Cover image for The hole in the universe : how scientists peered over the edge of emptiness and found everything
The hole in the universe : how scientists peered over the edge of emptiness and found everything
Cole, K. C.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 274 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Why not? A prelude -- Nothing happened -- Good for nothing -- Nothing takes center stage -- Nothing becomes center stage -- Nothing gets strung out -- Nothing becomes everything -- Nothing in the news -- Nothing on your mind -- In search of nothing.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
QC6 .C62 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
QC6 .C62 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
QC6 .C62 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Welcome to the world of cutting-edge math, physics, and neuroscience, where the search for the ultimate vacuum, the point of nothingness, ground zero of theory, has rendered the universe deep, rich, and juicy. "Modern physics has animated the void," says K. C. Cole in her entrancing journey into the heart of Nothing. Every time scientists and mathematicians think they have reached the ultimate void, new stuff appears: a black hole, an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time, repulsive anti-gravity, universes that breed like bunnies. Cole's exploration at the edge of everything is as animated and exciting as the void itself. Take Cole's hand on this adventure into the unknown, and you'll come back informed, amused, and excited.

Author Notes

K. C. Cole is writes a popular science column in the Los Angeles Times and teaches at UCLA

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The vacuum is attracting physicists' attention lately. Henning Genz had a lot to say about it in Nothingness (1999), and now Los Angeles Times science writer Cole ventures upon the void, fortunately with a sensitivity well pitched to the level of complexity average readers can absorb. She explains that absence of stuff doesn't define a vacuum, since "empty" space is filled with fields--evanescent particle pairs that flash in and out of existence--and, further, that space-time itself is "something." But space-time, too, can vanish into a black hole or into the extra dimensions of the faddish postulations of string theory and membrane theory. Cole regularly reassures us that the theory-bred conjectural properties of nothingness she describes seem weird to her, too, and at the same time she clearly conveys why they thrill physicists: they could account for why the big bang began or why physical constants have the values they have (e.g., gravity may be weak because it "leaks" into other dimensions). An enthusiastic, companionable guide to the inner limits of the universe. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nothing is as big a mystery as nothing. From the hatred the digit "zero" inspired in the ancient church and the horror vacui suffered by thinkers such as Aristotle to the tantalizing singularity of black holes, nothing packs quite a wallop. People, not nature, abhor a vacuum but are often fascinated by what repels them. Cole (The Universe and the Teacup), a science columnist for the L.A. Times, prods at the infinite properties and manifestations of nothing, trying to get a handle on it without boxing it in. Definitions make something out of nothing, but then, she indicates, everything did come out of nothing. Comprising an expansive set of topics from the history of numbers to string theory, the big bang, even Zen, the book's chapters are broken into bite-sized portions that allow the author to revel in the puns and awkwardness that comes with trying to describe a concept that no one has fully grasped. It is an amorphous, flowing, mind-bending discussion, written in rich, graceful prose.. As clear and accessible as Hawking's A Brief History of Time, this work deserves wide circulation, not just among science buffs. (Feb.) Forecast: Cole's reputation means the book will be widely reviewedDand if the reviews are accurate, sales will rise. This title is a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club, as well as of the Astronomy and Library of Science book clubs. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book is about nothing. Science writer Cole (First You Build a Cloud, LJ 5/1/99) attempts to explain the current theories of what is there when there isn't anything. She has a lot of fun with wordplay, but she does manage to convey the concept that there is a real difficulty in defining what empty space is. Physicists tell us that, even if outer space were a complete vacuum, space itself would have a structure. If that sounds nonsensical, it is only because concepts in modern physics seem to defy common sense. Unfortunately, these theories involve a knowledge of mathematics at a level beyond that of the target audience. Thus, the author can only tell us the namesDfield theory, string theory, M-theory, etc.Dbut is unable to describe them in any depth or even offer a good heuristic feel for what phenomena they would predict or how they could be tested. Cole is a very good science writer, but this reviewer believes that the topic she has chosen here is not yet ready for prime time. Recommended for large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]DHarold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Cole's title may be a little misleading because the book's theme is "nothing." In this case "nothing" might be spelled with a capital N, since the author mixes its nature as expressed in poetry and prose, in optical illusions, and in cosmology. In these various contexts, the continuity of the text is not always as clear as it could be. Scattered throughout these anthropomorphic references and forming the major part of the book are descriptions of the latest theories of the universe. They form a mix of the familiar if not quite commonplace world of black holes and the big bang theory and the bizarre and possibly preternatural skein of white holes, wormholes, loop spaces, and string theory, replete with extra dimensions. The astrophysical portions are similar to Stephen Hawking's nonmathematical bestseller A Brief History of Time (CH, Jul'88) and, like that book, supply little observational confirmation for the wonders described. This seems a book for those with previous awareness of these cosmological phenomena and the degree to which they are fully accepted as reality within the science community. Those unfamiliar with these topics may become more confused than enlightened. All levels. A. R. Upgren Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Preface: Appreclations, Attributions, and Apologiesp. XI
Chapter 1 Why Not? A Preludep. 1
Chapter 2 Nothing Happenedp. 25
Chapter 3 Good for Nothingp. 46
Chapter 4 Nothing Takes Center Stagep. 67
Chapter 5 Nothing Becomes Center Stagep. 103
Chapter 6 Nothing Gets Strung Outp. 136
Chapter 7 Nothing Becomes Everythingp. 166
Chapter 8 Nothing in the Newsp. 189
Chapter 9 Nothing on Your Mindp. 209
Chapter 10 In Search of Nothingp. 232
Supporting Castp. 255
Bibliographyp. 258
Indexp. 267