The Lightness of Being

  • by Frank Wilczek
  • Narrated by Walter Dixon
  • 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Our understanding of nature's deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past 25 years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. He calls it "The Lightness of Being." Space is no mere container, empty and passive. It is a dynamic grid, modern ether, and its spontaneous activity creates and destroys particles. This new understanding of mass explains the puzzling feebleness of gravity, and a gorgeous unification of all the forces comes sharply into focus. The Lightness of Being is the first book to explore the implications of these revolutionary ideas about mass, energy, and the nature of empty space. In it, Wilczek masterfully presents new perspectives on our incredible universe and envisions a new golden age of fundamental physics.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

WHY is he WHISPERING???

I like this topic a lot—This book covers many great concepts in cosmology and theoretical physics, and they're beautifully presented. It's a significant contribution to that class of books which helps the listener piece together a consistent view of dark energy, dark matter, and the underlying structure of space itself.
One of the most interesting discussions is on the history of the ether, and how the fashion of this concept has ebbed and flowed over the past one hundred and twenty years. Wary of this antiquated term, we're left with a description of space as some kind of soup of particle pairs that spontaneously appear and annihilate, due to the basic uncertainty of quantum fluctuations.
However, what I found strange about this book was what it did NOT discuss. The fact that there was so much about spontaneously created and annihilated particle pairs begs the question—why is there no name given to this phenomenon? If the idea is truly distinct from John Wheeler's 1955 Quantum Foam proposal, then why is there no comparison drawn? And if space is full of this phenomenon, what is the possible extent of it, relative to the visible matter in the universe? Is the author purposefully avoiding questions to which he has no good answer? That doesn't seem scientific at all.
Furthermore, the predominant view of this book is from a particle-based perspective,
although there are many tantalizing references to quantum field theory—but no in-depth discussion of the specific nature of bosons vs. their associated fields.
Overall, it feels like there are so many opportunities lost in this presentation of a truly fascinating subject.

Now for the worst of it. The narration is intolerable. Walter Dixon narrates with a strange, affected whisper that's both distracting and demeaning. His unyielding, emotionally-charged tone is the kind of voice you'd expect of a dramatic fairy story told to a five-year-old. I've listened to more than three hundred audiobooks, and this reading is one of the worst. This is a book on SCIENCE, Folks—so what's with the reader's continual high-drama, hush-hush inflections? I only survived by continually mocking this ridiculous, over-the-top narration. Not that that's the whole of it—you've got to admire how Mr. Dixon can plow through a long, complicated sentence without taking a breath—but making a complex sentence go by quickly is NOT the best way to make it clear to a listener. Furthermore, at random intervals, his tone becomes strangely strident, making the listening experience both continuously frustrating and occasionally uncomfortable. You have to wonder—doesn't Gildan Media have a director to help wayward narrators match their tone appropriately to the source material?
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- Scott

A clear, deep, thorough review by Nobel Laureate

Would you listen to The Lightness of Being again? Why?

Would I listen to this again? I already have.

In order to more fully grasp the principles and issues of various chapters, one needs to have the broad overview also present to mind. It is worth the effort. Few books on modern physics succeed so well.


What other book might you compare The Lightness of Being to and why?

Weinberg's To Explain the World, Nick Lane The Vital Question, Lawrence Krauss The Greatest Story Ever Told - So Far.

Even though written for the general public, Wilczek's book is no way superficial nor a "popular" discussion that leaves you with little when all is said and done. Yes, you have to work at understanding the argument, and you have to have some familiarity with the basics of modern physics. But the development of the ideas and the progression of the explanation for the "lightness" of being is both exciting and rewarding.


What about Walter Dixon’s performance did you like?

Very clear and direct. Limited use of emphasis, but always there in the right places.


Any additional comments?

... leaves you wanting for more from Wilczek

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- JMC

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-10-2014
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC