Book Review ~ Final Theory by Mark Alpert

Summary ~ Final Theory by Mark Alpert
Columbia University professor David Swift is called to the hospital to comfort his mentor, a physicist who’s been brutally attacked.  With his last words, the dying man gives his former pupil a seemingly random string of numbers that could hold the key to Einstein’s last and greatest secret.
Einheitliche Feldtheorie.  Einstein’s proposed Unified Theory – a set of equations that could explain all the forces of nature – would have revolutionized our understanding of the universe.  But Einstein never discovered it.  Or did he?
Within hours, David is arrested and interrogated by the FBI.  But they’re not the only faction pursuing the long-hidden theory.  A Russian mercenary also wants David to talk – and he will do whatever it takes.
On the run for his life, David teams up with an old girlfriend, a brilliant Princeton scientist, and frantically tries to piece together Einstein’s final theory to reveal its staggering consequences.

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What a fun, terrifying and thrilling book this was!  Mark Alpert’s debut novel, Final Theory, helped to bring me out of my reader’s block and into a world that, if Albert Einstein had succeeded in discovering the Theory of Everything, would be a far more dangerous and scarier place than the real world already is.  Having a world renowned physicist (in the world of physics and mathematics) for a father may have helped me pick up this book based on the premise but it was the thrill of the chase and the characters that kept me reading. 

David Swift is leading a life as a divorced father, allowed to spend only a few precious hours a day with his beloved son Jonah, when his life is changed suddenly and drastically.  A friend of his has been tortured for information and is dying at a New York City hospital and David has been summoned to see him in his last moments.  It’s in this meeting that David finds himself on a quest to keep Einstein’s Einheitliche Feldtheorie safe from the monsters who are on the hunt for it, which led to David’s friend’s imminent death.  And so David goes on a dangerous, quick paced adventure that will reunite him with a woman from his past as well as a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotic Institute, whom David had interviewed for a book he published about Einstein and his assistants. 

The characters in Final Theory are rich, special, well written and helped to draw me in to this great story.  I was continuously surprised with the plot twists and found myself exclaiming out loud, “Oh my God!” over and over at certain parts of the book.  That’s a good book if you ask me!  It had been a while since I read a real thriller and I enjoyed the quick pace and excitement that Mark Alpert gets across through the written word. 

The last real thriller I read was Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.  Last September, the Large Hadron Accelerator at CERN  under the France/Switzerland border (part of the focus of Brown’s bestseller), suffered a malfunction shortly after being turned on for an experiment that would possibly recreate the Big Bang within the particle accelerator.  (You can learn more about that experiment HERE.)  Well, this April, to help promote the May release of the film adaptation of Angels and Demons, Tom Hanks will flip the switch after repairs to the damaged magnets are completed.  This Hadron Accelerator is like the Tevatron at Fermilab, outside of Chicago, which plays a roll in Alpert’s Final Theory.  To learn more about the CERN event click HERE.  I could picture the film adaptation of Final Theory very easily as I was reading it and wouldn’t be surprised if we are lining up at the theatre in coming years to watch that very thing.   

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

Mark Alpert is an editor at Scientific American.  His job is to simplify “complex scientific ideas for the magazine’s readers.”  Alpert has made a little video introducing his book, Final Theory, which you can view below. 

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Big Bang: Did You Hear That?

Being the daughter of a brilliant physicist, I am extremely interested in the experiments going on at CERN in Geneva starting today.  Recreating the Big Bang that formed our Universe and the planet we are living on sounds risky, scary and world-ending but I think it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME!  Watching ABC World News Tonight with my buddy Charles (Charlie for those of us who watched him on GMA) Gibson today was cool.  The final story of the broadcast was about the work being conducted at the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. 

From The New York Times Science Section, September 8th 2008:

“The collider, 14 years and $8 billion in the making, is the most expensive scientific experiment to date. Thousands of physicists from dozens of countries have been involved in building the collider and its huge particle detectors. It is designed to accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts — seven times the energy of the next largest machine in the world, Fermilab’s Tevatron — and smash them together.

In recent weeks, there has been a blitzkrieg of papers and predictions on what might or might not be discovered, by theorists eager to get their bets down before the figurative roulette ball drops or the dice begin to tumble.

At stake is a suite of theories called the Standard Model, which explains all of particle physics to date, but which breaks down at the conditions that existed in the earliest moments of the universe. The new collider will eventually reach temperatures and energies equivalent to those at a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. There are many theories about what will happen, including the emergence of a particle known as the Higgsboson, which is hypothesized to endow other particles with mass, or the identity of the mysterious dark matter that provides the invisible scaffolding of galaxies and the cosmos.

But nobody really knows for sure, which is part of the fun, but which has led to a few alarming claims that the collider could spit out a black hole or some other accidental phenomenon that could end the Earth or the universe. Those claims have been vigorously rebutted by a series of safety reports and studies, the most recent of which was published last week in The Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, a peer-reviewed journal.

The director general of CERN, Robert Aymar, said in a news release, “The LHC is safe, and any suggestion that it might present a risk is pure fiction.”

At the end of the ABC news story on the experiment, both Stephen Hawking and Dr. John Ellis both say that any concern of the world coming to an end due to this experiment are “rubbish.”  Well, I had to ask the #1 brain in my life, my dad, Dr. Howard E. Brandt about this and he said that “No, we have nothing to worry about.”  WHEW!  I’ll still be keeping my eye on the story though. 

Yesterday, my dad e-mailed me a link to this HILARIOUS video made by some of the brains at CERN.  This is what happens when nerds who listen to rap and hip-hop try it out themselves.  Also, if you are interested in reading a great novel that centers around this exact experiment at CERN check out Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons.  It’s one of my favorite books and is soooooo much better than The DaVinci Code.