I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath (or baited breath, which Google Ngram Viewer tells me is skyrocketing in popularity) for my final thoughts on Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Here are previous thoughts.
First, Lisa Randall is obviously a supremely brilliant and accomplished person. This really makes me want to hate her, but I can’t quite. She’s obviously doing her best to explain this hard quantum stuff to the likes of me, and it only kind of leaks out along the edges that she received word that LHC had finally been turned on (or something) while she was in Barcelona for the world premiere of an opera for which she had written the libretto. Just shoot me now.
When I have difficulty understanding a science book like this, I naturally assume it’s me, not the writer. Undoubtedly that’s true here. But even with that I think the book is a bit of a slog, because Randall doesn’t have an interesting point of view on her material, or at least an engaging style with which to simply tell the story. Everything just kind of sits there. It felt like a long term paper, and I’m being forced to give it an A because I can’t really find anything wrong with it. I wonder if Randall ever got anything besides A’s.
Second, the book has a somewhat short shelf life, and it’s already apparently out of date. The main part of the book is a description of the Large Hadron Collider and what we might discover from it. The book came out last year, when the results were just starting to come out. Here we are a year or so later, and one of the major theories she describes, Supersymmetry (SUSY for short), has apparently fallen by the wayside based on analysis of the 2011 results. (I don’t know why I frequent the blog Not Even Wrong, since I understand virtually nothing the guy says — but, unlike Randall, he says it very engagingly! The vision of the LHC results taking down the life’s work of thousands of theorists is terrifying–and, I’m sure, true.)
Finally, why does she have to add the “g” to the end of Knockin‘? If Knockin’ was good enough for Dylan, why isn’t it good enough for her? Anyway, here is Dylan, unplugged, with the original: