Waves in an Impossible Sea: How Everyday Life Emerges from the Cosmic Ocean (Hardcover)

Waves in an Impossible Sea: How Everyday Life Emerges from the Cosmic Ocean By Matt Strassler Cover Image
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A theoretical physicist takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey—found in "no other book" (Science)—to discover how the universe generates everything from nothing at all: "If you want to know what's really going on in the realms of relativity and particle physics, read this book" (Sean Carroll, author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe).

In Waves in an Impossible Sea, physicist Matt Strassler tells a startling tale of elementary particles, human experience, and empty space. He begins with a simple mystery of motion. When we drive at highway speeds with the windows down, the wind beats against our faces. Yet our planet hurtles through the cosmos at 150 miles per second, and we feel nothing of it. How can our voyage be so tranquil when, as Einstein discovered, matter warps space, and space deflects matter?
The answer, Strassler reveals, is that empty space is a sea, albeit a paradoxically strange one. Much like water and air, it ripples in various ways, and we ourselves, made from its ripples, can move through space as effortlessly as waves crossing an ocean. Deftly weaving together daily experience and fundamental physics—the musical universe, the enigmatic quantum, cosmic fields, and the Higgs boson—Strassler shows us how all things, familiar and unfamiliar, emerge from what seems like nothing at all.
Accessible and profound, Waves in an Impossible Sea is the ultimate guide to our place in the universe.

About the Author

Matt Strassler is a theoretical physicist, blogger, and writer whose research often takes him to the Large Hadron Collider. An associate of the Harvard University Physics Department and a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study, he was previously a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, and Rutgers University. He lives in rural Massachusetts. 

Praise For…

"[Waves in an Impossible Sea] is a readable and rewarding introduction to mysteries that physicists are still trying to figure out."—Wall Street Journal

"Abundant with analogies and anecdotes, this book exemplifies how experts should write about matter, motion and mass for the masses."—Scientific American

"To my knowledge, no other book presents this modern understanding of the nature of matter and energy at a level accessible to the motivated nonscientists...the writing style itself is engaging and conversational....[an] excellent book. Overall, I found Waves in an Impossible Sea to be a unique and valuable addition to the library of anyone who wants to understand both the modern world of quantum field theory and the role the Higgs field plays in shaping the laws of nature. I recommend it strongly."—Don Lincoln, Science

"Strassler takes readers on a comprehensive tour of the physics of the cosmos...Strassler walks readers through the possible misunderstandings different social groups may have of words such as theory, massive and matter in a way I found insightful, thought provoking and humorous."—Physics World

"In this illuminating book, theoretical physicist and writer Strassler....delivers a deep understanding of the Higgs boson and the Higgs field...Strassler delivers a comprehensive background in a reader-friendly and enjoyable review of mass, energy, waves, fields, and quantum mechanics."—Booklist

“Strassler is a competent guide to complex topics, but most impressive is his approach to simpler concepts—mass, energy, light—where observation and common sense have been misleading…. Strassler is an imaginative thinker and capable writer… A fine introduction to the cosmos.”—Kirkus

"Strassler writes with enviable conversational simplicity...[Strassler] provides a fun narrative frame and an easy way to resolve any doubts a novice reader might have about the tricky concepts he's explaining."—Nautilus

“A mind-bending investigation of ‘how the most esoteric-seeming physics affects every aspect of human existence.’… enlightening science.”—Publishers Weekly

“It's not easy to convey the ideas of modern physics without any equations, but also without compromises, making sure every statement is precisely correct. Matt Strassler does it better than anyone I've ever read. If you want to know what's really going on in the realms of relativity and particle physics, read this book.”—Sean Carroll, author of The Biggest Ideas in the Universe

“Matt Strassler has been one of the deepest thinkers in fundamental physics and quantum field theory for the past three decades. It is a cause for celebration to see him combine his penetrating insights together with a brilliant flair for beautifully clear and simple non-technical explanations, to produce a true masterpiece with this book. I have never seen its equal and don't expect I ever will.”—Nima Arkani-Hamed, Institute for Advanced Study

“This extraordinary work, reminiscent of the genius of Feynman, will awaken your sense of wonder and unveil the enchantment that surrounds our physical world. From the moment I delved into this captivating masterpiece, I found myself spellbound. It is a mesmerizing odyssey that will forever change how you perceive the world.”—Stephon Alexander, author of Fear of a Black Universe

“There is a particular zing you get from good explanations, and Matt Strassler knows how to deliver them. This book is a rare attempt by a noted particle physicist to convey the core concepts out of which the world is constructed in language that truly anyone can understand. Matt says he was motivated to write the book by the many egregious explanations he had read about how the Higgs field generates the masses of elementary particles—and indeed, his version delivers the zing I’ve long sought.”—Natalie Wolchover, senior editor, Quanta Magazine

"Matt Strassler succeeds triumphantly in conveying the fascination of the physical reality that underpins our  world of atoms and stars. His distinguished expertise, combined with an entertaining and lucid writing style, enable him to lure readers into a ‘deeper dive’ than most physicists attempt when addressing a general readership -- and to do this without distortion. He conveys the essence of the deep structures that underpin our natural world in an engaging and accessible way. This book deserves wide readership."
 —Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
Product Details
ISBN: 9781541603295
ISBN-10: 154160329X
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English