Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them.
Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at CalTech, here offers an accessible, deftly illustrated history of curved spacetime. Covering developments from Einstein to Hawking, he takes his readers to the very edge of theoretical physics: straight through wormholes--and maybe back again--past hyperspace, ``hairless'' wormholes and quantum foam to the leading questions that drive quantum physics. He even addresses the tabloid taunt that has tantalized him since 1988: Do quantum laws allow time travel? (In his foreword, Hawking suggests, ``Maybe someone will come back from the future and tell us the answers.'') Thorne is rigorous, modest and, true to the spirit of science, determined that readers move beyond the appeal of exotic answers and grasp the significance of quantum questions. This volume, a model of style, format and illustration, will speak eloquently to the readership, ranging widely in scientific literacy and interest, that such theoretical physics writers as Hawking and Feynman have established. (Mar.)