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Robert Nemiroff
This book is a humorous popularization of surprising concepts behind the most famous speed in the unvierse.
Nemiroff (co-author of The Universe: 365 Days), a physicist at a research university, takes readers on a wild ride through the ins and outs of the speed of light in this mind-bending guide. His primary approach is through a series of humorous thought experiments, with an almost-Socratic set of questions and answers that involve minimal math but will provoke deep thought. Through those questions, Nemiroff examines an array of physics concepts, asserting that, contrary to “conventional” thought, it is possible to exceed the speed of light: “Most of what you see around you are images, reflections, and shadows, so these faster-than-light superpositions occur all around you all of the time.”

Nemiroff’s explanations are clear and concise, and most of them require only logic to sort out, making the book more accessible than similar titles. He thoughtfully includes illustrations to detail his sometimes-esoteric thought experiments, as when reviewing the history behind measuring light’s speed (which, interestingly, was done rather unsuccessfully by uncovering lanterns from a distance in the Middle Ages). Nemiroff also delves into more complex ideas, including the birth of quantum mechanics and its impact on the study of light’s speed, how Earth’s spin has no effect on the speed of light, and the interplay between photons and light’s speed, among others.

The guide’s Q&A style may feel unwieldy at times, but Nemiroff plainly prefers readers to puzzle out the answers as an exercise in comprehension—even for those dilemmas that seemingly have no certain answer. “My goal is not to bring you complete understanding. That is impossible,” he writes, going on to say, “my goal is to bring you up to my level of misunderstanding.” Any reader with a lay interest in quantum mechanics or the speed of light will find this exercise-rich guide as stimulating as it is challenging.

Takeaway: Complex but entertaining look at the speed of light.

Comparable Titles: Nick Herbert’s Faster Than Light, Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+