid and solid with the way that the vacuum of our universe has changed as the temperature dropped following the Big Bang. It covers modern ideas that there may be more dimensions to the void than those that we currently are aware of and even that our universe is but one in a multiverse.
The Void takes us inside a field of science that may ultimately provide answers to some of cosmology's most fundamental questions: what lies outside the universe, and, if there was once nothing, then how did the universe begin?