We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe

by Jorge Cham

Hardcover, 2017




Riverhead Books, (2017)


Humanity's understanding of the physical world is full of gaps. Not tiny little gaps you can safely ignore--there are huge yawning voids in our basic notions of how the world works. Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson team up to explore everything we don't know about the universe, and while introducing the biggest mysteries in physics, they also helpfully demystify many complicated things we do know. And although the universe is full of weird things that don't make any sense, Cham and Whiteson make a compelling case that the questions we can't answer are as interesting as the ones we can, and they invite us to see the universe as a possibly boundless expanse of uncharted territory that's still ours to explore. --

User reviews

LibraryThing member ajlewis2
I read 15%. The humor was a little crazy for my taste. The subject matter seemed good, but it didn't hold my interest.
LibraryThing member jefware
Totally explains every aspect of the Universe— not! We understand less than 3%, and that only partially. We are not even sure if the Universe is totally comprehensive.
LibraryThing member booktsunami
I can't speak too highly of this book. I've been a student of science for many years and have always been puzzled by the apparent certainty about scientific knowledge. Except when one keeps asking the question ...."Well what's that made of? or where does that come from?"....one starts to come up against barriers.......like "Well, we just don't know that yet". This book puts our knowledge into some perspective. All the knowledge we have about the things in the universe...stars, planets, living things, atoms, quarks, light, electricity, is knowledge about 5% of the universe. Scientists have slowly come to the realisation that some 27% of the universe is matter of some sort but we have no idea what sort of matter it is. There are some guesses but so far no real understanding. So it's being called "dark matter". That leaves the other 68% of the universe. Now I must admit that I'm still not totally clear on how the scientists have been able to pin this 68% to dark energy ....... that is, as opposed to the 32% that is matter (5% we know about and 27% is "dark" matter). That is, how are they relating mass and energy.......maybe via Einstein's equation....though does it still hold with Dark energy? But this big picture of our understanding sets the background for a lot more of the questions I have always wondered about such as: What is space?, What is time? The mysteries of mass....and so on. Rather alarming to find (although greatly illuminating also) that we actually have no idea about many of these fundamental questions.
I loved the book. It's illustrated with cartoons throughout. Some are maybe a bit annoying and trite but generally they are quite helpful in visualising the various issues raised. So a really helpful partnership between artist Jorge Cham and CERN particle physicist Daniel Whiteson. Strongly recommend it...in fact, I gave the book as a present to a couple of relatives who, I thought, would benefit from reading.
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